A few days ago my sister wrote about family, and I’ve been pondering the same subject myself, at about one in the morning when sleep alludes me. My family are extremely important to me but I have found my definition of ‘family’ doesn’t always line up with other people’s.
I have gone through, and continue to live with, a difficult mental health situation; without my family I wouldn’t have survived it. I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am now, finally living in my own home and with a new, interesting, job. I have a chance of fulfilling a few of my dreams now.
While, generally I agree with my sister (on this subject at least), there are things we disagree over. I consider certain close friends as family-of-heart, and equal in importance to family-of-blood. I don’t feel it diminishes either that I have an extended network of ‘not conventionally considered’ family to support me and whom I love and support in return.
My sister says in her own blog post that she feels the biggest betrayal of family is putting your friends before your family. I know she was partly aiming at a certain family member, who she feels has been ignoring his own family in favour of his new wife’s family. I get where she’s coming from but, in general terms, if the love I have for people others consider friends is as strong as the love I have for more conventional family, how can I choose one over the other? To me they are family.
We have a long standing friend, SN, who has been our ‘adopted sister’ for more than ten years; is she any less family because we aren’t blood relations?
No, of course not.
We have second cousins (maternal side) who don’t really have anything to do with us, despite living in the same town, and who I’m uncomfortable around, that, in all honesty, I have less love for. They really pushed it when they insulted my Dad’s entire family and expected me to laugh it off. I was the only Cawkwell at the meal…
I was actually very upset about it; that they thought insulting me was fine, and that I’d ignore defamation of the people I love, really stung. Some time later I had a rant on Facebook about it, because I was going through a bad time and ruminating. My Dad’s family were the ones who listened and supported me through that particular episode and months later checked in to see if I was still struggling with it. Those other relations ignore or denigrate my illness.
The people we first bond with are usually blood relations; my cousins are anything between five months and eleven years younger than me, they are also the people (not including my parents, their parents and our grandparents) that I have loved the longest. They are my brothers, because I love them as much as my sisters; nothing hurts worse than being separated from them, such as when my uncle and his ex-wife divorced I didn’t see my cousin for years, or when one of my other cousins got caught up in someone else’s fight and went to prison. Gods was I pleased when he came home safe. I still haven’t forgiven the other people involved and I have no problem telling anyone who asks what pieces of horse dung they are.
Seriously, do not mess with my brothers/cousins. I will hunt you down and eviscerate you, probably in fiction for all the world to see.
That’s not to say I won’t argue with then or criticise them; like my sisters and myself, we all love to argue, because we are intelligent and opinionated people. But, and this is the important bit, we do not take it to heart. Certainly, we might hold a particularly nasty comment against each other for all of thirty seconds, but then someone will step in and translate, and everyone goes back to normal. (I say translate because sometimes we miss words and such out and then people missunderstand; this is why Facebook is bad, no visual.)
Family is not blood; it is love and shared experience. If those bonds are strong enough then the social convention of separating ‘friends’ from ‘family’, and declaring one less important than the other, can and should be ignored. It is up to each of us who we call family.
BTW shortarse, I’m not having a go, I just needed to write down what I was thinking. I had to find a way in to the subject and you provided it.
Cuz (plural), if any of you are reading this, when are you coming round to see my new house?