Family - Why it Matters More Than You Think
“Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern, like bad wallpaper.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of family?
Or all of the above and then some?
Family relationships can be a touchy subject. For me, I considered my relationship with my immediate family reserved and/or dysfunctional. As for the extended family, a relationship was almost nonexistent. I didn’t think it mattered much. Little did I know.
In the past few weeks I got a chance to meet members of my family that I’ve never met before. And I’m so glad I did. Since they came and left I had a chance to reflect on the experience and how it changed my life—in a very good way. Here are some of my thoughts.
Every individual is unique. Regardless of how much you think you know about someone because of their parents, heritage or upbringing, they are still their own person. Don’t judge someone thinking the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Sometimes it does and it falls way too far.
Genetics matter big time. You may not see some of your traits in your siblings or parents. But move to your aunts, uncles and cousins and you will find yourself there. Some of your most defining characteristics can be inherited. I am more understanding and accepting of who I am now because of what I saw in my cousin and how similar we are.
Blood is thicker than water. My cousin and I grew up worlds apart. Our mothers are sisters but they didn’t get along for most of their adult lives. So we didn’t know each other. We’ve heard of one another and that was it.
When my cousin visited, we stayed up most nights talking till 3 or 4 in the morning. Our connection felt so organic. When you share the same blood and background with someone, the bond is stronger. I can’t explain it. It just is. It’s like they are an extension of you.
Reach out—you have nothing to lose. If you haven’t met someone from your family, try to contact them. The odds may not be great in befriending a family member, but it’s worth a shot. I found one in 44 of my cousins. And that one is worth every single minute I spent dealing with others. If you don’t connect with anyone, you can let it go knowing that you tried.
You don’t have to stay in touch if you don’t want to. The opposite of reaching out can be true too. If there is no connection, don’t force yourself to deal with someone because you share the same family name or traits. Connection first, family second. Don’t guilt yourself into keeping up with family demands and drama.
Embrace the change. When you find a meaningful bond with someone, nourish the new relationship—don’t take it for granted. Such a connection is rare to find so don’t sacrifice it for the sake of getting back to your normal life. Your life is not the same anyway.
Balance expectations. Understand others’ expectations and what you can and can’t do. When someone is coming for a visit and you don’t know much about them, ask. Don’t assume they will take care of things when they get here—especially if they don’t speak the language.
No regrets. It is tempting to wish things were different. Part of me wished that my cousin and I had met earlier—how things would’ve been different. Acknowledge the thought and let it go on its way. Focus on what you have right now and be thankful for that. Let gratitude for what you have guide you.
Cherish the time you spend together. From a grateful state comes a sense of aliveness and awareness of the eternal now. The most memorable things are not usually the big adventures but the little things that touch the depth of your soul. For me it was the time my cousin and I spent talking and sharing our most intimate experiences.
Let things flow naturally. Don’t force conversations or try to find out more about someone out of a sense of obligation or to avoid awkward moments. There is nothing wrong with silence—it can be a comfortable pause. Don’t turn every conversation or interaction into a plan of action with things to do and points to discuss. Allow experiences to flow the way they’re meant to.
When it comes to family, you never know. Sometimes out of the darkest situation comes the brightest light. This was my experience with meeting my cousin. She is a bright light in my life and will always be.
Meeting new people can be scary. For every cheerful and expectant hello there is a painful goodbye. Your loved ones will come and go but they leave behind part of them in a gift, a picture, a fragrance that lingers, a shared experience and more importantly an everlasting bond—and this makes the painful goodbyes worth it.
When you open your home and your heart to your family, your space and heart expand. Life will never be the same—it will be much better.
Meeting my cousin is the best thing that has happened to me this year. I’ve never felt this connection with any other family member. This experience has touched me deeply and profoundly—I’m not the same person I was less than a month ago. And for that I’m so grateful.
“Having a place to go – is a home. Having someone to love – is a family. Having both – is a blessing”. ~Donna Hedges