I don’t have a traditional family setup by any means, not that many do nowadays. My parents divorced when I was seven and I was the only kid they had together. Knowing each of them as well as I do as a somewhat grown ass person, I have zero clue how they even dated. Each of their personalities are inside of me and quite often at war. It’s a crowded nation with the only common ground being an uncanny ability to over-worry about EVERYTHING.
I have an older (half) brother and sister from my dad’s first marriage and a younger (half) sister from when my mom re-married. I don’t typically refer to them as halfsies, to me they’re my full, red-blooded siblings. I am much closer to all of them now than any of us ever were “growing up.” Age and geographic distances kept us figuratively and literally apart then. But now it’s totally different. I’ve vacationed a handful of times with my brother and sister-in-law and talk to my little sister almost every day. We even have Real Phone Conversations. But that’s because I am secretly 85 and get tired of texting and force her to speak to me.
For quite some time, I haven’t felt like I fit very well into either side of my family. I’m not saying I don’t get along with them, because I do. But I am just…different. I am the pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, anti-gun, anti-religion, legalize marijuana in all 50, will forever love Obama hippie liberal who moved off to California for three years and probably would have ended up in the Haight in the 60s . I know being the “odd one” in the fam is a situation to which many of my friends can relate. But I’ll admit, this has affected me quite a bit over the years, especially since November 2016.
I am not ashamed of who I am by any means and usually won’t shy from telling you exactly what I think about something. But because my perspective is so entirely different, I’ve often felt isolated. It’s genuinely bothered me many times, as being closer to family is a major reason I moved back to Texas. And because I don’t have a “family of my own,” the loneliness has been slightly magnified. The great new is, I am surrounded by a very large support system of friends of all shapes, sizes and beliefs. Not to mention, my therapist and I have spent quite a bit of time on this subject and I’ve done a lot of individual soul searching about it. And then, last year happened.
Very long story short, as its not my story to tell, in 2017 my dad and his siblings met a brother they never knew of growing up. I was able to slightly get to know him and his wife on Facebook before we met in person at Thanksgiving. Come to find out, I DO have a lot in common with them, especially New Aunt. Trying to explain this in full is difficult, especially without bawling my eyes out, but no one can entirely comprehend what a tremendous amount this has meant to me and the collateral benefits it has had.
Brené Brown’s newish book, “Braving the Wilderness“, to which I’ve been listening, explains these feelings in beautiful detail – our overwhelming, yet often unnecessary, need to be belong. To be accepted. I highly suggest the Audible version, as Brené narrates it herself. It explains the aspects and nuances of these feelings much better than I can.
Basically, I didn’t feel like I belonged before New Aunt and Uncle came into our world. I know through therapy and the four thousand books and articles I’ve read that it was never my family that intentionally made me feel any sort of way; I 200% did that to myself. I am solely responsible for my feelings, reactions and responses. This is why I am writing this, because I think this is something many people don’t understand in the Era of We Are Always Offended. Only YOU are responsible for how you feel.
I now look at my family in a whole new way. There are many things I admire about them. For example, there is a very strong entrepreneurial spirit throughout my siblings and cousins, a trait I do have but it’s hidden beneath layers of absolute fear. Therefore, I am always in awe of what many of them have accomplished. In addition, as I have been close to my niece since she was born eight years ago, I’ve often wished I had the opportunity to spend more time with all of my aunts growing up. Clearly nothing can be done about the past now, but we always have the chance to alter the future.
We had our annual family reunion a couple of weeks ago and despite the fact I had two ear infections and just got home from six days in Vegas (enough to obliterate anyone), I couldn’t tell you when I had such a wonderful day and overall experience with my entire immediate and extended family. We may never have religion, politics or even college sports in common. But we do have blood and humanity in common. No one can change that. And I now have a whole new appreciation and immense amount of gratitude for it. Knocking on the door of a new decade of my life, there are still many things of which I am uncertain, but family is no longer one of them.