There is an art to building the family you want. It can be a Herculean task, or should I say an Sisyphian effort? The task is daunting, and it never ends. It takes meticulous curation of every person in your life.
I have spent time wasting my “family” on undeserving people. I have poured love through a sieve, and watched as my every emotion fell on flat hearts. For decades, I chased the love of my mother and her various lovers. I sought approval and acceptance from bigoted men, who had the heart of my mother, and guarded jealously.
I learned a hard lesson. I learned it many, many times. I felt like I would never find love. I thought that I was the common denominator, and that I must be intrinsically flawed. It turned out that I had learned “love” the wrong way. I had learned from my mother, my father, and those they surrounded themselves by. I thought love was something that had to be earned, to be fought for. I thought that I didn’t deserve it if I didn’t force it out of the people I wanted to love me.
For years I followed a flawed equation. I chased partners all over the country, tried to make them think I was special. I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I would be loved. It was a painful way to live, and not rewarding at all. I wasted years of my life. At some point I gave up on that model. It was by my mental health crises (the first time) that shocked me into realizing that I was doing it wrong.
I had to take care of myself. I had to be more selective. I taught myself an even more painful lesson. I learned to cut off the poison in my life. I cut off everyone who made me feel bad for being myself. I taught myself the habit of gratitude. When someone made me feel good, I told them so. When someone made me feel bad, I called them on it. I encouraged others to tell me when I upset them, or was hurtful. It was a painful experience.
I practiced brutal honesty. From myself, and for myself. It hurt to embrace the mean, petty part of myself. I committed to changing that part of me. I committed to curing myself of the poison inside of me. I’m not done yet. I’ll never be done. Like I said, it takes meticulous curation. Every minute of every day, I strive to be aware of myself. To be aware of the effect I have on others, and the effect others have on me.
This effort paid off. It attracted people who respected my new-found attitudes. I attracted people who respect the one thing I learned to do for myself at all times: take responsibility. Personal responsibility was my mantra, and it attracted others who had that same sense of right and wrong. It attracted Jenny.
In my relationship with Jenny, I found the true key to family. I found that building relationships take work – from both sides. At all times. It is everything.
In my tiny little version of family, I learned how to open my family up, to expand that passion to others. I also learned how to keep my boundaries up. How to maintain that minimum level of love and respect between everyone I am surrounded by. This has given me the ability to draw clear lines around myself, knowing who is important to me, truly.
When Jenny and I got married, we had a hard time deciding who to invite. Once we accepted that the event was truly for us, it was much, much easier. We both knew who we were closest to. We both knew who mattered most to us. Both of us, together. They were our family. They were few, but we had no doubts at the time, and have no regrets now. That is why More Family ≠ Better Family. Because the close few mean the most to each of us.