Family is a choice

Paula - El Cajon, California
Entered on May 1, 2008

I’ve been told all my life, “you can’t choose your family”, usually after being hit by my brother. You see, I grew up in a violent home. Physical demonstration of anger may be a genetic family flaw that plagues our men and offends our women.

I used to be an idealist and believed that family was all about forgiveness. The bruises faded, I learned to defend myself and I chose to forgive my brother for using me as a punching bag. After all, he was just following the example provided.

After my mother made a choice to marry my father, even though he gave her a black eye before a wedding ring, I witnessed my parents become estranged and eventually excommunicated. I wondered why.

As a child, I saw unfairness, a valuable life-lesson that has kept me grounded in the notion that life is essentially unjust. I always thought I was blessed though; that nothing could really hurt me.

I was traumatized when I became the target of my father’s rampant fury, something that had never happened before. I was scared and I relied on my survival instincts to stay safe. This taught me that blood is not thicker than water; family is not this unbreakable bond.

As a pragmatist, my head had enough clarity to tell my heart to walk away. I chose not to be in my father’s life, it certainly was not an easy decision to make. I had this blank space, this void that used to be filled with connection, familiarity and toxicity. I remember feeling relieved and unreservedly happy for weeks after leaving.

I moved a long way away to gather my thoughts. It’s a lonely time but the advantage is a growth in independence. An added bonus is the opportunity to make a bunch of new friends. The ability to simply choose the people around me breeds freedom and nurtures my sense of liberty.

When I recently found myself in a vulnerable situation, denying to myself that I was in trouble, my friends helped me. They gave me the strength and courage to change my situation. I put my faith in the convictions of my friends and somehow knew that I would be okay.

Having a friend is a great thing, being a friend is better. For me it is an experience that has provided me with friendship that is deep and lasting, inexplicably comfortable and loyally dependable.

If ever again I’m in trouble, I would want my friends to go into battle with me. I learned this year that you can choose your family, while they may not be flesh and blood, they’re there because you want them to be, that’s a powerful choice.