I've had a strange relationship with the idea of "family" for most of my life. I suspect we all do. There are societal norms, 2.5 children and such, and there is...everything else.
My mom is the youngest of seven. Holidays and vacations spent in the exotic small towns of Oklahoma were bustling, frenzied, and fascinating. There were so many siblings with children with their own children, and cats and dogs, and food and football, and that remarkable Nevills sarcasm. I could write books about the people I met, that claimed me and I them. My family.
My dad, on the other hand, is one of two. There is a certain level of intimacy, I gather, from growing up in a family of four, an almost perfect nuclear family. There is also a certain level of honesty that ferments from mutual strife. I remember meeting my dad's sister once, vaguely, as a child of about five, and a second time, years later, as a confused as hell teenager. I walked into my grandmother's room at the nursing home, and my aunt stood up to shake my hand, say this, "remember me? If you do, it's probably not good because the last time I saw you I hated kids," and give me the warmest smile I can remember.
Then there's...us. The three amigos. My mom and my dad and me against the world. And for twenty-four years, that's how it seemed it would always be. Until my parents divorced, and I, basically, fled the country.
I don't think I had started to grasp the vastness of the cosmos until my parents got divorced and I felt, for the first time, that I was completely alone in the universe, that my leash to the space shuttle had broken and I was Sandra Bullock-ing through space (Damn, she fine in that movie, though). The remarkable thing that I take from that whole...moment...was the simultaneously deafening yet beautiful utter silence.
Imagine being reborn, except this time, you're old enough to remember every terrifying second, from realizing that this liquid room you live in isn't big enough any more, to being SLOWLY forced through your mother's vagina, head first, to all the damn SHOTS you have to get...again. You have to shit your pants a lot, too.
At the age of twenty-four, I began the painful process of relearning the whole damn universe.
The most remarkable part of growing up is meeting your new family members. If you go looking for love, you will find it. I was lucky enough to meet some incredible people that fell in love with me and took me in. These are the people that occupy the space of my heart because I know that I occupy the space of theirs.
When I feel alone, misunderstood, lost, insane, broken, and bloody, I think about my family. The family I chose. I think about how much they must love me, to keep coming back after experiencing my waves of depression and anger. I think about how brave they are to be jumping off of cliffs every day to live the lives they've always dreamed. I think about how proud of me they'll be even if I fail at everything.
The people in my life, that I love, are so smart. They are inspiring. They are beautiful. And they love me. So I've got no excuse not to do the same.
The best part of it all, is that I still have my family from my childhood. It looks different and feels different. It is different, but that doesn't mean it isn't better. The honesty that comes from mutual strife, that ferments, becomes a relief. It becomes a resting place, where we can be ourselves, where we can be safe.
BOOM. Whole post about my dog who is incredible. GOTCHA!!!!
P.S. Not really.