I spent many years from childhood on yearning for a “real family”. As a little girl that image meant a traditional family with a mom and dad as a cohesive unit, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. What I was born into was a broken family. A child of an ugly divorce and loss subsequent loss of half of my family. The remaining family being isolated by disagreements and altercations of years past. The dysfunction and abuse from a time before I was even an idea, a tsunami of emotional destruction that rippled beyond the time of my birth into the future.
I observed enviously my friends’ “normal” families and how they operated and their activities. Practically salivating in my desire to have that.
Every time a step-parent came into my life I jumped at the opportunity to connect to them and their family. Attempting to merge into what I perceived to be a “real family”.
As you may imagine, it never worked out the way I dreamed and planned in my head.
When step-parents dropped off so did their people. Despite promises made over serious heart-felt talks.
Basically that equated to my mom being my only constant for many years. Adding my brother at age 16 until he died in my thirties. And an uncle, who was my kindred spirit, from my teen years until he died in my early twenties.
In my youth until very recently I grappled with feelings of something being wrong with me. Somehow I was unappealing or unimportant to all of these ghost family members. I knew they were around but they didn’t exist in real form. They never participated in my life except to make me feel woefully inadequate. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they want to be a part of my life? It was a challenging and painful question to wrap my young brain around. I couldn’t fathom that their lack of participation had anything to do with their own internal struggles and issues. I weighed myself down with the brunt of blame. I must be unworthy, I thought. I was unable to articulate these feelings to anyone. So they remained buried inside of myself.
When we moved to Florida in the early 90’s my mom got sober. She went into recovery. Her recovery introduced me to a large group of other wayward people and orphans who became a surrogate type family. However, anyone who knows anything about recovery from alcohol and drugs knows that the recovery rooms are often a revolving door of people going in and out. Sober then not. Again and again. Sometimes dying or going to prison. Once again my ideal “normal family” was not quite what I envisioned.
The only constant in my reality in regards to family is that people came and went. People were not able to be consistent. Family members could not be fully trusted because they may eventually abandon.
I went into adulthood with a warped understanding of family and poor examples of healthy family dynamics. Then I got married a few days after turning 21. I married a boulder. Mr. Reinvention is my rock, my anchor. He is the only person I trust not to walk alway. No matter what. With him I have learned how to redefine my perception of family. Mature enough to understand that the idea of a “normal family” no longer implies what it did in the 70’s and 80’s, thankfully. I am so grateful he came into my life and continues to grow and share this adventure with me.
The deaths of my brother and mother showed me a lot about family. Those tragedies defined my family or tribe for me. Carved it out clearly. The people who showed up, no matter what. The people who let me be me. The people who put their lives on hold to help me heal. In finding my true family, most of whom are no blood relation, I was able to put closure on the yearning for the blood relatives that made it clear I was not that important to them. I was able to see that their inability to reciprocate in relationships had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. I shed the responsibility of the lack of connection. Not just shed but no longer desired that connection. My family today are the people that I love and they love me back. We invest in each other’s lives. We share the spectrum of emotions and events that occur in life. We give and we receive from each other. We grow together and sometimes carry each other. That is family. I feel orphaned no more.
Today my family is of course my love and my child. They are the epicenter, my roots, my everything. My Dad is a huge part of my family. He is my foundation, my wisdom, my connection to the past. My soul sisters and their families. These women are my lifeline, no matter what. They keep me sane and laughing. Mr. Reinvention’s family. They are always present, involved, helping, welcoming. A few of my brother’s old friends. They give me a living connection to him. A glimpse of who he may have become. My homeschool mamas. They welcome and embrace and share with me in a judgment free way. This is the picture of what I have been pining after my entire existence. Does it look anything like what I envisioned? Nope, not at all. It is beyond any family I ever imagined. And they are all here and they are all mine. I feel so lucky and grateful to share this world with them. I feel so lucky to have opened my eyes and heart and see and feel the bountiful love that I receive. I feel so lucky to be free of the shackles of the disillusion that I was not/ am not enough for blood relatives. I accept that their prioritizing has nothing to do with me. I forgive them all.
What is your definition of family? How has that evolved?