For those with the perfect, functional, cinematic home life where everyone gets along great all of the time and life is just grand- we don’t relate on this level, so this post might not be for you. I still love you, but this isn’t for you.
If thats not you, did you… Grow up in a dysfunctional household? Grow up with family members often fighting or separating? Grow up with parents or siblings involved in drugs and/or alcohol? Grow up without one or more parents, or any sort of parental figures? Grow up with some heavy cycles of abuse (verbal, physical, sexual)? Grow up in the system (group homes, CPS, adoptions)? Grow up feeling like an outcast, a modern day black sheep?
I don’t know about you, but I’m raising my hand to almost all of those.
In my life, I generally refer to “family” as the people related to me by blood or marriage. When I use the term, I’m pin pointing the people who I didn’t chose, but am tied to by blood or bond. I like to use “my tribe” as a term for referring to the people, either family or friends, who I cherish more than anyone else in the world. I am a black and white type person, so I prefer to have those lines drawn. This post is directly discussing my definition of family, just to clarify.
So, on to the point of this post… which is, family can either lift you up with all the love, support, adoration, kindness, gentleness and appreciation possible, or they can drag/tear you down with negativity, toxicity, drama, resentment, jealousy/envy, and immaturity.
Family should lift you up. Family should provide you with all of those things listed above, because when we truly love another person, we want to see them winning, we want to see them happy and not struggling, and we want to be apart of their success, right? But, here is the question: what happens when they tear you down?
Finding the answer to that is extremely difficult. Do I cut them off? But they’re my family! Do I respond with the same words/behavior? But, that’s not me. Do I forgive them and let it go? But then, what happens the next time this cycle repeats and I just keep getting hurt? I have struggled with deciding when to distance myself, walk away or heal and mend the relationships. We feel an obligation to push past the obstacles, despite the severity because of that word… “family.”
If this applies to you, as it applies to me even right now, then here are my recommendations to us both:
- Acknowledge our mistakes. We may not be in the wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to reflect over the past events leading up to the issue and analyze our actions. If we’re not in the wrong, then move on. If we are, then let’s take practice taking responsibility for our actions. It’s okay to admit it, to ourselves or to them.
- Empathize. While the reasoning behind their actions may seem like complete trash, we must force ourselves to put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from. What motivated them to act/behave in this way? This doesn’t mean excuse them for it, though. Just try to understand.
- Take time to formulate clear thoughts before reacting. This is important, because words are powerful and we don’t know who will die in the next 5 minutes. My mother’s last words to my father were very hurtful, and 23 years later this is a regret that causes her pain every day. Don’t say things that you don’t mean, and even if you do mean them, are they worth causing the other person pain? They might be, that person or people might need a slap of reality, you just have to make that judgment call. We might need 20 minutes to let everything soak in, or we might need 2 weeks. There is no rush.
- Forgive them. My roommate and best friend, Jocelyn, used to write quotes up in our dorm all the time. One of them was “Holding in anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” And it’s so fucking true. We have to forgive others, because holding on to pain, anger, and resentment is only prolonging our own healing. Forgiving doesn’t mean welcoming them back into our lives, it means that although we do not agree with the situation, we acknowledge that it happened and we are giving all parties involved our permission to move on.
- Decide whether or not the relationship is worth mending. Despite the situation, is this relationship good for us? Does it provide value? Is it a relationship that we want in our lives for years to come? Can we imagine our lives without this person, and is it a happy one we are imagining? Relationships are powerful, and life is all about the relationships we cherish. If it’s a relationship we desire to remain in our lives, then it’ll require work, lots of it. It’ll require dedication and patience. If it’s worth it, then we have to acknowledge what we are willing to do to mend it, both now and in the future.
- Decide whether to distance ourselves, or walk away. This is probably one of the hardest things in the world to do. Unfortunately, love is not always enough, and the term “family” doesn’t automatically create a life proof/otter-box type bond. The thing is, it’s okay to love people from afar. With many people, we will have to learn how to do this. We have to be selfish with our hearts, our energy and our health. There are people in our family, that are just not right for us. They will cause unnecessary drama, say/do hurtful things, take advantage every chance they get, manipulate us, lie, cheat, steal, abuse and abandon us. Fuck that! No! There is no place for that. Do not accept that. Remember, we develop and grow in different ways and at different paces. Some people are not meant to be in our lives in close proximity, or even at all. We can’t change people and we can’t fix them. Do not be a slave to the expectations society has set. Do not sacrifice your sanity, your health and your happiness.
With that said, the last step isn’t really part of this process but more of a constant practice to implement throughout our entire lives, and it’s really all about gratitude.
You might not have a large or a strong family. You might not even have a family at all. Consider what you do have…
For a long time, I was blind.
As I mentioned earlier, my tribe consists of family and friends who provide such value to my life that if I ever let them go, I know I will have lost a piece of my heart. These connections mean everything to me. They do so much for me, simply with their existence.
Whether your tribe consists of 2 people or it consists of 25, cherish them with all that you’ve got and give them your 110%. Do what you can do show them you appreciate them and ensure you communicate your affection.
I think of people as radio stations. People are all on their own frequency, and once in a while we meet others who are on the same frequency as we are. We click, we connect, and it’s a fulfilling relationship. Hold those people tight, regardless of whether you’re connected by blood, bond, marriage, adoption, school, water, pink, elephant, whatever the hell- idolizing the source of it, well that shit is for the birds.
Lastly, I want to dedicate this post to two people who I consider being apart of my tribe: Jennifer S. and Brian O. Recently we’ve shared our “family issues” and while these two are hurting over people that are family, I want to show them that they’re not alone. I know that for me, sometimes that makes all the difference.
I sincerely hope that this post helps at least one other person & I’m sending you all the positive vibes from miles away.
I’m rooting for us. We can make hard decisions, loves.