C is for Chosen Family.

500 Words On…. Chosen Family

I was born into a family. I loved them, as best as I was able, and I believe that they loved me as best as thety were able.

But the best we are able is not always what others need from us. Sometimes, they need more from us.

What gets in the way?

I think it’s a variety of things. Shared history, and the stories each of us tell ourselves and each other about it. Ideas about who each other is that may have little to do with who they really are. Expectations and rigid roles in the relationships. Volatility, abuse, humiliation, and manipulation.

Damage.

For many years, I was compelled, through a sense of family obligation, to accept treatment from members of my family or origin that I had long since refused to accept from others. For many years, all of my other relationships were affected by the unhealthy and unhappy dynamic that this family lives by.

And then, gradually, I came to understand that there were underlying patterns and reasons for the occasional outbursts of hostility, fury, and shaming that punctuated each of those relationships.

People who do not know peace within themselves cannot be peaceful, and are not.

Eden and I, circa 1986, Senior Choir picture.

People who do not love and accept themselves, with all their beauty and ugliness, cannot love and accept the beauty and ugliness of others.

Those who refuse to face and move through their own pain cannot see when that pain is hurting those close to them.

Those who only want rigid relationships won’t allow a relationship to change and evolve in a fluid manner.

Once I understood these things, I tried to broach them within my family of origin. Rather than an open hearing, my reward was retaliation for my crimes of haughtiness and arrogance, and I was furiously and forcefully reminded of all the deficits in my character or behavior, whether real or perceived.

Gabriella and Annalise, 7; Jeremiah, almost 10, and Harry, 5. August 2011 at NEUC - basically, a huge sprawling chosen-family reunion! =D

What was lacking was exactly the thing I most needed – to be truly heard, and to engage from that point forth in relationships based on honesty and equality.

Annalise, almost 6, and Maeve, just 6, after a tadpole catching adventure in a MA cemetery. Memorial Day, 2010.

That was a heart-rending time, and one I needed to pass through – the rejection and hostility, the withdrawals of love, the public attacks and anonymous schemes alike….

They were the labor pains of my rebirth into a family I choose for myself. It has little to do with genetics; it is a thing of kinship of soul, dedication to discovery, a propensity for peace, intentional living.

It is being with people who delight, inspire, amuse, heal, nurture, open, and appreciate me.

It’s about being with people I love to be with, because, when we part, my soul is tingling in a body warm with their energy.

It’s about being where I am wanted and accepted as-is, by people I accept as-is.

It’s about learning and growing, each in our own fashion, but yet together, in a spirit of mutual support that lifts everyone up.

And there’s always room for laughter, but never a place for warring.

16 thoughts on “C is for Chosen Family.

  1. Eden says:

    On a whim, I looked up the word “family” my handy-dandy computer dictionary (I’m using WordWeb, but mostly because it nags me to be energy conscious–in a nice way)…

    The very first definition is just: A social unit living together

    Looks to me as if blood (which is mentioned in the second definition only as an example not a the definition itself ( 2. Primary social group; parents and children)) matters less than the social element. (The third definition adds “a group sharing a common element”…)

    Basically, it looks like family IS what you make it (I mean, technically isn’t that what marrying and having children is too? Connecting with someone not biologically related with you and making something deeper?)

    Maybe we need a better word for bloodkin…because family seems happily taken. ;-)

    • shanjeniah says:

      Eden –

      Hello there to the very first person I ever chose (or who chose me, or who sima garo provided, or whatever; the details seem to be rather murky!) as family.

      Because of you, because the love and connection I have always felt for you, is so much more intense and satisfying than the relationship with my own sister (although or because of the fact that she and I shared even a bedroom), I think I’ve always known that family is far deeper than blood.

      For too long, I felt guilty about that…well, you probably can guess why, since you know my family, better than in passing.

      But, surely, if anyone should treat me kindly, understand and accept me as I come, while supporting my efforts to be better at this endeavor of being me, it ought to be family, right?

      So, now I judge it by how I am treated, and how much I enjoy interacting with someone. Because emotional energy is so much a part of what I perceive, I have found that family are those people whose energy feels good, to me.

      Trying to interact with people (no matter how closely related) whose energy triggers unease, anger, fear, wariness, anxiety, inferiority, or a sense of being manipulated to their ends is not something I care to do anymore, because the energy they inspire lingers…and pollutes other interactions they aren’t a part of.

      I never thought of marriage in that way, but yes. We conjure a family when we choose to join our life to another’s, and make something deeper and other and connecting if we choose to procreate.

      I love you, Sys – and I cannot imagine you will ever not be family of the deepest and truest kind.

      • Eden says:

        Energy is as good an idea as any…

        An odd thought just occurred to me… A Marriage ceremony (with its witnessing, etc.) is the way our society has come to see the combining of two non-biologically related people into a “family”. A divorce is the way we’ve chosen to describe the disintegration of the family unit…. There’s also adoption and surrendering of children… which cover the legalities of parent-child relationships between non-biological pairs

        So, why do we make a ceremony for the marriage of people into a new family of non-blood kin? Why don’t we define a divorce procedure from those who share DNA with us but treat us wrongly?

        Sorry…. Head spinning with possibilities here, none of them all developed. But I’m definitely seeing story ideas at the very least.:-D

        • shanjeniah says:

          Eden –

          You’ve got me thinking, too….Witnessing Matehunt is a vitally important aspect of Solemating, among the Tacivaarii, because the Solemated couple will only procreate with one another, and that could affect the entire Tribe.

          If those who choose to Witness find a flaw in the pairing, they will summarily kill the couple before they consummate.

          Solemating is not taken lightly, by anyone, and maybe it’s not surprising that most prefer polyamorous or more casual connections (also very beneficial for the Tribe, as a whole)…

          I think changing my name was a ceremony, of sorts for me. While I wore the name on my birth certificate, or the nickname given before I remember, I was still, in some sense, within the power of relationships that caused me a great deal of pain…

          Someday, I may go all the way, and legally change my name. I’m not quite ready yet, but I do feel it as something that may formalize my freedom to choose my own connections.

          And still, I wish that one day, these genetic ties would be sustaining rather than a form of bondage….

  2. mrsbongle says:

    You are like a phoenix; you have risen from the ashes of pain and humiliation to become a truly special human being. Well done!

    • shanjeniah says:

      Janet –

      As a Leo with Leo rising, I have always identified strongly with the phoenix.

      I don’t think, though, that I became a special human being…I think I was born as one, and merely rediscovered her, there in the ashes…

      We are all unique, and we all matter…that’s not something I was raised with, but something that is very evident to me, now…

      Thank you for your lovely words, too long ignored. <3

  3. Sylvia says:

    Shan we are so glad to be a part of your chosen family and to have you and yours a part of ours! Sending love to all of you!

    • shanjeniah says:

      Sylvia –

      There aren’t words to express all the tingly goodness of being embraced by you and yours (even with electrical fires, power outages, towed cars, motorcycle accidents, and children learning how to be friends!

      Now, if we only had a state-to-state transporter….. ;)

  4. Whoa, what a powerful message, thank you. I grew up in a home where when Dad came home from work, we’d scream out, “Dad’s home!” And then we’d flee from where ever we were at, hid in our respective bedrooms, hiding low and silent.

    I decided long ago that I would reinvent parenting. When my hubby arrives home from work, my kids scream out, “Daddy’s home!” and they bee line it from where ever they are to greet him at the door. That is my heaven on earth.
    *hugs*

    Elizabeth
    A to Z co-host

    • shanjeniah says:

      Elizabeth –

      I really wish I had seen your lovely comment sooner!

      My children run to the door so fast, I have learned not to greet my husband at the door, for fear of unintentional trampling! =D

      When the children, who are now 8.5 and 11, were 7 and 4, we began our shift to partnership parenting.

      It has been the best choice we ever made, because it shifted our focus from getting our kids to do what we wanted them to do, to the relationships between us. And it extended outward to all of my other connections, too.

      Thank you for taking the time to answer, all those months ago!

  5. 1gus1 says:

    It’s a truism – you can choose your friends but not your family. However, accepting unhappiness in your birth family is not a good option. Better then to cut free.

    • shanjeniah says:

      1gus1 –

      I can’t choose the family I was born into, but I can choose who I hold dear and spend my time and affection on.

      I tried as far as I could, and then I released them.

      I hope that they will find peace. But I can’t be the way for them to find it at the risk of my family’s, or my own.

  6. heartrockinfamily says:

    Lovely, really. So thankful to be part of your chosen family.

    • shanjeniah says:

      Jean –

      I am overjoyed to be a part of yours! I miss you guys, and hope this finds things looking up in so many ways as spring works its rebirth magic on you!

      Love to you all, from all of us. =)

  7. kford2007 says:

    There is nothing more important than needing to be loved and returning it to those around us. You are a strong person to face adversity to get what we all need to survive. A life without love, acceptance, is not life at all. Congratulations to you and your spirit. You are an inspiration.

    • shanjeniah says:

      Jennie -

      I just found this lovely comment while rereading here!

      I spent many years subjugating myself for the sake of the love that was offered, and blaming myself for the undeniable fact that it wasn’t the love i needed.

      This is so much healthier, happier, and allows me to give freely and receive freely…as I am, with support for my striving toward greater love.

      If these words prompted even one person to more connected, fulfilling relationships, then our world just got a little better! =)

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