Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gift of Family: By Blood and By Choice

Happy Holidays, Mudders.  What a year.  What a year.  So many beautiful moments, but also some of the hardest trials I’ve ever had to face.  Yet, I am wiser--so much wiser than I was when I was typing away at these keys December 2011.  We all know how much we learn with each stumble, with each fall, with each heart ripping, soul shredding decision that we make over the year behind us, and it is no different with me.  I have learned.   HOW I have learned.  And truly Mudders, no matter what is occurring in our lives when it comes to our children, we just need to remind ourselves that each day is a chance to learn and to grow wiser.  That is what I tried to do this year.  

It was a year of separation from a beloved son; it was a year of dealing with the self-destruction of another beloved son.  It was a year of injustices; monetarily, professionally, personally.  It was a year of lost friendships,…GOOD friendships…(or at least  I thought they were good.)  It was a year that I decided to once and for all shed the itchy famial cloth from which I was made and place a softer fabric against my sensitive and raw skin.  It was a year of bruised and battered figurative knees, of literal lost faith , but also—also—it was a year of glimmers of light and pixie dust and warmth. 

And even though I would say that the scale leaned WAY toward the out-of-my-control-misery side, those things on the other side of the scale counted…even if they couldn’t move the bar far enough from the deepest agony. As I look back at those glimmers of pixie dust, of light and warmth, I realize that it was PEOPLE who usually held those gifts in their hands, before pressing them firmly into mine.  PEOPLE…not just people…MY PEOPLE.  My family.

Now don’t spit out the gulp of soda you have in your mouth.  You all know that some of the members of the household in which I grew, leave MUCH to be desired,  but it doesn't matter because I have a gathering of such beautiful human beings in my life that care enough about me that they have BECOME my family. 

David Ogden Stiers is quoted as saying, “Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”  And this…this idea of family is the most salient idea I have learned and let sink into the very fibers of me this year.  “No one gets left behind or forgotten.”  How truly validating when you realize that there are wonderful, loyal people in your life that think that you are valuable enough to not be forgotten, or left out, or treated differently.  Those people, who want the best for you, those are family members. 
Over this past year, I have gathered many family members into the throngs of my life.  Some have been here a long time; my dear Dr. Speed Dial, her husband and beautiful daughter—they have been my family—have loved me despite…despite my innumerable flaws.  That is family. 

But I have also learned that family can be a boss that patiently and gently listens as you cry in her office over personal matters.  A boss who understands and anticipates needs, who works with the roller coaster life I have had for the last year.  Family is a boss whose small gesture of ensuring that during her Christmas luncheon for our staff that my gluten allergy was taken into consideration left me overwhelmed with gratitude.  I was not forgotten or left behind.  My boss—part of my family.

Family can be far away—far far away.  It can be a longest friend—38 years to be exact—who calls to check in, laughs at my stupidity, is able to be vulnerable and hold my hand when her father-in-law was dying.  Family is that faraway friend that doesn’t forget the fragility of my being and props me up gently when I need it, but isn’t afraid to kick me in my very easily targeted behind when I need it either.

Family can be a far away friend who comforts with his exquisite and uncanny knowledge of how my complicated brain works.  He challenges my mind with talk of politics and music, sends me photos to take me on imaginary trips when I need to “get away” and lets me lean hard upon his virtual shoulder while he problem solves in his unorthodox way.  Family can be a far away friend who, no matter the circumstance, reminds me of the things that make me special and strong even when he’s thousands of miles away.

Family can be co-workers who ignore rumors and the mean-spiritedness of others.  They help lift you up simply because the fiber of their beings can’t kick a girl when she’s down.  Co-workers who are family members are good to you not just when you are flying high, but when you need to be reminded of what’s good in your life.

Family can also come in the form of new friends…or in some cases new-old friends.  I am happy to say that I have connected with people this year who have become integral parts of my life in such a short period of time.  Some of them I’ve known since childhood, although I’ve just recently learned to appreciate them.  Some I have never met face to face, and yet they seem to just “get” me. Family comes in the form of a girl...a special girl who has joined our family and become one of the nearest and dearest human in my life.  The wisdom she holds at such a young age never ceases to amaze me.  She was born a teacher...and in my case gently teaches me about life and how to treat one another. Family comes in the form of new people that we soon can't imagine ever living without.

Perhaps the biggest revelation…the one that has been right here in front of me all along is that family is made up, of course, of real and true family members as well.   Family is a very loyal sister, who even under immense pressure loves me, speaks with me, and makes me feel as if I am wanted, needed and appreciated.  This wonderful sister makes time for Ila, for me, for togetherness.  She makes sure that on even the smallest holiday we connect.  With her, I am included and not forgotten.  Family is a sister for whom I am infinitely grateful. 

Family is also a brother-in-law who gave freely well needed understanding in the most trying of circumstances.  He soothed when he could have shouted.  He reassured when he could have turned away.  He was grateful when he could have been hateful.  Family is a steady, steadfast brother-in-law. 

Family is a group of the craziest, zaniest, most wonderful in-laws a girl could ask for.  It is feasting at Thanksgiving, a sister-in-law who realizes a need and gives freely, parents-in-law who even in their late 80’s and early 90’s dote on their three year old granddaughter, remember my sons’ birthdays and insist on celebrating my own birthday with me even when my own flesh and blood forgot.

Last but not least, most importantly in fact, family is my offspring.  Shamefully I hadn’t been living by David Ogden Stier’s wisdom earlier this year. Sadly I can’t change my past, but happily I have changed my present and will keep it in my future.  My children are loved fiercely and completely with all of my being no matter where they are, what choices they make, or even if they someday reject me or make mistakes that hurt themselves or their family. Each will always be equally cherished and held closely because after all family means never being left behind or forgotten no matter what…no matter what.

And so dear Mudders, this season, I hope that you have family, whether by blood or by choice, gathered close to you.  I hope you tell them how much they mean to you.   For being loved by someone or in my case a whole bunch of someones makes you realize that even during a year of great burden--family  makes any heavy load a little lighter.