Birth-families are not always awesome. A Shutterstock. Licensed Image.
We don’t have to remain latched to every kid, sibling, or cousin across three generations just because we married a lineage, or share blood and a last name. It’s okay to gently, swiftly say goodbye. We might even be doing them a favor.
It’s a fallacy, an ancient mythic lie that our birth and constructed families are permanent fixtures in our lives. They are not permanent and they are not always required. It’s our choices that enable a person or family to hurt, oppress, and control us. Allowing these limitations of culture to impress upon us to stay with family through thick and thin make codependency a serious issue.
Families are temporary constructs from which we derive temporary meaning for our lives. If the meanings change, dissolve or contravene, either through our evolution or a shift in another person’s perspective, we are called to rethink, possibly redesign our commitments. While this is not a call to be reckless, it’s important to understand that every person has options.
Birthdays, New Years, and holidays usher in profound times of reevaluation, self-reflection and tribal-assessment. When we first start to explore our needs for independence from our families, we might choose to refrain from heading home for the holidays. Doing so, we might feel guilty or conflicted, or we might have the best frickin’ holiday of our lives.
Our childhood experiences and habits around holidays are not indelible. We can remake anything at any time through a shift in perspective and behavior. Playing the old movies in our minds, we realize what we don’t want in our lives. Stepping away from the past, we realize we have unlimited potential in any direction.
If we’re paying attention during family visits, the moment we pull into our sibling’s or mother’s (or even our own) driveway, we begin to feel the stress around the family behaviors we no longer desire or wish to tolerate. We start to feel our former-self bubble up, chock-full of old responses, and ancient reactions. For many people, holidays are times of healing and renewal. For the rest of us, enforced family gatherings are head-f*cks.
The true definition of a birth family: a small group of people forced to deal with each other while fighting for limited resources. These birth, childhood, and adoptive groups are vital to our growth and self-discovery, but many of them have expiration dates. While these families might serve a huge purpose in our early years, they can become void of intrinsic value as we age. They can also become toxic.
This is not to say that all families are bad or that we should strive to let them go. On the contrary, if you’ve been born into a tolerable group of fair-minded people who respect you, then cling to these people with all your heart! If you’re a Mormon, you might be so enthused with your family that you’ve sealed yourself to them for eternity. Whatever moistens your loins. Go for it!
For many of us though, our families, and sometimes our marriages, are odd assemblages of twisted personalities that were never able to agree-upon an all-inclusive system of communication, behavior, and rituals.
There may have been abuse or neglect in the original contracts within your childhood home. It might be that your voice was never truly welcome in your family. You may be a successful person in the world, but when you return home to the old patterns, you’re thrust into the corner with a mouthguard and dunce cap.
You might need to dig deep and grieve some of the toxic imagery rolling around in your mind and heart. You might be so overwhelmed with emotions stemming from childhood that it’s become impossible to speak with members of your family.
Every one of us has family fascia clinging to our souls, so remember that you’re in good company. Seek clarity. While everyone else will want to cram you into their little boxes, allow yourself to expand, make YOU the priority, and love yourself.
It might be that we hate our families and refuse to forgive them. We may have forgiven them, but we refuse to forget. We might love them, but don’t want to be near them any longer. It might be that you’re still playing the role of victim, and being around your family is akin to pouring salt in your wounds.
Each situation is unique and cannot be judged from the perspectives of traditional or religious family values. Human beings are far more complex than that and there are many paths that lead to liberation.
If you find yourself nodding your head as you read all this, accept the fact that your situation is your own and you do not need anybody’s approval to make changes in your life. Regardless of how many family relationships you decide to exit, understand that those who truly wish to be in your company will seek you out with a full heart, complete respect, unlimited kindness, and compassionate understanding.
Pushing hard to break from family might not bring about the most lasting changes. Before applying the pruning sheers to your family tree, come to terms with your mistakes, then forgive them. Come to terms with other people’s mistakes, then forgive them. Be accepting of the way things are. Find peace before you make major breaks.
When making big decisions around relationships and family bondage, shut out the old family voices, quiet the sibling rants, silence the “traditional society” and religious bullshit. Listen to your voice. It’s the only one that counts.
Our paths are mutually exclusive. Yours might require extended periods of solitude. It might be that you need a break from family or tradition. Heck, you might just want to skip one holiday meal in favor of drinking your face off at the local bar. You get to choose because it’s your life. Don’t get tripped up by guilt and shame. Those things barely exist.
Even the Buddha skipped town on his wife and kid.
He turned out okay, right?
Whatever changes are on your horizon, seek the ones that bring you peace. Seek traditions, new or old, that bring you joy.
Our primary contract is not with our families, it’s with the Universe.
Infuse that contract with as much joy as possible. With or without family, it’s your life. Enjoy it!