One of the things I appreciate about these monthly messages is the way that committing to and communicating about them deepens my experience of each subject. I’m usually surprised by the ways that deepening occurs. Often, it’s beautiful and feels expansive and enlightening. Other time that focus brings in things that feel heavy and painful. But I am practicing the art of accepting and appreciating both, knowing life is a rich never-ending both/and.
Family comes in so many forms. The largest is our human family. If we acknowledge this it becomes far more difficult to turn away from or scroll over news of war, hardship, or heartbreak. No one is really a stranger.
It can seem easier to perceive ourselves as separate from the human tragedies so readily evident if we care to pay attention. It might feel natural to only consider our immediate family, our family of origin, our spiritual or religious family, or our immediate community- as our “kin”. And as much joy, love, hurt, healing and challenges family can bring us, it can feel overwhelming to feel the fullness of our connection with the family of humanity. But I have been doing that more lately. I think it because I’m asking for soul evolution and awakening. Consciously choosing ignorance does not fit that scenario. Ouch and yay.
I’ve had the opportunity to be in physical proximity with my immediate family-of-origin members; both parents and my father’s wife, my sister and two nephews, as well as my “adoptive son” of a past love and his wife and babies.
Focusing on these beautiful beings and how fortunate I feel to have healthy enjoyable relationships with them filled my heart to overflowing. We have all come a long way through the years and thankfully have chosen forgiveness and harmony (for the most part!)
I’ve also found myself noticing family dynamics in people around me, even those so-called strangers. On an airplane I overheard conversation about families falling apart. I’ve counseled people considering the risks of reconciliation with family members, and discussed hard decisions to focus instead on family of choice, releasing attachments or obligations to family of origin either out of healthy necessity or the inability to consider forgiveness as a pathway back.
Mid-month I spent an afternoon with that same “adoptive” son’s sister, who I have not seen in over a decade. She is a parent now too, like her brother. And just like she and I, brother and sister have had almost no connection in years. Hurt feelings and the grievances that can grip our hearts like talons make openings for healing, forgiveness and reconnection seem too risky. I am glad she took the risk with me. During our visit I found the courage to apologize for not attending her wedding years ago when I had a brand-new job and was afraid to go for many reasons. I’ve regretted it all these years. She seemed appreciative of my apology, acknowledging it really hurt. Ouch again. But still an opening I hope it stays that way.
She is certainly not alone in experiencing detachment due to old hurts that never heal. We have that in my family of origin as well. I have a sister who has a daughter and two beautiful grandbabies that I only know about through social media. I have not seen my niece since she was 5. On rare occasions (more this month!) I feel that dull old ache of that loss and find myself wondering what could have been, trying to keep myself from venturing down the path of what could be. I’m stopped from further exploration out of fear of opening old wounds for myself and other family members and feeling even more regret. Oh the tolls we pay to stay “safe”.
Family can be a place of love and safety and it can also be the extreme opposite. Abuses and betrayals within the family can leave the deepest scars. I honor those who make decisions to honor themselves, no matter how it looks on the surface. Our closest relationship is always the one we have with our self and decisions on how best to care for and love ourselves look different for everybody.
I’m grateful for my extended spiritual family that includes everyone who I’ve ever connected with in any way on this path; be they clients, colleagues, readers of my column, and those who have been in service to me as mentors and teachers. The fabric of family is immense and includes all of us and my heart is open even when it hurts.
In this moment I celebrate the fact that family exists and everyone reading this blog is a part of mine in my heart. I’d love to hear your experience of family. How you feel about the extended Human family – your blood clan or family of choice?
Thank you for sharing this life with me. I am sending much love and appreciation for the blessings of connection.
Signing off for August,
What a beautiful sharing Stef. Thank you for those insights! It’s so helpful to hear others who have dealt with family estrangement.. I have a brother-in-law that has been challenging and I apologized for my behavior, this last year, even though he did not apologize for his. However, I can only take care of “my side of things” and things are easier between us. We may never be really comfortable with each other but thst’s oK. It was a hard thing to do but in that process I learned that my sister had some hurt feelings that I never realized and I believe that was healed, through this entire process which was SUPER important to me. So K am so happy I was able to move forward with this with some help. Have a wonderful Sept!