In a recent conversation with friends I heard that you can't choose your family. Strange thing is... I have chosen them.
In my typical know-it-all manner, I shared this thought. My own peculiar history has allowed me the privilege of choosing them: I am the prodigal son in my family. I un-chose them and barely showed up for years and years. I pretty much missed out on the infant years for my niece, Chloe.
I regret missing that time but I am pretty sure it was something that had to happen. In my post-college days, I had a lot of blame for my dad, and I didn't like pressure from my family. I had bad boundaries until I took responsibility for my life and shed any notion that anyone was to blame for anything from here on out.
Taking responsibility for yourself means caring more about what you have chosen than what others think of it. It means acting based on your choice rather than pressure from others. It means recognizing that when others speak up to share their opinions out of concern, that you can listen without having to do anything about it.
You never need to decide or do anything right away. Urgency is often an illusion. So is authority.
There is freedom in knowing that you do not have to do anything and that you don't have to be concerned with what others think of you. Ironically, one of the freedoms is that you can choose to care what they think of you and to enjoy it. Also, you can choose to care about them and put the focus on all of the things that you admire of them and forgive the areas where they might need to grow. This is what I mean when I say I have chosen my family.
Most people don't make an active choice in regards to their family. They act out of resentment that they didn't have a choice in the matter of which people they grew up with and, if the disagreement is acrimonious, they opt-out. In America, it's your right to do so.
What we may not realize is that we can also opt-in any time we want to whatever extent we want. Contrary to conventional wisdom, We are not our brother's keeper, but we have the option to be if we choose. Or we can choose merely to be our brother's fellow traveler. If we're lucky, we will get to be our brother's friend.
I recognize now that we don't have to go through all of the estrangement of becoming a prodigal son to choose our families. I did so because I had some growing to do and it was easier to take responsibility when I thought no one would be there to catch me if I fell. I had to learn to stand on my own by doing it.
I am grateful that my brothers and sisters didn't hold it against me that I was a stranger for so long. Being persistent but not pushy, they welcomed me back whenever I saw them and I eventually I started showing up consistently and I am so much the richer for it.
They are part of nearly every week of my life now. I get to visit with them every Sunday. I get to sing with my nieces and chase the nephews around. We eat great food, usually cooked by one of my brothers. We tell stories and laugh.
We have all chosen one another, even though we grew up together and it was someone else's choice to unite us.
We have chosen to unite ourselves.