How do you define the word family? Are you close with your blood relative? Do you spend more time with people you’ve come to know over the years?
The word family can be a loaded term for some people. In one way or another, we all have some sort of family of origin. And through our social lives and relationships we develop what some people call our family of affinity.
A recent study claims that it takes roughly 100 hours of time spent together to develop a close friendship, (not consecutively of course!). We can’t help but form close personal bonds and friendships with people we spend a lot of time with.
Family on the other hand is different. We are born, or sometimes adopted, into unique constellations of grownups, and from an early age they provide the foundation and backdrop to our reality.
Part of growing up as a child is that common experience that happens when you first spend time with a different family. It’s such a shocker to find out that other people do things in different ways. “Pop Tarts for breakfast? I thought people only ate bacon and eggs!”
No matter who we are with or how we grow up, when we are kids we accept it for being just how it is. For some folks it’s awesome, for others not so great. And as we all know, some kids grow up in situations that are more than unfortunate.
The mark of maturity is the ability to transcend our stories, whether they are good or bad, and come to grips with who we are now and our potential in the present moment and future. There’s ample examples of healthy and successful people who have risen from horrible backgrounds, just as there are many who stay mired in the past with an early injustice hung around their neck like a millstone.
There’s a great scene in the Oscar winning film As Good As It Gets, (highly recommended!) where Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin Udall is talking to Carol Connolly, played by Helen Hunt.
Carol: “OK, we all have these terrible stories to get over, and you-…”
Melvin: “It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re pissed that so many others had it good!”
That line always stuck with me, because it really gets at the crux of the matter. What happened in the past could have truly been terrible, no question about it. But it’s the judgments or comparisons you hold onto long after that can infect the present moment. Grievances, insults, or emotional injuries that aren’t cleared create stuck energy that can cause disease, handicaps, or worse.
With your family of affinity, you’ve always got freedom of choice. You can add or edit as you see fit, choosing to challenge yourself to grow — or to stay static on the path of least resistance. There’s a lot of wisdom in the old saying about how “you become the average of the five people who you spend the most time with.”
Blood relatives, or the families we form through intimate relationships are a bit different. Occasionally we find ourselves required to give unconditional love to folks we might not even have coffee with under other circumstances. This is where we learn things like tact, compassion, and the value of turning the other cheek.
In my world, I’m getting to witness the blending of both. My partner Teresa and I were both solo parents before we met, she has a 6th-grade son and I have a 4th-grade daughter. Mashing them up Brady Bunch style over this past year has had its ups and downs, but over time rapport and respect is developing, and more than anything it’s a lot of fun!
They get to navigate the building of a relationship that, for them, just appeared out of nowhere. So our job as grownups is to support them in being civil with one another, and to acknowledge and encourage kindness while occasionally playing referee and drawing the line with healthy boundaries.
Every family is a dance with different steps and methods of communication. For me, there’s our Dance First members andConscious Dancer team and extended community. My crew of paid staff, the volunteers, and all the dancers that make Dance Jam in Berkeley happen every Friday night. My fellow teachers and metalworking faculty at The Crucible. My elderly Dad and diverse assortment of aunts, brothers, and cousins spread out across the country. And Teresa and our kids who we tuck in at night and have breakfast with in the morning.
As you step from circle to circle in the grand dance of your various family structures, ask yourself “How can I add love and positivity to the mix, and provide service and support in a way that allows me to thrive?” Sometimes knowing when to hold your tongue is the wisest move of all.
When it’s your turn to play captain of the family ship, whichever one it might be, it’s a good idea to remember The Four Agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz. Be impeccable with your words, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
May your week be in balance and there be spring in your step!
Much love till next Monday!
DANCE FIRST SUMMER SPOTLIGHT – The Body Now – Turning the Wheel’s Summer Retreat!
Turning the Wheel is a nationally renowned non-profit with chapters across the country. They’ve touched the lives of more than 80,000 people in over 1,000 schools and organizations.
They use the power of art to build healthy communities, foster leaders, and share the joy of self-expression with participants of all ages, economic situations, genders, ethnic backgrounds.
Every summer Turning the Wheel hosts a retreat on Whidbey Island in Washington State, bringing together their community of facilitators with dancers and students from around the world.
Supporting a generous scholarship program that trains youth leaders in their methodologies, this retreat is a wonderful opportunity to learn their community building tools and techniques firsthand.
Featuring live music for the entire week, this six-day immersion offers embodied leadership tools, theater improvisation explorations, ritual and sacred art, community singing and sounding, joyful movement games, body-based journeys, and ample opportunities to connect with nature.
Founded by Alana Shaw, Executive Director and author of Dancing Our Way Home, Turning the Wheel seeks to “reconnect youth and elders to their lives and society; to encourage a collective ethic of caring for others and ourselves and to be a contributing force in fostering healthy, creative communities.”
Alana says: “Everything we do in Turning the Wheel is an attempt to come back into relationship with our interdependence as human beings, and with the need for love, not power, to form the basis for how we live on the earth. We are passionately committed to building and sustaining transformative communities that are inclusive of all people, and that reach for and model unconditional love and acceptance as the norm.”
Visit the Turning the Wheel website and learn more!
The Body Now :: Turning the Wheel Summer Retreat
June 24-30, Whidbey Institute, Whidbey Island, WA