Family means something so much more to me than who shares the same bloodline that I do. You see, I have many people in my life who are family because we share some genetic connection. But that’s not my family. The people in my family are not simply aunts, uncles, cousins and the like. My family is the people who have earned a place in my heart, whether we share the same blood or not.
Each year I hope for something different. As the plans for the upcoming holiday season unfold, I hope they do not include me. My visit should not feel like an obligation to others. But there’s that word, family. They feel some sense of responsibility to spend time with me, but they don’t want to. It’s okay. The feeling is mutual.
We don’t even like one another. Our values and ideas about life are drastically different. We don’t share the same interests. In fact, other than our genetic history, we have very little in common. But we have to see each other. Because we’re family. But why is that? It isn’t how I feel or how I think.
I cringe when I hear all sorts of people feeling the pressure of obligation. I hear them lamenting about how they are expected to visit relatives or to entertain. They dread having to give up hours, days, or even weeks to spend time with those who do not bring them joy. Isn’t it time we throw off the facade and agree to spend our most precious moments with the people we truly love? You must be thinking how awful it is that I feel this way. You might wonder if I even have a family at all. The truth is that I have an enormous family. You see, I have chosen to alter my definition.
My two closest friends span three states. We have spent countless hours together in joy, in pain, in sadness, and in grief. We never feel obligated to see one another. I would cross an ocean to spend a few hours with them. Because they are family. The tribe of women I call my “mom friends” are also my family. I love each of them as I would a sibling. We spend most of our time talking and scheduling more time with one another because the word obligation doesn’t even cross our minds. I look forward to having them as guests in my home and they reciprocate in kind. Their children have my heart. I trust them as I would my own mother. In this family we don’t share last names, ethnicity, or even upbringing. These things seem so insignificant compared to the love I have in my heart.
Maybe you have relatives who are loving and supportive. Maybe they even share your blood. Perhaps you have cousins that feel like siblings. Cherish them. If you don’t, please remove the heaviness of obligation. Do not be forced into spending your most precious commodity on those who don’t deserve the pleasure of your company. Find your true family. Look for them in your friends or colleagues. Find them in distant cousins or neighbors. Let them be the kind of people who deserve the title of family, whether they share your blood or not.