Musings on Family
My relationship with my own, blood family has been complex at the best of times, and quite poor at the worst. As such, throughout my life I have sought out family and family-like relationships in other areas of life. Family in the traditional blood-line sense is relatively easy to define, but it becomes harder to pin down a broader definition of family. Some might argue there isn’t another definition of family. Herein I share some of my ideas about what makes for a family.
What comes to mind first is a certain permanence. At first, the word I wanted to use was “unconditional.” I think unconditional is pretty close, but it’s a bit imprecise. Familial relationships don’t always involve unconditional love or acceptance — I would know, but they are unconditional in the sense that your family is your family, whether you like it or not. I think permanence is the better word to describe this scenario. Whatever happens and whatever you do, your family is your family. This can be hard to recreate outside the blood family, but some organized groups do it well.
Affinity groupings like sororities and fraternities tend to follow a similar pattern. A fraternity “brother” or sorority “sister” will always hold said role, even if the relationship amongst individuals deteriorates. This is even true for a college alumni group. My college could disown me, but I will always be an alumnus, whether they like it or not, and share that with other alumni. The problem with these is that they can dilute to mere labels. I would expect that a sorority or fraternity relationship is inherently deeper than the bond shared amongst a school’s alumni. Another example of a stronger bond can be a burning man camp affinity. This depends greatly on the size and culture of the camp, but for many the shared bond of burning together with others is enough a relationship with a lifelong permanence to it. In general, I think there should be more groups like these in the real world.
Another aspect of family is its connection to the feelings and energies of home and rootedness. For the spiritual types, I would argue that family is inherently connected to the first, or root chakra. Family ought to be a place that brings comfort, surety, and some type of safety. I say this cautiously, knowing that for many blood family has sadly been a place of quite the opposite — trauma, abuse, and discomfort. But if anything, knowing many, including myself, who have experienced similar and often spend their lifetimes trying to make it up for it makes it all the more clear that that is what family ought to be. Those who don’t feel safety and security in family suffer greatly for it. For those not blessed with such circumstance, it’s important to find families that do activate the first chakra.
An idea that arises for me with regards to family is that of the living legacy. Even at times when I have been nearly completely disconnected from my blood family, its history and legacy have constituted a part of my ongoing personal narrative and story of self. Family is a part of your identity, inherently and reflexively, as you are by definition a member of any of your families. Your close friends greatly influence who you are, but family is part of who you are. History, fate, future, and legacy are all components of one’s personal narrative that tie directly to concepts of family.
Family can be uniquely generous. More often than not, the success and abundance of others can be the cause of great jealousy amongst friends, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers in the cases when someone’s fortunes are particularly conspicuous. Is is true that there can be jealousy and rivalry amongst and within blood family, but the overwhelming and distinctive tendency of families is to band together and enjoy the fruits of one another’s success. I think part of the reason for this is the shared identity I alluded to earlier.
When another person achieves success one may feel jealous, but when a family member achieves success one feels enjoyment because that family is an extension of oneself, and therefore that success actually feels to some extent like one’s own. This creates a beautiful alignment of interests around familial relations, blood or otherwise. This also manifests practically as a unique generosity of money, time, and other resources. Even the busiest people in the world make time for family.
Last for this piece, but certainly not least, is love. Familial love is, for me, the deepest and most unconditional type of love. Romantic love has expectations, often sexual; the fourth and second chakras merge. Familiar love in contrast is a love without expectation. That is not to say that family members don’t have expectations. The opposite tends to be true. But the love itself, as a pure opening of the fourth heart chakra, is without expectation. To me, family is where love is the default. When hearts are open this can manifest as a warmth. Though this can be challenging to detect when hearts are not open, as is often case, it is for me amongst the very most important characteristics of family.