Reflections on my definition of family as we begin a Jewish New Year
I have never been a real big proponent of forced family gatherings. You know the kind where you get together with your once or twice a year relatives- more as a compulsory act than one borne out of a mutual friendship or common interests. I get it; there are certain traditions we feel compelled to uphold primarily because Hallmark and other companies have effectively created compelling commercial campaigns that prey on our basest of vulnerabilities and convince us to emotionally subscribe to their message and ultimately inform our holiday planning decisions. The real-bottom line; these companies are banking their first quarter earnings on getting us “the public” to fork over wads of cash to facilitate these fabricated family gatherings.
But here’s the thing- when you really think about what any big celebration or holiday is; it’s a time to reflect on your blessings, express your gratitude and surround yourself with the people who are intimately tied into all those aspects of your life. And in these life-affirming moments is your uncle, who has worn the same tweed jacket the past five years, and brought along his alcoholic common-law wife- really a person who contributes to your happiness or has anything to do with you on even a monthly basis? If the answer is a resounding no- then I say it’s time you celebrate the holiday on your own terms.
In my 40th year of life on this planet and in the wake of my father’s death I feel like I am seeing my life and the things I hold so dear in a new light. And I believe it’s time that I no longer allow myself to feel compelled to partake in the pressures of creating relationships with people who may share a bloodline with me- but have little else and /or next to nothing to do with who I am, who I’ve become and who I aspire to be.
This New Year I will teach my kids, that family is not where you come from- but who you’ve become and who you choose to bring into your life. Family is who you can call when your kid is running a fever, and drop off your other kid at their house with little or no notice so that you can see a doctor. Family are the people from who you draw your strength and, on a daily basis, bless your life with their presence and love. In my humble opinion, creating these traditions and modeling these behaviors for my children, are what life affirming celebrations truly ought to be about.