Friday, October 21, 2005

On creating a family.....

I have been battling a horrible cold, and a touch of the flu, which has kept me out of work and in bed for the past few days. For some reason, I always get the urge to call my mom when I’m sick; usually she offers the same recipe for remedy: drink clear liquids, pick up the staple supplies of chicken soup and crackers at the store, and camp out on the couch for a few days.

I called her today, but she didn’t pick up the phone. I tried her cell, her pager, her direct line at work…nothing. I called my brother to see if he had heard from her in the past few days. He informed me of what I had expected: that my mom is in the midst of a depressive cycle and refuses to answer the phone, get dressed, or even to make herself meals. She has an onset of severe depression every few months; sometimes she becomes very passive and won’t leave the house for weeks, sometimes she becomes angry and manic. She refuses to self medicate, refuses to acknowledge that she has any problem with depression, and oftentimes doesn’t even remember her manic episodes. But I do, and as a result I have developed a relationship with my mother that is based upon my fear of the person she becomes when she is depressed.

My grandmother always tells stories about how as a little girl, I used to run up to women in supermarkets and ask if they would take me home with them. I have known for a long time that I couldn’t count on my mom being a presence in my life any more than I could count on my dad “stepping up to the plate” after years of being absent. And being unsatisfied by the family that I was given, I began to create my own. I have been blessed with amazing friends, professors, colleagues from work, and have managed to knit them all together in an effort to create a family that isn’t based on blood but is based on connection. Some of these individuals have invited me into their homes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, some of them have supported me monetarily during college. These are the people that I called first when I heard about my new job, and they’re the ones I call after an emotionally draining day at work. They are my family in every sense of the word.

I think that we all long to be nurtured, to be supported, to be loved in a way that will make us feel complete. Some of us receive that kind of nurturing from the start, and some of need to find people along the way who are able to pick us up, to support us in the way that our families could not. To support us in the way that only a real family can.