I’ve been thinking about family a lot lately.
Everyone knows “family”. Most people have family. The Online Dictionary surprisingly has quite a few definitions for family; but generally speaking family is ‘a group of persons sharing common ancestry’.
I don’t count myself especially lucky when it comes to family. I have a big extended family, but I rarely see or talk to them and so it happens that day-to-day, in the “sharing of the same blood department”, I can really just count on my Mum and my brother. I am from the school of thought that it’s lucky you can choose your friends, cause you sure as hell can’t choose your family…
But I am lucky enough to have Jay, some really great friends and Jay’s cousins that I count as family.
What I’ve never understood about family is the part where everyone thinks they can treat each other badly and it’s somehow acceptable because “we’re family”. Sometimes it seems that politeness, courtesy and respect just go out the window when you’re dealing with family.
I’m sure every family has its fair share of skeletons; dusty and threatening to burst out of the closet, but I’m certain my O’Neill family has about 25 million more than the norm. I swear you could create a soap opera based on stuff from that family; stuff that is more intense and ridiculous than Bold & the Beautiful and Days of Our Lives put together.
It’s hard to admit, but I grew up in the dictionary definition of a Dysfunctional Family. When it all finally imploded, I struggled for a long time to deal with the fallout from my parents split.
To wake up each morning and just keep breathing.
To not get consumed by the toxic ash falling from the sky with each breath.
But I am definitely past it now. My heart is still scarred but I actually do believe in the age old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
I know my relationship with my Mum is stronger. I know my relationship with Jay is stronger. I love my friends who helped me through it all and understood that when your Dad makes a choice to betray his family and then walk away only trying to cover his tracks with more lies, it’s like a death in the family.
I do mourn for my Dad; the relationship we had before, the person he used to be before. But I have realised that I believe that things happen for a reason, no matter how hard at the time or how long it takes to recover, you will come out better afterwards. If not because of some personal epiphany or existential awaking, then because the experience will have forced you to mature.
Even families that are close, like Jay’s, often say very hurtful things and act insensitively without thought for feelings. They can be unaccepting of lifestyle choices or seemingly oblivious to the fact that one is an adult and perfectly capable at making their own choices. Not everyone has to live a cookie-cutter life.
I am learning, through trial and error, that when dealing with family around me I should adopt the mantra of the alcoholic; help me to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.
So, today I am thankful for my eclectic and oddly assembled “family”, consisting of my wonderful husband, my Mum & brother, my best friends and some close friends who are proving very worthy, a select group of O’Neills & Brauns and some of Jay’s rellies (definitely counting the Nanais).