And in the midst of all this chaos I met Sharon. A lovely human who seemed to accept me, quirks and all. Someone who continued to be my friend after I moved away. Listened without judgement when I confessed about the chaos in Florida that nearly decimated me. Rooted for me to succeed as I started over in Phoenix, and was excited for me as I was now beginning a new chapter in New York.
In the panic of the pandemic, I wanted reassurance that I existed, mattered, was loved. That I would be okay after losing everything I had worked for. I wanted someone to hold me, as though I was a child waking from a frightening nightmare. The comforting role, however, which was often filled in our society by a mom or dad, grandpa or grandma, was something that I simply didn’t have access to. But I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have incredible friends who filled these roles. Sharon being one of them.
It’s funny. Society still reveres the outdated nuclear family as it’s model structure. But more and more, we are finding that this framework has fallen apart due to a variety of reasons. A Newsweek article referenced research by sociologist Karl Pillemar, who in 2020, estimated that one in four Americans are actually estranged from their defined biological (or adopted) families. (*1)
Encyclopedia Britannica defines family as “a group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, constituting a single household and interacting with each other in their respective social positions, usually those of spouses, parents, children, and siblings.” (*2) And while that seems to be the accepted definition, it doesn’t account for whether those ties are healthy bonds or not.
I became curious about the origins of the word. Has a “family” always been defined as we acknowledge it to be today? A quick search discovered that actually, the first recorded use of the word family in the Middle Ages (135-1400) referenced the Latin “familia” which translated to ‘household servants, family’, or “famulus” which meant ‘servant’. (*3)
And although I didn’t dive much deeper that that at this time, I felt it rang with a certain irony. With origins like that, is it any wonder that so many of us have been led to believe that we are OBLIGATED to remain in contact with our societal defined families even when toxic, narcissistic, abusive, or simply unkind or unsupportive?
As for me, years ago I made the difficult but conscious choice to say “no more”, and as respectfully as possible severed such ties. To the people who claimed the title because they were related by common DNA, I wished them well in my heart, but separated my journey from theirs. And along the way the traditional roles I craved connection with, were filled with beautiful people - like Sharon - who cared about me with kindness, respect, and love.
The piece below was written three years ago during the height of the pandemic. On a day of tears, scared about my upcoming emergency surgery, feeling as though I had lost everything, and little knowing how many more frightening days I was still to live thru, I had a moment of peace when I realized:
I may not be bonded to my chosen family by blood. But the ties are strengthened by love. And thus, I am never alone, no matter where in the world I am, or what I may be facing.
The essay below was originally written August 2, 2020 (Revised July 10, 2023)
I want a family.
It’s funny the thoughts that pop into your head randomly on a beautiful sunny day.
When despite the sunshine, life feels cold and unfriendly. And I felt alone.
I want a family.
People who care whether I come home or not, know my secrets and hopes and fears.
People who poke fun at my idiosyncrasies even as they can’t imagine life without them.
I want a family.
People who want to spend holidays and birthdays and backyard bbqs with me.
Who call me up randomly to say “I love you.” Or “You won’t believe what happened to me today”
or “”I’m just so happy/mad/sad/frustrated/giddy...do you have a sec?”
I want a family to know what I looked like yesterday and still know what I look like whenever we reach tomorrow.
People who say “oh wow you know Tink? That’s my _______” and state the relationship proudly,
maybe even smugly, owning up to a connection that is so special no one can break the bonds.
I want a family who doesn’t love me just when convenient, or need me for something, or use me as a way to make themselves feel better about their own lives as they view me - the essence of me - to be as a disgrace.
A family who doesn’t pour hatred into my openness as a weapon to deflect from the emptiness of their own existence.
A cloud suddenly covers the sun and I feel a chill.
Family. Is it blood or DNA? Obligation? Possession?
I begin to shiver despite the day’s warmth, and I feel small remembering those who claimed the title
even as they tried to erase every aspect of me from existence.
Sadness creeps in and the electricity in my veins grows fainter and fainter.
The air seems heavier somehow and also less breathable than before. I inhale shallowly.
I want a family.
Someone to care not hurt. Someone to hold me not harm me.
Someone to see the light in me and share in the joy of it shining,
instead of diminishing it by blanketing it with their own darkness.
I feel the spirit in me beginning to drift out with the tide, and
I wonder if soon I too will gently blow away into the sea like particles of sand.
The desire begins to take a new shape in my cells,
almost as though a part of me wants to cry “no no this is not what I want...”
Softly I whisper to the wind now drowning out almost every other sound.
I just want to be loved.
As I am.
The world is quiet with this admission.
And I am still.
For a moment.
So tiny in my movements that if watching you may not have noticed, I begin again..
I am love.
I am here.
I am enough.
A small bird’s song breaks thru the silence.
The quiet shatters like the tinkle of fairy lights.
A breeze blows the clouds from the sun, allowing rays to filter thru the haze.
And in the reawakening of the world, with every wave bringing the tide back in, images begin to flood my mind.
Of moments of laughter and fun and sharing.
The times when I cried and was comforted.
The unexpected calls and texts and messages saying “you popped into my mind” and “I miss you”.
The way I was seen for who I am, and the space held for who I can be, when I didn’t have the strength to do this for myself.
My face grows warm as I feel the tingling return to my body.
“I have a family,’ I thought.
Connected to me by bonds stronger than a random genetic code.
By the strongest element in the universe…
“I have a family” I thought again.
One who chose me and I them.
“Thank you for this gift,” I whisper to the sun and waves and sand.
And then slowly.
I lay back, and bask in the warmth of the day.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.