Some time ago, my niece was feeling bad about herself because of typical teenage stuff: social struggles, body image issues, issues with self-worth, etc. Her father told her, "I want you to know I think you are a great kid and I really believe in you."
She responded by saying, "Yeah. Well sure you would say that because you're my dad."
When she told me this, I did my best to convey to her what being part of a family fabric means. A family is not made up of separate, distinct individuals. There is a tangible connection between family members. When we feel into it, it's easily experienced as very real. At the same time, it's not physical nor is it scientifically verifiable. Yet the experience is very strong, very deep, and comes from the core of our being and the depth of our hearts. It's a connection that's felt no matter how far apart we may be physically. It's love, but it's more than just love.
No matter how alienated we may feel from the family, the fabric remains intact. It's a fabric that is as strong as it is fine and delicate. It's strong in that it cannot be annihilated, yet it's delicate in that it must be held tenderly, lovingly, and respectfully.
As we feel into the family fabric that naturally connects us, we are feeling into the divine soul of one another. We see one another's beauty and greatness, and we respond to that. When we speak to one another, we speak to that place of inner wonder. We can't help but to see it, cherish it, and love it. In so doing, we enliven that exquisite value that dwells at the depth of each family member, and we thereby bring it forth to the world. We support one another not only by seeing that exquisite value, but also through our feelings, words, and actions. As the family fabric is honored and embraced, all the family members benefit. The family becomes strong, yet fine, lovely, beautiful, and nurturing.
We all, quite naturally, feel the family fabric, the connection with our loved ones. It is supported by being together, eating together, and enjoying one another. It is celebrated on holidays and weekend get-togethers. By naming it and speaking about it, we nourish and strengthen it.
Through our lives, family fabrics can get strained or even damaged over time. Relationships can fall apart, pulling and tearing at the fine fabric, affecting all the family members. Conflicts can arise where fathers no longer speak to sons, and brothers find themselves in conflict. But yet the family fabric remains, pulling and twisting at the hearts of all concerned, making these difficulties vastly more painful.
Tragically, there are times and situations so terribly abusive or inappropriate in the family dynamic that we are left with no alternative but to detach ourselves completely from the unhealthy situation. In such cases, we have to consider what is most life supporting for ourselves. But that shouldn't be a rash decision based on something that could possibly be healed. Even in the best of families, there can be times when it feels like there is no solution, and the easiest thing to do is to call it quits. Sadly, that is often done far more quickly or impulsively than it should be.
My wish for my daughters, my wife, and me is to always tend to the family fabric no matter how much we may strain that fabric in the course of our lives. If we should do so, my wish is that we do everything in our power to heal it, while knowing that healing the family fabric is not always so easily done. It requires the willingness of all the parties involved to discuss difficult things. At the same time, it means honoring ourselves as well as each other. All of this must be accomplished in the face of the tremendous pain we may feel from a strained family fabric.
The opportunity to have this discussion with my niece was a golden one. It gave her a feeling for the tremendous support the family fabric provides, without taking sides. It also seemed to help her relax and take in what her father said. Even though our talk increased her understanding, I knew her understanding would deepen once she has her own family.
The family fabric is supported by being together, eating together, and enjoying one another. The more the family fabric is loved, honored, and embraced, the better. The family fabric is such a beautiful thing. It is rested upon as we help one another find our way through our daily lives and as we plan our futures.