Family: Can’t Live With ‘Em…
Think “family” and instantly a host of feelings rise up. Some are full of sunshine, happy moments, and affection. Whilst, others symbolize deep despair, anger, and frustration.
Why does the word family attract such intense emotions? Apart form the fact that most people are born into their family, with all of its penetrating memories of childhood, familial relationships are quite unlike any other connections you are ever likely to experience.
“You choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”
“Family: can’t live with them, can’t live without them”
“Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts”
“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold” (Ogden Nash)
“Sigh! Family life…”
We are drawn to our own family just as we are repelled. There is a constant tension that runs between relationships. So that some things grate and others you appreciate. While, everything is always in a continual state of flux. Today could be blooming marvelous. While, tomorrow could be utterly disastrous.
In your family you learn to love, forgive, and face difficulties. If not, then learning it in the wider world is much more tricky. Without the safety net of blood ties or belonging, it’s harder to reach an understanding, much less intimacy with anyone.
If you have lived a life of ritualistic abuse under the friendly banner of “family”, the notion of trust and togetherness seem ridiculous or simply offensive. But, if your experience of family has had moments of joy, closeness, and kindness peppered amidst everything else, then the concept of family has a value well worth keeping.
Regardless, all those plastic smiling family examples on TV shows and ads certainly don’t help. They confuse with their clichés and ramp up dissatisfaction. “Why can’t you be like other families/real families/or such and such’s family?” are the accusatory questions teens feel obliged to direct at their distressed parents at least a few times in their life. Perhaps, without all those sugarcoated family media myths kids wouldn’t be so deluded (Or is that a delusion too?).
Suffice it to say, family life is the test track or proving ground where young ones fledge and eventually leave the nest. Family is the equivalent of Mt Everest Base Camp. You are on the edge of many adventures, dangers, and delights, behind a buffer of security.
Inside your family you live within something bigger than any identity of one could ever create. Maybe, it’s not your preferred version. But it offers something fundamental, nonetheless.
You can spend an entire lifetime running away from your experience of family. Just as you can refuse to go and never leave home.
Along with couple relationships, family is an infinitely complex encounter. If you had never met yours you could spend every day wishing you had. Just as those who resent their family spend equivalent time wishing they hadn’t.
Family life is paradoxical, challenging, and strongly anchoring. It can comfort and inspire you one moment, and infuriate you the next. Yet, somehow, I get the impression that within the vessel of family, that’s about as good as it ever needs to get.
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