I have a chosen family and a family of origin which are both based in the same city, where I don’t live. I love my family of origin, but I feel like an alien when I spend time with them, and therefore choose to limit how often I do so. On the other hand, I love to spend time with my chosen family, where I feel like I’m home. So visits are always a complicated juggling act, trying to get enough time with everyone, manage everyone’s needs and expectations, and weather my own complicated feelings at returning to a place where I have a lot of bad memories. Since I really hate to let anyone down or hurt anyone’s feelings, I feel like I always fall short on meeting my own needs. I always get home full of love, but emotionally exhausted.
Until this weekend, I’d not really talked with my parents about chosen family, and about who these people are. I still haven’t really dug into it, and am finding it hard to explain what exactly we are to one another. But I had an opportunity to crack the door in explaining to them who was at the wedding – families of origin, current and previous chosen family groups, and individuals who make up the chosen families of each spouse. My dad asked me if the spouses’ families of origin knew that they were “part of an alternative lifestyle”… I wish now that I’d probed a little more into what he meant by that, but I was tired and not sure what road we would be heading down. I can’t really take advantage of the teachable moments to make my own parents more savvy about the world I occupy, and I opt out because otherwise we wind up in a fight.
I’ll be back to visit four times this year, and in only one of those trips is my family of origin the priority. Maybe one of these trips, I’ll find a way to explain to my parents why I make chosen family a priority, and how they help the place I’m from really feel like home.