The last few weeks I have been learning a lot about family and what family does and doesn’t mean. The next few posts will be a reflection of this journey.
“We are family.”
It was a phrase that was chorused by members of this group continuously through the night. As I walked around and talked and listened and observed the dynamics of this group, I knew it was true in a way I’ve rarely ever seen. This hodgepodge group of people was unified around two things — their love for science and their love for their science mother.
Every type of person you can imagine was part of this group: the vegans, the carnivores, the partiers, the early risers, the drinkers, the smokers, the abstainers, the runners, the swimmers, the sun soakers, the Christians and the atheists. There’s the self-confident, enthusiastic, out-going brother that loves everyone and doesn’t let anyone sneak by without saying hello. The slightly awkward sister that doesn’t actually feel like she belongs but knows she is accepted. The extraordinarily successful but deeply insecure brother that is unsure of whether or not he is loved and accepted but feels more himself around this group than anywhere else. The new mom and dad that got a babysitter to enjoy a few hours with family. Another new mom that wore her baby to all the family events. The younger siblings that both enjoy time with the family but also want to exert their independence. The quiet yet insightful brother. It was a family reunion and for once, I too felt like I belonged.
But of course, as I’ve learned many, many times before, feeling like part of a family is fleeting. There’s always some test, some threshold, some way you have to prove yourself, and keep proving yourself, in order to continue to be part of a family. If you aren’t able to measure up every single day, you’re out. That’s how it always works. At least for me. But, healing from past wounds can come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.
A few of us were hanging out in a random room and the gregarious brother declared that I too was part of the family. I expressed my doubt that his truth was also true for me — I still have work to do to prove myself, to prove that I belong. He looked at me like I was crazy. “What are you talking about? You’re here aren’t you? You are smart and you’ve been accepted. You are family.”
“That’s not how family works for me though. I get kicked out. If I make a mistake, I have to leave. That’s how family works.”
He was totally bewildered. “Is she serious?”
The quiet insightful brother reassured him I was not joking. This was a truth about my life and lived experience.
He looked me straight in the eyes and declared, “You don’t have to perform or prove yourself. You belong. You are part of this family now.”
In this group of people, in this time and space, I get to be exactly who I am. Nothing more, nothing less. It is unbelievable and oh so beautiful. That, my friends, is what family is. Family is the group of people that will always accept you, just as you are, because you belong just as much as everyone else. No expectations, no exceptions, just acceptance.