About two weeks ago I was sent an interview given by someone I share blood with. The interview was filled with judgements about what women should be doing, what being patriotic and spiritual means and so on. What hit me the most was the definition of family and family man. The idea that a family is a place where you hang in and suffer because you chose a certain person, because this is what being a “family man” means, sat in my gut as a stinky something I could not wait to regurgitate. And the fact that my next of kin publicly expressed this made me understand that I am still tolerated. Well, my aim is to be celebrated. And the miracle of these days is that I feel it in my heart and bones that my family is something amazing, to be celebrated.

I could not free myself of the nauseating feeling in my gut until I was able to replace the narrow definition of family with one that allowed me to breathe. And for the past two weeks I sat with the wondering about how I could express what I felt about my family. I knew in my heart what it felt like but it took a while to translate that into words and have my heart tell my brain what to say. Turns out, I had to be shown the way. And while reading More Myself by Alicia Keys, the way was shown to me, bright and clear and it freed me and it brought tears of joy to my eyes.

” When you love someone, you love their journey and that path leads you to the family dynamic you were meant to inherit and devote yourself to. Through my own childhood experience I know how often we are taught what a family should look like. And if our family doesn’t look like what we’ve been shown, we somehow feel incomplete. But really, families come in all versions, shapes and sizes and should be celebrated as part of our collective experience. That is what life has taught me.

Blending is not an exception but a sweet commonality. One we share with millions of beautiful families who’ve joined hands and linked hearts. Blending and being willing to connect on a real level can bring about a stronger family foundation. […] Blending a family isn’t always high fives and hugs. The process of coming together has involved unmasking ourselves, a peeling back of layers to reveal our deep, personal truths. It has meant engaging in awkward conversations, it has involved spending time to truly hear one another’s view points and then finding a place to understand one another. That has had to happen with our entire family. That willingness to hear and empathise has been the starting point for creating the healthy environment. We’re constantly working on getting it right. […]

What has happened in our home is proof that blending and being willing to connect on a real level, can bring about a stronger family connection. […] Blending is about more than bringing together families. You and I blend every time we have a conversation with someone who doesn’t think like us, talk like us, look like us, or share our religious and political beliefs with respect. We blend when we initiate a compassionate dialogue with someone we’ve had a disagreement with, we blend when we’ve set aside our ego and agenda and consider an experience through another person’s lens. We blend when we elevate a relationship with time and kind words. That is what it truly means to come together. Not just to hear but to listen with an open heart.”

And because Alicia best speaks through music, here is the musical version of the definition.

So Alicia helped me with the words to express that blood and structure have little to do with the meaning of family. What matters is the connection, the truth and the love, that is what makes a family. What makes a family is the love, the constant holding of the other people in your heart and mind and truly caring about their well being. Whatever that means. Family is, should be, home to us, not a frame in which we cut pieces of ourselves to fit into. Family is the place where we can fully be ourselves, loved and loving beyond measure and continuing to grow in the process.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

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