Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Family You Choose

You've probably heard it before. It’s the new slogan used by American Family Insurance and a slogan we can all relate to. We all have the family we’re born into and in which we have no choice. But then there are those we’ve chosen to have a part of our family – the family we choose.

But before I get to the family I choose, I have to talk about the one I didn’t. Of course, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I love them dearly, count on them endlessly. My mom and my niece are two of my best friends. I didn’t choose them, thankfully I didn’t have to, but I’m thankful for their presence in my life.

Realistically, there is some choosing when it comes to the family we had no choice in because we choose how much they are a part of our lives. And some of us may have family members we choose to have no connection with at all.

Then there’s the spouse, and this is probably the biggest decision any of us will make when it comes to family. And in choosing a spouse, you usually get other family members – the in-laws. For me, it included a step-son that I would proudly call a son and having been raised with all brothers, it also included a couple of sister-in-laws that I’d gladly call sister.

But I think what the theme really refers to is those people who aren’t always a daily part of your life, but people you know will be there when you need them – just like your family. These are the people who bend over backwards to lend a helping hand, whether its physical help or emotional support.

Family, both the chosen and not chosen, is about a support system and most of us have more than one support system.

My first experience with the “family you choose” came when I was sixteen and I helped a classmate with a problem after a prom dance. Helping this person turned into a friendship that has lasted twenty-five years. Even after that first meeting, if it hadn’t been for Keri’s outgoing personality, we would never have become such good friends. But she sought me out in school the next week and we’ve stuck together ever since. We’ve been through so much together. For me she is the sister I never had, she is family and I feel that I am a part of her family.

More recently the family circle has begun to expand to a group of ladies whose support is invaluable. While these ladies are fairly new to me, it’s amazing how quickly you connect with people when they share the same passion, when they understand, like no one can, what it means to complete a manuscript, to have a story run away with you, to fall in love with your characters, to get the request and the rejection. For a writer, even our characters become the family we choose for a short time, maybe some even stick with us forever.

The absence of any one person above could have easily changed the direction of my life. Some in major ways, others in small, but ultimately changed.

Tell me about the “family you choose”.


Tonya Kappes said...

I call my family a 'spectrum.' On my 'spectrum' my family is in different sections: my blood, my high school friends, my college friends, friends along the way, my therapy families I am with every week in their home, my writing friends. Often those sections begin to blend and my friends along the way may be hanging out with my college friends. Just because I have the same blood as my typical family, I don't JUST consider them my family. The family on my spectrum are people who have same interests, happy, joyful, encouraging, there for me, I am there for them, and full of life. I surround myself with positive family.

Christine said...

I have a huge "chosen family" due to my own family of non choice being, well, not so fabulous. If it weren't for the years of encouragement from the family I chose, I would not be where I am today.

DH is tops on the list.

Glad to see you bloggin' again!

Keri Stevens said...

I have friends and "Life friends." We're the people who are going to build our own nursing home on some property I own and play bumper-wheelchairs.

And your sister has a terrific name.

Christina Wolfer said...

Tonya and Christine - I think "positive" is the key in choosing the family we surround ourselves with. It's usually the negative that we push out of our life - if we're smart - even when they are blood relations.

Thanks for commenting.

Christina Wolfer said...

Keri - LOL - I need to hook you up with my mom. She has talked for years about buying property and putting a nursing home on it; one even she would like to stay at.

Gia Dawn said...

Its like the old saying, you can pick your friends, you can pick your co-workers to a certain extent, but God gives you family to force you to get along with everyone!

Being biologically related is not a measure of love, and our chosen family can be as close as any other.


Christina Wolfer said...

So true, Gia. Sometimes the only thing a biological relationship adds is more pressure to resolve differences where under other circumstances you wouldn't bother.

Becke Davis said...

There are reasons I live 400 miles from my parents -- we get along fine at this distance, but up close, my stress level goes through the roof. It took me awhile to realize I needed this separation, but I've been much happier since then.

I have great brothers and sisters, even though we are all very different and live thousands of miles apart. All of us have long-time friends who have been melded into the family unit, making our rare family reunions almost evenly split between nuclear family and "adopted" family.

Because my husband and I married so young and both had parent issues, that forced us to depend on each other, especially when we moved to England. It was a make-or-break situation, relationship-wise, and, luckily, it drew us closer together. He is and will always be my best friend. And, even though we are clearly the parental units, we both consider our kids best friends, too.

I have childhood friends, school friends, friends from everyplace I've lived, PTO friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, and so on.

But it has hit me recently that only recently have I made friends that I feel know the "real" me, and that is the friends who love to read and write as much as I do. I didn't know such people existed, and my life has been immeasurably enriched when I discovered you all!

marye.ulrich said...

One of my favorite quotes is: "God gives you friends to make up for your family." Think that says it all.