Archive for the ‘Tough Stuff’ Category

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I’ve been fantasizing about spending the day in bed… naked. With red wine. And cookies. And the White Album. And, oh yeah, another person.
I’m not sure who this other person might be. Dashing? So unlikely the mere thought makes me scoff out loud at my ridiculous pain-inducing hope.
There’s a new friend on the horizon… Possibly more than one.
But what I’m drooling over in these flights of fancy is not passion. It’s not about sex or even the nakedness. It’s about the intimacy. I just want to literally and figuratively remove all the barriers between myself and some other person.
I am having vivid dreams of laying naked in a bed reading the Sunday paper with someone.
I am so starved for affection that the idea of being near someone who might brush against my skin is distractingly pleasant. Painfully good to imagine.
And the stupid part? If I could just get over Dashing, I could have this with someone else. If I could love him less, so that I could give up on making it work, or love him more so that I could be even less selfish and stop wanting him to return my affection in the way that I need… This stalemate is driving me a little crazy, which is making me a little twitchy, because I feel a change coming… like a barometric shift. Something’s gotta give… I hope this time it isn’t me.
I just want to play Scrabble, naked, in bed.
And we’re back to the fantasy… Someone pass me a napkin… Or a bib.

Well, that took longer than I thought…

OK, reaching out again, to the world, one baby step at a time, and trying not to trip over my own d*mn feet. Literally and figuratively.
Learning how to walk again has been painful. And time consuming. And is still ongoing.
Learning how to love again, or still, or something… Well, it’s time to stop wishing and hoping, Dusty, and get back to feeling good. Or anything.
So starting small. This all-or-nothing gal is learning patience the hard way.
And if I’m going to see the big picture, I have to see myself as part of it.

BBC Emmelines Women

BBC Emmelines Women

I’m back… inaction.

Kicking in my own doors for once...

Kicking in my own doors for once…
Door Ajar by dok1, used by Creative Commonse License.

Hello All.

So my fun health issues turned out to be life-changing. Hence the disappearing act. Not to worry, I’m fine. I’m not going anywhere any time soon. I just have had to pay closer attention to my diet and banish chairs from my world. But it raised up a whole host of fears and panic and issues with which I thought I had already dealt more effectively. Apparently, I’m still human, no matter what I try to pass off to the world.

Eventually, I hope to be able to discuss that time in greater detail, but for now, I’m going to leave it that I felt powerless, and then invisible, which naturally kept me silent for so long.

Also, I’ve discovered I write best (read: at all) in mornings and evenings – and since my mornings are taken up by ensuring I eat an appropriate and balanced breakfast, and literally hanging out in the pool at the local Y hoping for some passive traction to actively do something, and oh, yeah, work -that place where they keep my money and benefits… and since my evenings are taken up by resting my very tired self, ensuring I eat an appropriate and balanced supper, and taking the wall-of-exhaustion medication… the writing thing, became not so important. Which just adds to the voice-less invisibility, so I’m trying to bring it back. It will likely be sporadic, and that’s OK. I am human.

As for the rest of me… well, the chair banishment leaves me at a struggle to participate socially in the world at large, but I’m trying. Bars are at a higher esteem than they have been since I was an undergrad! Also, restaurants with tall tables, you are my friends and I will likely keep you in business.

I do feel on the whole that I am starting back at square one in my struggle to balance my life socially – it’s hard to get very busy on-the-go type people to visit their bed-ridden friend when they have multiple jobs etc. So… it’s been quiet, but I am trying. Again. Lather, rinse, repeat, right?

I have some fantastic medical professionals added to my team, so that’s nice.

And Dashing and I are… good. Apparently, he can find ways to visit the bed-ridden while working multiple jobs and going back to school. You see why I love him?
We struggle and fight, and are learning to better communicate and accept one-another for what we each have to offer. It’s hard. But we’re working on it. And it’s starting to feel like we might actually be working together on it. You know, as a team. Which is the whole point. Teams, communities, they’re hard to build and harder to maintain… but so very necessary.

I’m glad I have this community to return to. I hope you’re still out there waiting to join the discussion again.

Thank you.

From Black and White to Shades of “Grey”: Does being left at the altar mean the end of a relationship?

Wedding Bouquet by Rosen Georgiev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wedding Bouquet by Rosen Georgiev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A certain popular television series got me thinking tonight. When do you know it’s right to join your life to another? To add him or her to your hub of your community? To allow him or her access to your other communities?

When do you know it’s right to become married?

I say “become married” rather than “get married” because I do not believe that marriage is something you acquire. Achieve, perhaps, grow into, most certainly, but pick up like eggs and milk from the corner store? No.

Also, I believe it is possible to become married without having a wedding. If you throw the law out of it (which it should be), and if you throw out definitions using variations of the same word (sloppy), then we see the third definition in Merriam-Webster as being:

An intimate or close union

Which is entirely possible to develop without celebrating it, without publicly stated vows, without rings or things or kitchen sinks…

Now, I am not discounting the importance of weddings. I do not believe that in general they are frivolous affairs which change nothing in any relationship. I believe they can be quite transformative, but that every wedding may not necessarily be so.

I’m simply questioning the all-encompassing significance our society places on the altar. Is it truly necessary to have a wedding in order to enter that state of intimate union with another?

And, as in the case of our fine characters who inspired this line of thought, can a relationship survive one of the two not making it to the altar? How devastating to the relationship must it be?

I can understand that to the individual left waiting it must be a tremendous blow to the ego, and to your faith and trust in the other person, and that latter part necessitates that it must affect the relationship – but must it be devastating?

An intimate or close union. Union. That requires two people, two wants, two needs, two schedules, and two perspectives to consider.

And I believe one can be entirely ready for a marriage, for an intimate union, for a partnership of that magnitude, and yet, not be ready for a wedding.

Obviously communication is key, but if you are planning a wedding (and hopefully the after-wedding) with a person, and you show up on the day, brimming with certainty and anticipation and a certain amount of trepidation… and that person simply doesn’t arrive… Does it change who he or she is? Does it change who he or she is to you? Does it change what you want from/with him or her? Do you stop loving him and wanting her and needing him or her?

Or can you accept that it happened and move on and still be with him or her?

Is that too much? Is it an act devoid of self-respect to stay on? To continue the relationship after inconsideration and perceived rejection and (typically) intimate public humiliation?

Obviously, one cannot know until one is in such a position, but I can tell you what I hope from myself, and my partners:

Perhaps I am too romantic. Perhaps I was raised by parents who demonstrated such unconditional love that I can’t imagine any singular act on it’s own changing that type of bond.

But that’s just it.

“I love you forever” doesn’t come with caveats. Unless you put them there.

Perhaps it’s the divorced child in me, but I’ve had enough of secrets and ifs and situational relationships. A marriage is not the place for them. Not for me, anyhow. By the time I’m looking down an aisle (or trail, or path, or ribbon, or slip’n’slide – whatever we set up), I would hope that I am already considering that person waiting for me to be my partner, and for I to be his or hers. We would already be family. Our marriage would already have begun, and would not be solely dependent on a wedding happening that hour, that day, or at all.

You shouldn’t have to say “I’ll have an intimate union with you, only after we sign documents/speak vows/party with family,” it should be a process. An ongoing ever-evolving process. I hope I wake up everyday from the moment I know that person to be part of my family and think to myself “Today, I marry you” whether there’s a wedding or not.

What do you hope for in such an experience? Please share your story below.

How to Keep Friends: A Social Experiment III

Balance is Key

Partner Yoga courtesy JoreJj Z. Elprehzleinn, Creative Commons License

So I’m putting myself out there. Well, literally, through this blog, but also in my offline life. And I promised to keep y’all updated.

Well nothings happened lately – I’ve fallen off the wagon as it were, what with holidays and birthdays and whatnot. So I’ve decided to update you on my state of mind, and put together a post requested by the Smitten Immigrant. And to somehow combine the two…

So I’ve said before that I’m an ambivert, which means I identify as both introvert and extravert (literally, I took the test in guidance at my highschool a couple of times over the course of several months while choosing university programs, and bang, two different results). And I think everyone has a little of each inside. It’s all very situational and has to do with comfort level, I believe.

Now I’m not a psychologist or an expert in anything, so I can only speak from my personal experience and observation.

Our society values extraverts. As the Smitten Immigrant says in her comment – introverted women are seen as the oddest ducks. Everything from commercials to new television series to reality television focuses on ballsy, popular, sexually hungry, sassy women. They are portrayed as modern, ideal, and normal – whereas their quiet sidekicks are shown as sweet, and old-fashioned, and not worthy of centre stage.

I think this idea really stems from a misconception (one of many) that came out of the feminist movement. It’s this idea that extraverted behaviour is an indication of strength. Introversion and extraversion have nothing to do with strength. I have met many needy, weak, and clingy extraverts, and many strong, self-possessed introverts. It seems we as a society never got over Tennessee Williams’ Laura Wingfield as the example of introversion, and her extremes have faded from our collective consciousness until what was a crippling and obsessive character trait pales and mutates to become our new definition of the word.

So what is the difference then? Well, introverts prefer solitude or small groups, enjoying and thriving off the sound of their own thoughts without the stereo feedback of a crowd. Extraverts prefer the throng, the pulse and beat of a crowd, the gratification of feedback from a source external to themselves.

As an introvert, I enjoy the observation of crowds, the ability to chew over a thought before I say it, the fantasy and daydreaming that can only come with some uninterrupted conversation with me, myself, and I. Thinking more, and feeling more on a soulful level, feeling recharged in a quiet, wisdom-seeking mode. Enjoying me, and my books, and the feel of being an island.

As an extravert, I enjoy the solitude within a crowd, being a part of the whole, the freedom to not think before I speak, and riding the wild repercussions that can come from that. There is an instinct in interacting with people, and a wild high in feeding off their energy. I can get drunk without touching alcohol. And I make friends and connections like a match to flash paper, which is good, because no man is an island, right?

Finding the balance can be like, well, like these.

As a self-identified woman of extremes, I should probably look up my nearest Buddhist temple and start learning to walk the middle path, except I’m pretty sure I’d fail. A lot. (On second thought, that might be a good thing…)

At any rate, my experiment designed to help me create more balance is working, but I need to find the energy to maintain the momentum I’ve managed to create, because otherwise I go back to hermit-ville, and that’s not good for me all the time.

My extraversion really shows when I’m speaking with passion, when I’m performing, and when I’m with other creatives. I may need to find a show… Or go dancing… Except, I don’t know how to go dancing without getting hit on, and I’m really too old for that crap, I just want to dance and feel the beat and the lights and the shadows and the sweat and the smile – and not get pawed at and manhandled. Too much to ask?

Well, until I figure it out, I’m enjoying my books and figuring me out, and there’s nothing weak about that.

This is a start, I’ll be writing more on these subjects I’m sure, but what I’d really like to know now is what do you guys think? When are you introverted, when are you extraverted? Do you ever wish you were the other? When? Why? What do you value? Let me know, below!!

Give and Take

Give and Take

A gift courtesy david.orban, Creative Commons License

Alright, I took a week. I’m sorry, I’ve neglected you and didn’t tell you why or give you a heads up. We good?

If only it were that simple, right?

It comes back to this today. At work I am a Giver, with my friends, currently, I am a Giver, and with Dashing, I am equal parts Giver and Cleaner.

Even with family, especially this time of year, I am Giver/Cleaner.

I suppose we could say I use this blog to Take for myself, and it’s true, I do get something out of it (even more than this, although this was nice!). Or I wouldn’t keep doing it, right?

So when is it my turn in real life?

Well, if past experience serves, December? Not gonna be it.

See Christmas is in December, and my nearly Christian family thinks that means something…

Mini-rant: Why do we all have to celebrate holidays at the same time? I get that it makes things easier for employers and the government, but really? It’s so annoying when the shops all close down and when I was a shift-worker who didn’t get holidays with the rest of the country (hotels never close, yo. Service industry For The Win!) it was d*mn hard to keep track. Is this a holiday where I have to remember to buy groceries before the shops close, or is this a “holiday” where consumerism reigns and just the lucky government and school children stop working? I never knew until I was sitting in my car in an empty supermarket parking lot thinking “Wait… I know this… Crap, it’s that day!” And the reasoning behind specifically Christmas (which is my family’s argument every year) and that it’s not about taking the holiday with the rest of the country, it’s about that’s when it is, Baby Jesus couldn’t help being born on December 25th — EXCEPT THAT HE DID! Religious appropriation – puts Christmas right up there with Thanksgiving in my fake holiday book… End Rant. Continue: Mostly Thought Out Argument…

Add to that my birthday is in December, this past week actually. And from where I sit, birthdays rarely seem to be about the person growing older. Maybe it’s my div0rced-child roots showing but if the point is that it’s my daaaay and time for me to do whatever I want then couldn’t I forgo the party? Or by that logic, shouldn’t that be a mandated holiday every year (I had my first uni exam on my birthday, so holiday mandation could have been useful)? At the very least – could I go on a crime spree and have no repercussions? “Sorry officer, it’s my birthday and all I wanted to do today is race down the highway at 150 km/hr and invite myself inside some nice person’s home (side note: now that’s how to make friends!)… ”

It just feels like this period is all about me but not actually for me.

And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I get that birthdays are on the surface about surviving another year, and presumably acknowledging one’s accomplishments, and celebrating one’s mistakes, self-reflection, finding enlightenment – but they seem to end up being about how your mother was very uncomfortable once upon a time or how your ex would really like to get drunk and lock himself in your bathroom (true story) or how your community really just wants an excuse to eat, drink and be merry – which means you smiling – a lot… I get that ultimately holidays are about celebrating family and togetherness and gratitude for our communities. I understand that is an easier feat to accomplish when it’s scheduled in the communities’ collective consciousness. I get that the date is not actually important so long as the intention is preserved.

Maybe I’m a Grinch. Maybe I just resent being told what to do and when to do it.

After all, if the point is to celebrate your community and show your gratitude for how they lift you up and preserve you from harm – isn’t making it easier kinda lazy? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful if you took time out and made a holiday happen instead of allowing a religious or governmental institution tell you when to do it?

Wouldn’t you appreciate one of your friends celebrating you on a day that isn’t your birthday more than having to say “It’s my birthday, let’s party, and you can buy me gifts/shots/lap dances?” If it’s not about the gift, if it’s about the thought behind the gift… then isn’t a gift “just because” better than a gift “because it’s [insert holiday]”?

One Last Mini-Rant On This Subject: And for the record, while I would really rather not get anything, if you must buy gifts, on behalf of anyone born in December or early January – Christmas themed gifts are not birthday presents! Buy some new wrapping paper – or use comic books, or newsprint, or fabric, or a dropcloth – stay away from red and green combos (unless the person you’re buying for actually likes that combination – which is cool if they do) and go for red OR green instead, and for goodness sake anything with snowflakes, Frosty, Santa, or reindeer are not welcome unless, you know, the recipient collects that stuff. I would rather you write me a poem, or make a card, or give a gift certificate, or put some thought into what I might like, versus, OK check, gift done. If you can’t find a mug/sweater/tchotchke that doesn’t have Christmas all over it for a winter birthday, you’re not really trying, and it’s kinda insulting. I’d rather not get anything at all. Seriously.

Fear Not: How To Make Friends Part II

Jump in with both feet first!

Cliff Diving courtesy JohnONolan, Creative Commons License

OK, so last week got away from me – I know this early on into a series and I’m already flaking out – it doesn’t bode well…

Fear not. Because that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Not fearing.

I know for me, and I’m sure some of you out there, too, that there are those days when you just irrationally despise everyone around you. Especially those who care about you. I know, I know, Midol can cure this – or it could be that we’re just a bunch of scaredy-cats.

See, when I feel this way, it’s not just that everyone is irritating me, and making my life more difficult, it’s often that I feel so d*mned alone, and all those happy, popular, together people just seem so d*mned happy and together and popular and everything seems so easy for them that I just want to scream, and cry, and lash out because I’m jealous and can’t they see how awful and lonely they’re making me feel???

Umm, no, they can’t, crazy Miss Happ… Uh, remember how you work so hard to keep it together and not let them see how much you’re hurting and just want to be included? Yeah, that. That’s what they see, because that’s all you allow them to see.

Also, people are incredibly self-centred. (Seriously, look at this blog.)

So while I’m all upset and worried about how I’ve offended someone and they’ll never forgive me, or how maybe I smell because no one calls me, or how I wish they would invite me for lunch, just once… They are worried about that zit on their forehead, or how they wish I (or someone) would just call them, or how they might get fired from all their extended group lunches and why can’t they just have a work ethic like Miss Happ’s….

It’s rough all over, kids.

So in the spirit of growth and development, and making friends, and conquering those fears one voice at a time… Try something new.

Something you’ve never done before, something you’ve never dared. Go cliff diving (and tell me about it!), take a ballroom dance class – without a partner – and meet some new people, take voice lessons and stop being afraid of impromptu sing-a-longs (they happen more often than you know), learn how to rewire or build something with your hands from those tutorials at your local hardware store, join a gym and learn how to do yoga or 15 chin ups or run 5km…

Better yet do something you thought you would hate – maybe that’s just your fear talking. Maybe it’s something you tried when you were young but it didn’t come easily so you gave up, or someone made fun of you before you’d figured it out, or someone for whom it came naturally made you (inadvertantly or on-purpose) feel inadequate…

For me that used to be just about any kind of land sport, singing, and driving.

And you know what?

I had to figure out driving, and while I used to cry EVERY TIME I drove – to the point of nausea and hyperventilating – now, I love it. I take scenic  routes, and Sunday drives (even with the cost of gas). I love driving. But it took me years (and a few now ex-boyfriends) to get there.

I started singing lessons in August. I go once a week, and my instructor is fabulous. I can firmly say I have made a friend in her, and even if I were to quit, we would each want to stay in touch.

Alright, I haven’t really begun to conquer the land sport thing yet… But maybe I will. In fact, Dashing is a huge land athlete, maybe that is something he can teach me to enjoy.

The point is, when you try something new, when you face your fears, when you get over it and sit amongst all those whom you envied, you learn, you grow, and often, you come into contact with new potential friends. And after all that learning and growing, you become a new potential friend to yourself and those around you. Because each time you knock a fear out, you become more confident.

And there’s nothing more attractive than confidence.

So go ahead – Fear Not.

Catching Up To Dashing: Baby Steps For The Win

Baby Steps

Tortoise wins courtesy nedrichards, Creative Commons license

Alright, it’s been awhile since I’ve gone all Dear Diary on you guys…

There’s been drama and panic attacks and tears – and that’s all very boring and teen movie of the week, so, no, I’m not going to discuss it here.

Here’s where Dashing and I are now, though.

We’re good.

That’s it. Really. He is planning his return to school and I am working (and contemplating making it official!).

We speak daily, on the phone and via text. We see each other for lunch or dinner about once a week. It’s been awkward and awesome all at the same time. And we’re both learning loads. I can’t speak for him (I hope one day he’ll come online and give you guys his side, but, we’ll see), but here is what I’ve learned so far.

1. He really does want to make plans and follow through on them.

2. I took it for granted that an “in-person” chat would always be coming up – and excused my poor telephone skills with not liking the phone. It’s not a lie, I do hate the darned things, but it’s lazy to say that’s the only reason I can’t think of things to say while speaking to him through one. Fortunately, I’m getting the chance to improve that part of my communication with him.

3. I can have a more balanced life, and I can have it now. I think that with or without the break, I still would have made it happen eventually, but rebuilding my community became necessary therapy in the last five weeks or so. So far, I’ve gone out with friends at least every two weeks, I’ve texted other people several times – and they’ve texted back, I’ve been on Facebook and updated some things, and I’ve started my Christmas Cards. Now I should probably go back and check that list to figure out what I’m forgetting that I said I would do…

4. We really do have fun together. It wasn’t just loneliness, hormones, and escaping failing relationships that drove us together. And that’s cool.

5. And this is the big one… I have trust issues. With him. And specifically regarding our future together. But I figured that part out. And we’re working on some ways that we can make it easier for me to trust again, recognizing it will take time, and I’m so happy. I have something to work on, I am a part of this relationship again, I’m not just waiting for him to figure out what he wants.

It’s so important, this tiny shift in power. It’s not that I thought I was perfect, far from it. But I really did think that all I wanted was for him to want to be with me the way I wanted to be with him, or to be able to tell me what he needed from me that was different from what I wanted. That I was just waiting for him to catch up to me, or to make a decision not to.

And that’s horrible.

For him, and for me, that is so wrong. I want him to know what he wants, yes, but I want to be able to help him find it. And I want us to be a part of both our futures, but we can’t do that if I’m afraid to be myself with him. And right now, sometimes, I am. Because being myself got me hurt. He didn’t mean to hurt me, he just needed to slow things down, but we’re human (mostly) and we didn’t communicate well. I thought he knew that all I wanted most was him, not a house or a status or a ring – and he thought he was letting me down by not being ready for ALL THE THINGS at once. He just wanted to play with me (in the sweet flirty way we do, not in the string-me-along way or the naughty (also fun) way) and have fun being us.

But I don’t yet know how to play and be me and be boisterous me without ending up wanting more… But I believe it’s possible. So we’re working on that. Baby steps.

Recommendations? Advice? Thoughts? Shared experiences? Books I should read? Leave it below, I’d love to hear it!

Warning! Woman at Work

Warning! Woman at Work

Construction Worker at Westlake Center 1988 courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, Creative Commons License

I had a meeting with my boss today, and she asked me what my career goals were, as reviews are coming up.

Well, I took the job to become a home owner because my acting degree didn’t come with a sugar daddy and I hear hooking’s illegal here in Canada so… yeah, career goals.

Honestly though, I’m a go-getter. I excel at things. I’m one of those annoying people who can do just about anything, and do it pretty well, too. Even more irritating (to me) is that I can see myself doing just about anything. It makes choosing stressful (I know luxury problem, but still).

Now that I’m working for a big company with room to grow, people expect me to have career goals beyond “Make car payment this month” and “Invest in house in fall winter spring.”

So in a company with fairly limitless options, and me with almost limitless potential, what the heck do I want to do?

And do I really want to do anything?

Because if I stop thinking of this job as a job, as a means to an end, as that place where they keep my paycheque, as that thing I must endure (almost) painlessly to be able to achieve my dream of homeownership, and uh, food… Then I am committing to a community and claiming it for my own.

Then those people I work with become those colleagues with whom I create products.

Those “work friends” might actually become work friends, and I might know these people for years – have barbecues with them, invite them to housewarmings, and baby showers, and – oh my god, I’ve married my work.

I really don’t think I’m a huge commitment-phobe, but my paid ambitions lie buried with my acting career. I want the house and the family – not the boardroom and the politics – right? I said, right?

Alright, I know I can have both. OK? Especially since I’m not engaged, not likely to get pregnant anytime soon, and have masses of brains wasting away in data entry – well, not so much wasting, as attempting to find ways to improve the systems and think my way out of a job… Details.

And having the higher paying job that committing to career-like ambition offers would make home-owning and family-having easier in the long run.

And I could still think of it as a job, right, just that thing I go and do for a third of each weekday? And I don’t have to make bffs 4ever with everyone there, I can simply be polite and encouraging and helpful and me – and leave them all at 5:00, right?

Or I could grow a little. Grow up a little, and embrace the adult-y-ness of the whole situation, and realize that I am not a student, not a starving artist, not actively living those lifestyles anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of those communities, while taking on new ones.

Or does it? Do I have to be a starving artist forever in order to relate to other starving artists who are both actively starving and actively artistic? If I keep the money, but fingerpaint on weekends, does that count? What if I keep the money, but fingerpaint, and generate an eating disorder? OK, whatever, I really like food, so that’s not gonna happen.

But, honestly, as your identity grows and changes, sometimes passions and communities leave you – does that mean you have to leave them?

When do you have to no longer self-identify as something? Is there a time when you ever must?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know this:

I am an actor. It is not what I do, it is what I am.

And I know that doesn’t help me with my present quandary of corporate career goals…

What do you think? Can you help? What advice would you give, or have you gotten in this type of circumstance? Let me know!

Family: Who Makes the Cut

Happy Family
Happy Family Taking Self Portrait courtesy photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I write out my Christmas Cards, I can’t help but think of who I consider to be family.

I am part of many families, you see. There’s my mother’s family, and my father’s family with whom I share a common lineage (adoptively speaking), and my father’s created family (those who have standing invitations to our home), and my created family, which includes a few of my friends, and members of each of my other families, and Dashing and a few of his biological family.

It’s a little like this:

FAMILY CHART

FAMILY CHART – BY MISS HAPP

But how do we get there? When you’re little, your family are those people who take care of you, and by extension any whom they call family.

Over years one develops those existing relationships, growing closer to some, learning to tolerate (or not) others… and as one grows and meets new people one adds to the base from which to draw familial relationships.

That’s fairly simple, and common, thinking.

But when is it that someone goes from being a friend, to being family?

For me, it is that line where I would protect them from themselves. I love my friends, yes, but somehow I know they manage without me. I know they can take care of their own stuff, and I trust them to ask for help if they need it. I feel comfortable telling them when I think their behaving poorly, or when they’ve made a poor choice, but if they choose to disagree, well, that’s up to them.

Family though, family is so much more complicated.

Because somehow, in the idea that my life would be truly altered if this person were to leave or be in hardship, there’s the self-protective reaction that says I should do all I can to prevent it.

If a family member has an addiction, it affects me in ways a friend’s addiction might not, and it’s so much harder to tell them “You have a problem, and I need you to get help” because it’s like telling part of yourself that you’ve been let down by it.

If a friend has financial hardship – I might give them some money to help out, but probably not that much, and I might expect it paid back someday. I can understand that a friend might fall on hard times. And I understand that they will get back up on their own eventually.

If I see a family member heading towards financial hardship, I do all I can – lecturing, giving of funds, subtle and not-so-subtle hints about job applications or savings accounts – because underneath it all, I feel responsible for their well-being.

I recognize that, like my friends, my family is mostly full of capable adults, who manage to feed themselves, and clothe themselves, and get to and from work daily without my constant assistance or supervision – but I still feel connected to them in a way where if they fail, I fail. If they succeed, I am proud of their accomplishment, and happy to have helped in any small way. But when family hits a rough spot, for me, it’s an all hands on deck kind of time.

At least, that is the gut, knee-jerk reaction.

But I’ve come to learn that even family, sometimes have to fail on their own.

After all, it’s through failing that we learn our greatest lessons, right?

But even when it’s a hands off – let-em-fall-down kinda time, there’s still that instinct, that basic desire to come between them and the cold, hard ground, because when they hurt, I hurt.

And that’s how I know who’s my family.

Where’s the line for you? Are you more protective of friends, trusting your family to speak up more? What do you think? Let me know below!

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