Does the well-known saying “You can choose your friends but not your family,” reveal the fact that from the get go we believe we are hapless victims of circumstance and simply have to put up with what life has handed us? What if there is actually no accident in terms of who we end up with in family; that we in fact choose our family for the learning and experience we need this time around?
If we can accept and embrace the family we are born into, then this forms the foundation of our relationship with family and we are more likely to be open to the learning on offer, knowing we are blessed by everything that unfolds, even if it does not look pretty. This understanding frees us from the belief system that has us as victims of circumstance in our families, caught up in blaming others and feeling like we are haplessly trapped in some kind of enduring punishment.
Bringing more awareness to all our pictures and beliefs about family and all the expectations and ‘rules’ in our societies means that we can start to unpack them and live free from them. There are many rules, ideals and expectations about what a family ‘should’ look like that we are forever trying to live up to, and from this comes the crippling way that we compare and compete with others: a mean judgement of ourselves alongside what we see everyone else doing.
We work so hard at keeping everything looking alright on the surface, no matter what is going on behind closed doors. The key point of devastation here is the simple fact that we are living beholden to external rules, rather than the innate qualities and standards that we hold within which make us who we are and aware of the true potential of all our relationships and what they offer.
One of the many ills of living with pictures is that they keep us in the isolated, arm’s length disconnection from one another as we all collude in the pretence of ‘keeping up appearances.’
- What if the true purpose of family is to learn and grow, and that sometimes this may not look pretty at all? That our learning is so much richer when our attention and energy is not focussed on maintaining a status quo that can be labeled ‘acceptable’ and/or ‘good.’
- What if we all have the responsibility and wherewithal to hold our own and stay steady to what we know is of true value, whatever the world or others might be saying?
- What if some relationships need to ‘break’ for there to be true learning and development?
- What if blaming our adult behaviour on experiences from childhood is a futile and irresponsible indulgence? At what stage do we take responsibility for our lives, heal our past hurts, move on from blame and stand on our own two feet, laying the path ahead with the choices we make?
- What if as parents we stay in dysfunctional and unhappy relationships ‘for the children’ because the world says that two parents together are better? And from the adult role models in their lives, what does this teach children about relationships, integrity, truth and love?
Suspending disbelief for a moment or two and allowing ourselves to explore these ‘what ifs’ opens up the possibility of a whole new way of relating to life, family, relationships and the beautiful, significant and responsible part we can play in all of the above.
By Mary-Louise Myers, age 60, carer for our elderly, health practitioner, mother of 2, Australia & Matilda Bathurst, age 51, midwife, primary school teacher, mother of 3, cook and writer, UK