Choosing To Do Life Together 
After my parents divorced, holidays skipped by us. When I started college, I found community in my classmates, a few of them became family, and we did life together. We helped each other cope with adulthood, and for me, they enriched my new traditions for the holidays. It was a beautiful entry into being an individual with a tough family dynamic. I made plans with friends to meet up before the holidays and celebrated with gift exchanges and fun meals, but the mood was somewhat somber because the void of a unified family was felt deeply during the holidays. Then, enter my wonderful husband, and later our kids, the holidays were transformed to what I had wished for so long, strong unity. My dad now celebrates the holidays with us, and so does my older sister and youngest brother. My mom and two other siblings are living their lives without contact, and it’s sad but the right thing for all us.

My mom always preached that family had to stick together and be each other’s support system, but she never practiced what she taught and was never that for my siblings or me. The unwritten rule in my mother’s book read: there’s something terribly wrong with you if you don’t stick it out with your family, they could bankrupt you emotionally and physically, but you must stick it out. Ride or die, literally.

There’s a beautiful Ram Dass quote that says, “Everybody you have ever loved is a part of the fabric of your being now.” It always felt wrong to me, how could my extended family be part of my fabric, but not part of my life? I’ve heard Ram Dass' quote phrased by many people for years but this year, the quote resonated differently. As I prepared for the holiday season and started to feel the void creep up, I understood the role of broken relationships with family and even friendships--their addition of thread to the fabric of my being was crucial for my progress and evolution. The wording used for raffles came to mind, “need not to be present to win.” In my case, “family and good friends who have come and gone, need not be present at every stage of my life to be part of the fabric of my being.”

I felt a lot of shame when relationships only meant for a season couldn’t last for two or three seasons. I carried my mother’s rule engraved in my sleeve—ride or die. And that can’t be the case for all of my relationships, especially the complicated ones with family members. How can I grow and walk alongside people who fully support me and encourage me if I’m doing life with three-hundred people who can't do life well with me? My life would be crowded, confusing, and my path misguided.

Ram Dass says, “After all, we’re just walking each other home.” And whether I walk home with someone for ten blocks, ten months, ten years or a lifetime, it’s all been a choice, not a life sentence. And the moment I accepted and embraced it as a way of life, I broke the cycle of bankrupting myself emotionally and physically for the sake of sticking it out. And since then, the void has diminished with each day gone by, and the holiday season is no longer about longing for the facade of the fleeting, false sense of unity.

May the fabric of your being be as beautifully pieced together with pride and admiration, as the art installation in the picture above—life imitating art.

In hope...I am fearless.



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