Family: 10 {More} Things
#38 in a series of wild & precious ways to love your whole self more
Aug 31, 2020
(reading time: 4 min.)
  1. TWIL (This Week I Learned.)

This week I learned {more} about family. When you set a theme around family and then talk to your sister and cousins for I think an hour and a half about family, what actually ends up happening is not a podcast episode about family — what happens are lots of feelings.

And then more learning.

Last week I said: “I think it may be as simple as that: for family to “work” those people  need to hold that knowing as sacred and anytime it’s defiled, they heal it.”

What happens when healing stalls? What happens when only one person wants to heal? What happens when only one person feels like any work needs to be done?

Well, just as I mentioned in the podcast (have a listen, several meaningful conversations have been struck up over it the past few days) there are no bullet points here.

I think that’s why I tend to say I strive for a healthy family, not a happy family.

…and, sometimes you’ll have an unhealthy member of your family.  I feel pretty strongly that, first of all, it’s one of the hardest things and something we, culturally, can’t seem to get our hearts around well — when an family member is hurting and won’t/can’t heal, we grieve.

And yes, we often try to hide that grieving in all sorts of behaviours and feelings.

2. Quote

“You can tell a lot about a person's childhood by whether or not they like Christmas.”  
 ―        Stephen Elliott, Happy Baby

“Too many Americans are spurred to achieve, rather than to attach.”  
 ―        Thomas Lewis, A General Theory of Love

3. Prompt

Are there members of your family who are hurting and are not taking steps to get stronger?

Especially when you are taking steps, the grieving that stems from awareness that someone in your sacred inner circle isn’t coming along with you emotionally can be so deep — I’ve lost my Dad to a brutal form of cancer but I think I can safely say that losing or even almost losing family members who tap out emotionally is as hard.

Other behaviours and feelings often mask the grieving: humor helps, but there’s also anger, bitterness, sarcasm, anxiety, denial…

You know, I have contemplated whether or not it’s the depth of that grief that keeps some of us from even wanting to touch our own hurting? Once you lift that stone and peer underneath, it takes a pretty strong person to stay in that arena and keep training.

So: assuming you want to train a bit still…

John Bradshaw (a favorite of my Dad’s) said, “Perhaps nothing so accurately characterizes dysfunctional families as denial. The denial forces members to keep believing the myths and vital lies in spite of the facts, or to keep expecting that the same behaviors will have different outcomes.”

Try writing a two-columned list: on one side, the myth in your family. On the other, the reality.

Take care of yourself and do this in a loving way. Do this to help a grieving process if you have a family member who is hurting and can’t/won’t get stronger. Do this gently, carefully. Not in a way that further “punishes” you — ideally, if there is denial and trauma in your family, do this in the company of a counselor.

4. Quest

Last week we aimed for positive impacts on our family members. This week, I feel like it’s time to get yet more intentional. Many, perhaps most of us have family members who have tapped out. These are often our “given” family — not our “chosen” family.

This week, try to name your chosen family and notice qualities you admire in this group. I strongly believe this is a “Yes, and” situation: If you have hurting, stuck, emotionally unwell family members, you need not abandon them, but you do need to find people who uphold the best in you. Similar to the members of a gym who keep you going when you feel like you can’t keep training, a "chosen” family will help you get stronger, even as your given family (may) make that training even harder….

Chosen family can start with a church family, a gym family, a men’s circle, a caregivers’ group…some of us have been lucky enough to meet members of our chosen family by chance — others have to seek them out. These are people who will call you out when needed, but in a gentle way. They won’t stand for you opting for less than you are capable of emotionally.

If you don’t have a chosen family, start thinking about it this week.

And if your chosen family perfectly overlaps your given family, be grateful.

5. Level-UP / Go Deeper

That quest was already a bit intense, wasn’t it?

I feel like even touching on the grief that comes up when contemplating those family members who won’t meet us at the table, who often insist they love us when clearly they aren’t practicing love actively — it’s a bit much. Yes, we’re adults. Surely, we can move on and get strong with or without them.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t grief and that doesn’t mean we can’t make space in our lives for grieving a little.

It’s time to mention self care: the tea with a close friend, the counseling session, the walk in the woods. The babysitter so you can feel your feelings. Whatever {healthy, caring thing} you need.

  1. POD          Poem of the day   Alberto Rios: Day of the Refugios
  1. Podcast     (Wild & Precious Conversations — Family)
  1. Video         (John Gottman — The Science of Love)

9. Hero: You — Look in the mirror
Why?   I have had quite a week and my feeling is that, if you are in the arena or even contemplating stepping in, you are my hero. Thank you. You’re lovely.

10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.

Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available   everywhere you download podcasts. Family episode with my family (sister and cousins),  Thursday.

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