Life-Love 45: Finding haven in family and friendship.

Some may say that I am ill-placed to discuss family matters, given that I am still a bachelor at 36 years of age, but I do experience the joys of family life through my relationship with parents, cousins and through the stories that my students and friends tell me. Professional life can move very quickly. There are stresses and demands on your time, your attention and your emotions. You sometimes have take a stand on something and that can make you feel lonely and isolated. Other times, a friendship can crumble through betrayal or a romantic relationship can becomed heavy and suffocating or limiting. In these moments of vulnerability and precariousness, there is nothing like being able to rely upon the unconditional love of family members, or even the love of closest friends, for those who have no living family. When you feel exposed or beaten up or even broken, it is difficult to go to a colleague for support. That person hasn’t a sense of the depth of your character, of the complexity of your personality, your mind and your heart. That kind of knowledge of one another can only come through years of shared of shared experience. Of the to-and-fro of debate and argument, of shared pleasures and marvelling at sparkling moments of sheer joy as you discover something new. Family has been with you all the way – from the the open-faced moments of full smiles and crystal laughter of children discovering the nature and the world, to the worry and insecurity of early teens, to the angst and anguish of young adulthood – to the struggles of your first experiences in the work world and your experiments with finding a life partner… all of these moments, your family has lived with you. Not always in solidarity, perhaps. Even judgementally, maybe. Perhaps even with an imperious I-told-you-so. Somehow, though, the stubborn bond born of blood, shared experience, and above all, the shared passage of time, makes for a special connection. In our fragmented world of confusion, where we are pulled and pushed in every direction, we are offered so few real havens. The oases that the world offers are often mirages: gratifications of the body in food or sex, fleeting gratifications for the imagination in film or fantasy. But these are really illusory, for what we seem to long for is are shared moments – moments when we can express our brokenness and our frailty and be accepted and nurtured and loved. The hard edge of materialism holds no candle to the warmth of a welcoming and healing embrace in which we say: “I know you, I love you, and I welcome you with my imperfections and with your imperfections.” A family member of a true friend who offers you this is giving you the greatest gift of all – the gift of love and inclusion.

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  1. As another person still marking the ‘single/never married’ box on forms – it sometimes helps to think aobut the women you would have married; if circumstances had been different of course. My personal number is three. There is a comforting commonality about my wonderful three. They are all three of Slavic background; 1st or 2nd generation Canadians. So at least I’ve narrowed it down. All three of them were met in school or related to continued schooling.

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