What makes a family…

all else is madness

These past few months have been rather rough ones for me.  And not just because my husband and the kids and I have been sick and this respiratory junk has been hanging on to us forever, but also because this time of year tends to amplify lingering issues and problems.  We bask in the joy of so many blessings and miracles, yes, but one constant comes to the forefront as well… (this will be choppy, and not at all eloquent — I am being very selfish today and writing just for me — to save my brain and soul from exploding — enter at your own risk…)

This one is always just hanging, and it’s annoyance and pain comes and goes — kind of like arthritis with the weather — sometimes I can bare it and sometimes I can not.  I can be very Zen and peaceful concerning my approach to the matter and then there are some days I am just thoroughly done with the entire thing and want to pack up, walk away, and say good bye.  Because the problem with ongoing issues is, they are never really over.  You constantly have to deal.  And I don’t like that.  Not one single bit.  I don’t like that people don’t have to have consequences or be morally responsible, don’t have to live in reality, don’t have to be honest, don’t have to be kind or authentic, don’t have to be civil, and I don’t like that it can’t really be talked out because you can’t really have open and real communication with crazy or someone that isn’t willing to be honest and authentic–or isn’t able to be.  You just can’t.  And some days, it all just really gets to me.  And I think that I shouldn’t have to put up with or deal with this bullshit for one second more.  Really.  It’s been long enough.  And I have far better things to do with my time and my thoughts and I don’t even get to spend the time I want to with the people who FILL my soul, why would I chose to spend my hours with someone who depletes it.  And I just get down.

So, I’ve been talking to one of my sisters.  Her name is Summer, and she has this knack for getting my soul back on track.  I often call her my soul whisperer.  She keeps me going.  Literally.  She keeps me on course.  She reminds me of who I am when other situations try to derail.  She reminds me of my goals and she reminds me that those goals and that person are worth fighting for.  God created that person with a purpose.  A valuable one at that.  No less valuable than any one else’s.  And I’ve been talking to my birth sisters, one of them who is going through a very similar situation, and we remind each other that we have been through much worse, much darker times, and we have survived.  And in that same vein, we are quite tired of just surviving life–and would much rather spend our time living it.  Petty bullshit behind.  So over this kind of stuff.  We are forging ahead with our walk.  Other people’s choices do not have to be OUR choices or the choices we subject our families too.  We have choice.  We always have a choice.  When you’ve been pushed around and manipulated for so much of your life, it’s easy to fall into old patterns, and it’s easy to forget that we have choice and that we have voice.  I’m so thankful that I have so many sisters that help remind me of this.  “Your life is your story, go write it.” Clare, age 11, State College, Pennsylvania Don’t let someone else hold the pen for you.

And as I was sitting at my Mom and Homer’s last night, having our little family Christmas, and talking to my sisters and brother on the phone moments before and missing them — as they are all on the east coast and Tim in Dubuque and couldn’t be with us — I was just struck by how incredibly blessed I am and how far we’ve come and how miraculous and powerful God is and how this frustrating situation is so not going to follow me into this new year.  It has to change for me and for my family.  I’m not going to be so affected by it anymore.  God will protect me and my boys.  He has proven that time and time again.  So amazingly.  He has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams, sitting here, just being present and loved and so authentically connected in this space with my mom, Homer, my husband, my boys, in this room, altogether in peace.  I just felt this wave rush over me.  No more.  I’m just done with the mess and washing my hands of it, breaking free…

Because here’s the thing…

People use that word so carelessly, and so often manipulatively… “family”.  But that word to me, and to my children, is so huge, so important, and it means so incredibly much — and the least of what it means — the very least — in fact — if at ALL — is genetics.  Nope.  That’s not the tie that binds and that’s not what makes us family for this girl.  It is ever, so much ever MORE than that…

Family is a verb — a doing thing in our house.  It’s an action, much like love.  My boys are blessed to have lots of family — many of whom are not related to them at all.  We have sisters, Gracie and Elise.  My boys couldn’t love them any more.  They have an Auntie Summer and a host of other friends who are family to our little fam of four — all over these United States of ours.  Because “family” isn’t something you just get to be.  No, family is an honor — a privilege you earn.  It’s not a “right” you get just by falling somewhere in a tree (I mean, that’s super awesome when that all works out too!).  You don’t get to lie, dishonor, treat people like crap, disrespect, and continue to do this year after year after year — and then say, “Well, we’re family, and family is the most important thing, so we must adhere to this and this and this.” Nope, family is an action word, it’s a love word, it’s a ‘how you treat other people’ word.  And it can be so beautiful.  And my boys, and this momma, are so blessed with such beautiful examples of family.

Family knows you.  Really KNOWS you.  They know you because they care enough to get to know you and understand the heart of you.  They ask you questions about yourself.  How you’re doing, about silly things like your job, your school day, your hobbies–big things, like your dreams, your goals, your hopes for the future…  I find it so interesting that you can sit in a room for an entire day and have a person not ask you one single question about yourself.  Not one.  They just talk about themselves the entire time or gossip about this neighbor or that neighbor.  The same for my children.  Never attempting to get to know them as real people.  Just telling them who they should be or what they should do.  When we care about each other we try to get to know each other because we are interested in one another as human beings.  We love and want to know these things about each other.  And then we build each other up.  Encouraging one another. Not tearing each other down and ripping each other apart or pitting person against person with lies and deceit. Building and encouraging.  Not manipulating, not twisting. I have been so blessed to see that I have such incredible true family and this is what I want to surround myself with and my boys with.  I pray for God’s protection from the latter.  He is able.  Incredibly able.  I’ve spent long enough having to deal with what family is not to see what I don’t want.  No thank you, been there and done that.  I know what family is — and the best part?  I’ve experienced that grace and beauty to the fullest.  We’re doing that!

And that’s the other thing I don’t understand.  There are people, my family being one of those, that have been through REAL hard things.  Abuse being one avenue of hardship, but there are many, many others–but I don’t understand why you would create hardships that don’t need to be — who needs attention that badly (or opt for the positive kind of attention?). Speaking ill of people hurts and causes so much pain. Especially when those things are untrue things.  Over and over again.  And when you have been given chance after chance to stop and start again?  I can not even wrap my mind around this.  To have turmoil that does not need to exist or be.  And to have no recognition or regard for it.  It’s time for this momma to chose peace.

And, I really don’t care what anyone else thinks or if they understand.  That’s their walk and their journey.  This is mine.  I’m done trying to understand theirs, quite frankly.  It’s been a sad and very hurtful one.  When something bullies and is that intrusively painful to your soul, you need to listen.  I’m listening to mine.  God knows this momma’s heart.  We’ve been chatting quite awhile.  He knows his daughter.  I trust Him.

Forgiveness is so vital.  Yes.  Forgiveness sets us free.  We have to forgive.  I fully understand and believe this.  But when someone is continuing down a path and with a destructive behavior, we also have to protect our hearts, our souls, and our families.  I can forgive you, but I also see that you are not acknowledging your behavior or what you are doing, so I am removing myself from harm.  And people can say I didn’t mean this or that or forget or cry at the drop of a hat and find all kinds of ways to get out of things, deny, or manipulate their way out of situations.  But the fact of the matter is, our words and our deeds are our monuments.  They really are.  It’s really all we have.  Your deeds are your monuments.  We don’t get to meet our maker and say, “Well, I really meant this or Susie totally took that out of context when I was spreading that lie.”  “Your actions are all you can own.” Flynn, age 10, Bowdoinham, Maine

Life is pretty simple.  It really is.  And that’s why I guess I get so frustrated.  Be kind.  Tell the truth.  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Be humble.  And family, family–just like love–is a doing word.  It’s not a right, it’s a privilege.  You show me that you know what that means before you throw that word around.  I know how important it is.  I trust myself on this one.  We are united, this family.  And God is a part of this family.  The most important part of this family.  He’s bigger than all of the mess.  And He is not manipulated.

Nothing gives me greater joy than watching my sisters and my brother and their husbands and wives with my children.  The relationships they have are so amazing.  And even though everyone is so far away, the conversations they keep on the phone move me to tears, the cards sent for every occasion, the face time, and when we do get together — the constant hugs and soul time.  The connection is undeniable.  And my kids miss them and love them to pieces.  That took time on my sisters and brother and their significant other’s parts.  That took lots of love and caring.  That’s nothing forced or manipulated or contrived.  That’s caring for each other.  Through every big thing my boys have been through (big in their eyes –sickness, birthdays, every single holiday, first day of school surgeries, games, etc.), my siblings have been there for my children.  And they’ve been there for Marty and I too.  Those big and little things that say — we’re thinking of you and we love you and no matter what — we’re here for you.  That’s family.

And not, only if you act like we want you to act — or only if you do what we want you to do.  Or you won’t be invited to do this — or you won’t be welcome to do this, or we won’t send you this… Nope.  We accept you just for who you are.  Because we love you.  The all of you.  In fact, BECAUSE you’re you, we love you.  “We love the things we love for what they are. ” Robert Frost But you’d have to actually KNOW the person to be able to say that.  That’s family.  Loving the all of people.  No matter what.  Family is a soft place to fall.  A safe place.  Family is home.

And there’s no fear.  We’re all equals here.  There’s no power struggle.  You can breathe, relax and just be.  I want my boys to know that too.  And so, they have lots of places that feel like home and family to them.  The very least of that prerequisite being genetics.  They’ve got big huge hearts and a big huge family.  So incredibly blessed is this momma and this family.  And by so many of you.  Thanks for being such a treasured part of our family.

And no, family isn’t perfect.  That’s part of the beauty of it! You can mess up and be you and be loved.  But you can have honest, open and authentic conversations about it.  And yes, that’s sometimes hard.  Really hard.  But, family is real.  And family is often saying I’m sorry.  Family is owning up to mistakes and moving on.  If my sisters and brother and mom can do this, I believe any one can.  It takes so much time and healing and heaps and heaps of genuine love and effort and time for these real things, these very real things that caused pain and hurt. It takes ownership.  It takes commitment.  It takes humility.  LOTS of humility.  And we’re so much the stronger for it.  That’s family.  All kinds of different people loving, making mistakes, learning, saying “I’m sorry”, and being strong together.

Namaste and peace as we walk these sometimes murky, rough waters.  God will protect us.  His ways are peace.  I keep reminding myself of that too.  As we work out the tough stuff, protection and peace.  And I have faith that, in the end, truth and love will prevail.  They will have the final say.  This momma isn’t willing to walk in madness anymore…

Much love. ❤