Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ownership, Labels and Love

This is the season to reflect, and in reflection, let’s talk of love, gratitude, and some basic pronouns.

Who are you? Well, you are the sum of all your experiences and in relation to your family, a daughter, son, wife, mother, father, brother, or something. (Joe’s friend, the youngest daughter, mother of three, her this, his that, your, my, our...) When you apply the pronouns, you start to view your identity through a scope that limits the view. (His, hers, theirs, ours) Apply the same pronouns to your family and you might get “real brother” versus “step” and adopted family too.

When you apply the pronouns, your ownership filter starts to view others through a lens of who is more valid, who is more “real” which can be divisive. If he is your half brother, not full, what does that mean?

If all your family members aren’t real family members, how tolerant are you, really? If your brother and his second wife adopted two children, are they still his children? Aren’t they real? Don’t we all have room for a little more inclusion and tolerance?

If we are labeling people “real” and not real, valid and not valid, what does it say about our humanity?

What is a real family anyway? My family was his, mine and ours, but we were a family. Who has the authority to tell anyone that they aren’t real, or that they aren’t a real family? Especially on Christmas!

My greatest wish for Christmas is that we drop the “us” versus “them” and speak to our families without so much baggage and learn to accept people for who they are. For example, aunt Martha might have been stupid that one time, but it doesn’t mean she is always stupid. Let her past go.

Mom might have done some strange parenting, or lacked enough maternal skill to keep a goldfish alive, but let it go; that was then, this is now. You lived; give her a call. Because Aunt Josefina is gay or voted for issue X, is not enough of a reason to punish her humanity. It is time for a visit, but I’d call first!

Don’t let bad news, or loss of life become the sole reason you reach out to your family or your neighbor. These are hard economic times; we need to be kind to each other. These are hard emotional times too.

The older we each get, the more likely we are to have lost a loved one that we mourn on Christmas. I for one learned my dad had cancer on Christmas day and he lived for a year and died the following Christmas day. In a blink of an eye I can be at that moment holding his warm, still hand. Even after twenty years, I have bittersweet memories of the holidays.

I want to remind people to say, “I love you” a little more often. I want to remind people to be more inclusive and less judgmental. Life is short, so short that you really won’t have all your lovely people around you always. Take stock of these great folks and friends and feel truly full of friendship and love. This is a time to be softer, gentler, and more understanding with others, and we don’t really have to stop being that way on December 26th!

An ancient Greek philosopher wrote, “One cannot step twice into the same river.” Meaning, the water is flowing and the river in this moment is not the same water that moved through moments ago. It is a great reminder of how swiftly life changes before our eyes.

This holiday season, take stock of the love and friendship around you and let your love be known. May your days be blessed with love and equality, peace and acceptance.

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