For the last few years– since my Grandmother’s passing–I have struggled to find where I fit in the world. A major part of who I am–or rather, who I was– depended on her. She was the Matriarch, and I was her dutiful right hand. With her being gone, I felt like I didn’t have any family that I knew inherently that I could count on. I’m an only child but I grew up surrounded by my aunts, uncle, and cousins. I never felt alone. Even after my family had issues, I still had my G-Ma. But with her gone, and my family members dealing with their own grief in the best way they knew how, I felt alone again. Whether it was true or not.
I wrote letters to my family a year after my Grandmother passed explaining my feelings of loneliness and the depression I suffered from. Not a single family member responded to my letters. It would be months before I learned about the apparent issues some of my family members had with me. For a while, I let my pride get the best of me and I had made up in mind that it was their problem. I decided that it wasn’t even about me. I decided that I didn’t need them. But then the depression started to seep in around the holidays I spent alone.
It wouldn’t be until last Spring that one of my older cousins called me out on my hypocrisy. How can we want to be a family when ridicule each other? How can we even begin to build a relationship with each other if we are all afraid of hearing what the other person has to say? I will admit, what my cousin said to me initially pissed me off. But as the year went on, I realized that he was right. And I decided that even if some of my family members weren’t ready to confront their own egos, I was ready to confront mine in an effort to rebuild the relationships I used to have with my family.
I celebrated Easter with two of my older cousins and we reminisced about the times that used to be. I was still cautious, but I began to feel more comfortable with the idea that we could all be connected again. I craved more. I spent a lot of time asking my Grandmother for guidance. I’d like to think that she has helped me knock down all those walls I used to keep stacked high because I was so terrified of being hurt by the ones I loved the most. Fast forward to Thanksgiving and my oldest cousin tells me that we’re all celebrating at his house this year. He tells me that the very cousin that told me about myself only months before would be flying in with his family.
I contemplated not going. A part of me was still angry–or maybe more ashamed about our last interaction. But something told me to go. Be with the people I love. In all honesty, I love my family despite our shortcomings. I will always strive to remain connected to the frayed edges of fabric because we are all cut from the same cloth. And it takes strong fabric to build a garment. So I decided that I wanted to mend the pieces that had come undone.
I went to Thanksgiving dinner not knowing what to expect. I tried not to anticipate any arguments or any sort of drama at all. I got dressed, I slayed my makeup and I showed up. And it was beautiful. I was beautiful. We were beautiful. Magical. I can’t properly express the love and familiarity I felt in the presence of my cousins and their children. I’m not even sure they understand how much one day made up for all the lost time we wasted. I don’t even know if they felt the same. For me, seeing my cousins’ kids play together the way we used to restored my faith that we could do this. If not for us, but for our children. And if not for the kids, then for my Grandparents. Because all they ever wanted for us all to get along.
Fast forward to Christmas. I had this excitement inside me that I hadn’t had maybe since I was a kid. I was giddy for Christmas. Not because I would receive gifts, but because I would spend it with my family, and this new, enriched version of myself. And again, it was magical. And it felt it right.
Shortly after the New Year began, I received a message from the same cousin that helped me realize the flaws in my perception of family. I was snowed in at work, and had just come in from shoveling 14.5 inches of snow when I looked at my phone. To say that I was humbled is an understatement. His words were those of appreciation, admiration, and love. It felt good–deep in my soul– to know that he could see the changes I have been making and how hard I am trying to break through the walls that we have all built over the years. To know that he saw my strength, and that it gave him hope for people, and the future is so incredibly beautiful.
Although I have mended relationships with the majority of my family, there are still a few people I haven’t been able to reach. I have tried, but I suppose it isn’t the right time for them. I’ll keep trying, though. And when they are finally ready to let me back in, those moments will be beautiful, too. I have faith.
I share this story because I know there is someone out there with a family that isn’t perfect. The truth is, no family is. We all have our issues. I remember writing about being able to choose your friends but not being able to choose your family. The truth is, you CAN choose your family. Just because you are related, doesn’t mean that you are a family. Being a family takes work. It’s about love, loyalty, and honesty. All of these are choices that you can make. I choose Family over that dark abyss of loneliness. I choose love. I choose hope. But most of all, I choose to strive to continue to a better person each day so that one day the rest of my family can see what I see. So they can feel what I feel.
For a long time, I struggled with my close friends referring to me as family. But, I get it now. They were the family I had when I felt that my blood family wasn’t around. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to see that. But again, I’m learning.
Since my Grandmother’s death, I have been searching for the type of wisdom she had that you can only find in the older generation. Little did I know, I would find it in a Monday night knitting group in a cafe. I didn’t know that you could feel so connected to strangers. I didn’t know that I would ever feel the love and wisdom my Grandmother shared with me. But I’ve found it. And it is beautiful. These two little ladies–now known as Gram and Auntie–have given me the pieces of my Grandmother that I couldn’t experience anymore. They each remind me of her in their own ways. And I love them for it.
I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. My depression and loneliness served a purpose and I am stronger for having experienced. I have no regrets because now I truly appreciate the concept of Family and all the many shades, shapes, and sizes it manifests as.
You don’t have to be alone. I encourage you to have faith and choose love. It’s true what they say: Love conquers all.
My family is bigger than I could have imagined. Love ya’ll. Always. ❤