Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We belong

We belong. We really do. All of us.

A quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana recently caught my eye. He wrote, "The family is one of nature's masterpieces." I liked the idea of that and thought about what it meant to me, what it could mean for all of us.

A mini hobby of mine, geek that I am, I frequently search for quotes. Here and there I look for sayings that reflect a perspective I may have or ones that make me think. I had just come off a fun and busy, albeit tiring weekend with my immediate family when I came across Santayana's words and they struck a chord.

I thought about how, through thick and thin, I'm grateful that we humans have relationships and connections to keep us going. Family is nature's way to provide us with protection and community, to help us align with others and survive.

I posted the found quote on another social network, namely Facebook, and it struck a chord with a few others also. The words received a few "likes," but one friend responded what others may have been thinking, "Depends on the family."

Yes, I thought. I agree. It does. No one's life or family is perfect. Some is what we make of it all. And some is just purely out of our control.

But this begged the question: Who's your family? We all have at least one. But some of us have many, I believe, since the concept of family, if we want, can take on various forms for each of us.

For most, family could include immediate blood relatives or the adoptive family we came from. Family can also include extended relatives: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and such.

And of course, family includes any new unit we've formed ourselves, including our own spouse or partner and any children or other adults we reside with.

As I posted that quote, though, I was conscious that most would immediately identify with some traditional definition of the nuclear family. And I wrestled with the possibility that maybe some wouldn't think of their family unit as a "masterpiece."

It wasn't my intent to cause any pain, but really, whose family is a masterpiece? I thought about that some more. Always one to enjoy thinking more about stuff than I need to, I didn't see it as a bad thing to push the envelope on the meaning of family.

Is the traditional sense of family all there is? No, I choose to define family to include all those we share an affinity with.

You've heard before the popular line paraphrased from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, that "you can choose your friends, but you sure can't choose your family...." Most may not remember where this line originated, but many remember the saying since it frequently rings true.

Most also don't remember the second part of that discourse also paraphrased that continues "...and they're still your kin no matter whether you acknowledge them or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."

The character Atticus Finch makes a good point.

Some may not feel a strong connection to their family for one reason or another, but at the end of the day they are our family no matter what. If all our emotional needs aren't fulfilled in that one family, it's in our own best interest to find our "family" wherever we can.

We can admit then that there's nothing wrong with choosing to live by the proverb "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." In other words, we should diversify and develop relationships and other familial affiliations to meet our own wants and needs.

How to diversify, some may ask? We shouldn't forget the different groups that have been important to us over time and comprise the "families" of our lives: friends, coworkers, neighbors, fellow church members, schools we've attended, sports teams, social networks or clubs we belong to. Basically, any community that has played a part in our lives.

So now ask the question who are our families? Maybe in our own best interest we broaden our horizon and redefine our concept of family to include any societal unit where we experience kinship, where we feel safe, where we share intimate secrets or history, where we feel loved and accepted and can let down our guards to trust. Who represents all or some of that for us? Who do we want to include in our family?

At the end of the day, geek that I am, I enjoyed rethinking the concept of family and what it means to me. Yes, we all belong. It feels good to belong. And we can believe that it's in our own power to make our families where we will and be as happy as we want to be.

I'd love to hear what you're thinking about the concept of family. How are you nurtured? What "families" make up the masterpiece of your life?

Until next time, yours in fun and family connections...Therese


  1. I would NEVER consider my own nuclear family as my family. Fortunately, I have a large circle of friends, whom I DO consider my family. It is often difficult to understand how 6 children, raised by the same parents, can all be so diametrically different. Even my 2 sons...one I don't even recognize at times. Friends are all busy with their own lives, so I am actually an orphan in this life...:~(

    1. Aww, Anonymous, you don't sound like an orphan! You said yourself that you have a large circle of friends for family! How lucky to be able to say that! Not everyone can.

      Yes, children sometimes are surprisingly different, even when raised the same way. You know the old debate about nature vs. nurture. It seems there are definitely aspects to personality that are genetic, no matter the circumstances.

      At the end of the day, nothing's perfect. We can't control what happens around us, but we can only control our reaction to it all and try not to let things get to us. It's not easy, but it's worth a try.

      Well, I wish you well. Thanks for your comment and take care!