Family of the Heart

With the holiday season approaching, many of us are making plans to be with family or are longing for family and unable to get home. While this is true for many in the world, what about those who don’t find spending time with their families something to look forward to?

If you are someone fortunate enough to come from a family that is forgiving, appreciative, maximizing, inspirational, liberating and yielding, then congratulations! I hope you can be with your family over the holidays and enjoy time in each other’s company.

If you happen to be one of those people with a wonderful family but can’t be with them this holiday season, I encourage you to remember past holidays together and know that you will be together again. If your family is no longer with you, then you can still bask in the love of your memories and gratitude for the time you did have together.

Not everyone hits the family lottery. The rest of this article is for them.

If you dread seeing your family for the holidays, your memories of holidays past may be filled with insults, arguments, addiction or violence. However, you are not stuck having to repeat old patterns. You can take control of what you can control—you and your responses—and plan to have a different experience this year.

Your options for responses are many. You could not attend the family function this year. You could attend but consciously decide not to be goaded into any arguments. You could decide ahead of time what your boundaries will be, lay them out and, if violated, follow through on what you said you would do. You could have plans elsewhere and just stop in for a brief visit. There are many options.

Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to find your family of the heart. Unfortunately, the family you were born into and feel obliged to does not always match my definition of family. That’s too bad, but now you get to create your own family with people from your life who fit the definition. Sometimes it turns out to be your partner’s family or the family of a good friend. Other times, it is just people you collect along the way throughout your life. They are the people whose company enriches you. Everyone deserves to have a family of the heart.

A true family is forgiving, appreciative, maximizing, inspiring, liberating and yielding.

Forgiving: Families forgive one another when things don’t go as planned and feelings may get hurt. True family knows it wasn’t intentional, and they don’t harbor resentments and grudges against each other.

Appreciating: True families accept and appreciate each other for who they are. They don’t try to mold each other into the people they want them to be. Families know the most important thing is for each person to be happy and satisfied in life with whatever it is that brings them happiness and satisfaction. There is a true appreciation for who you are. If you don’t have that in your family of origin, find it elsewhere.

Maximizing: The definition of maximizing is increasing to the greatest possible amount or degree, and that’s what families do for each other. They know they are stronger together than they are apart and see the best in each other. In this way, they stand together and maximize each member by helping them be the best of what they want to be.

Inspiring: Families of the heart inspire each other. Because all members are living their best life, there are things each person brings to the table that inspires the rest. Age is irrelevant. Anyone can inspire someone else by how they choose to live their life.

Liberating: Families of the heart liberate their members by not placing their own expectations on each other. They are free to do whatever they think is best without any blowback. Members are truly free to do what they want without imposed guilt or punishment.

Yielding: I’m not going to lie: Y was a hard letter to find a word for, so I settled on yielding, which is to produce—and that’s what families do. Families of the heart work together to produce. They help each other out while creating success for each other.

If you believe it would be disloyal to create your own family of the heart, it has nothing to do with loyalty. In fact, it doesn’t even have much to do with the family you were given. They are still your family of origin, but if they aren’t able or interested to step up to the plate to be your family of the heart, that’s on them. It’s not your fault. You aren’t unlovable. In fact, you deserved to have a family of the heart from the beginning, but unfortunately, your family wasn’t able to provide it. Now it’s incumbent upon you to pay attention for the members of your heart family who are waiting for you. You may have already met. When you are open to the process, your heart will recognize their heart when you are coming from a place of openness rather than neediness. Just be open for the family you want and see who shows up.

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