Family is everything. If you have it, it’s the source of your identity and security. If you don’t have it, it’s the source of your longings. If you love it, you become it; if you hate it, you seek to become what it’s not.
If you’re lucky, you can make your own family, one made up of those you love and who love you. This could come in the traditional form of marriage and children, or be a family of friends, lovers, mentors, partners.
Yet, however fulfilling these ‘second’ families might be, you will never fully escape the sense of loss for your family of origin and of what might have been – an ache that will return now and then as you move through life.
The need to belong is wired into us. There’s no escape. You can wish you weren’t part of your family; you might even reject them, but you’re never free of them. Inner doubts, resentments and justifications gurgle on. We’re born to connect, and the imprint of that first connection is indelible.
The Myth of the Ideal Family, the Reality of Love
Of families born or made, none are perfect. They all have flaws. Like you and me.
Family includes the people who love you in the strangest ways; who constantly interfere, come across as patronizing or judgemental, or perhaps even distant at times.
Yet, these are the people who are there for you without hesitation when the sky falls – the ones you can rely on unconditionally. So why is it they can also be the most difficult and annoying? That’s family.
The great philosophers have grappled with the meaning of life and can’t agree on anything. For the poets and seers however, it’s a no-brainer: We live for love. You might say we reach for love. Much like a plant instinctively reaches for the sun.
Feeling unloved or misunderstood by family, some people lament while others encase themselves in suits of emotional armour. And then there are those who settle, allowing their independence to be trampled, their uniqueness to be ignored. You can grapple with anger and sadness; even hatred can move you on. But settling for what you’ve got – that’s the worst. It’s an act of surrender that shuts down hope and puts change beyond reach.
That’s when you find out which side of your family you stand on. Your relatives may be judgemental, supportive or indifferent.
If only family could just love us. And if we could only just love our family. How complicated is that?
For some, spirituality is an escape from worldly difficulties, but it can also be a way to align ourselves with reality. Self-awareness, mindfulness and thoughtful reflection are the key. Life is busy and we need to get things done but also, as Blaise Pascal said, ‘… miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.’
You can spend your life lamenting that things aren’t the way you want, or you learn to accept and value the family you have. And appreciate the positive, loving aspects.
So as you ponder the reality of family and grapple with mixed emotions, know you are not alone. Hopefully, that thought brings a form of familial peace.
What does this post on family (longing, belonging) bring up for you?