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Family of Choice

Linda: I grew up in the South and my only living grandparents lived in New York City. Except for occasional visits up North, I rarely saw them. I remember having a deep longing to be close to a sweet grandmother, someone who was wise and loving, with twinkling eyes. I used to pretend that she looked like the author of my mom’s Settlement Cookbook, whose photograph graced the front of the book. She had a kind and intelligent face. I loved her thick wavy silver hair, the laugh wrinkles around her eyes, and the delicate smile on her lips. I used to pretend that she taught me to cook, never scolded me, loved me dearly and was proud of me. I was proud of her too. I saw her as a strong, capable woman who touched a lot of people’s lives with her delicious, nutritious recipes.

This habit of borrowing wise and loving relatives from other people’s families continued beyond my childhood into adulthood and I’ve accumulated quite a vast collection of mentors and teachers. One of the most impactful person over the years, has been Stephen Levine. His book, Who Dies? opened me up to a life of spirit that I had never known before. In his style of teaching, he revealed many personal details of his life: his struggles, mistakes, confusion and breakthroughs to greater understanding. He inspired me to adopt a similar style of teaching in my own career, demonstrating the power of sharing my own personal experience and not hiding behind a facade of “professionalism.”

Stephen’s teachings permeate all of the work I do, and it’s a rare day that I don’t reference one of his wise sayings.

“The mind creates the abyss and the heart crosses over it.”
“Practice on the little pains.”

“No judgment.”

“Keep your heart open in hell.”

‘Relationship is the ultimate danger sport.”

“Swimming in the reservoir of grief.”

“You might not be ready to forgive.”

“Forgiveness is not excusing bad behavior”

“Relationship are not business transactions.”

“Lessons in patience, lessons in generosity.”

“Our partner holds our self esteem in the palm of their hand.”

“Would you sell your death?”

“Big surprise.”

I have supplemented my literal blood family by borrowing relatives from other peoples’ families for years. Sylvia and Seymour Boorstein are my honorary great aunt and uncle. Jack Kornfield, Robert Bly, Marrion Woodman, Ram Dass, Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, Joyce & Barry Vissell, and Ondrea Levine are all honorary cousins. They aren’t the kind of family members that you call up on the phone, spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with, or party with. They are more like beloved relatives who live far away, for whom you feel deep affection and admiration. Even though you may only see each other infrequently, their presence in your heart is so powerful, that your life can be strongly impacted by them on a daily basis. They live within you even if they are no longer actually alive. These are people who have helped to shape me into becoming who I am today.

My biological family wasn’t always able to provide the kind of modeling that I needed to become a more conscious and loving person, so I decided to supplement them with members of my family of choice, a collection of surrogate relatives. To call them my teachers, or models, seems too distant and cool a characterization to describe my relationship to them. I have a great appreciation for the way they have informed and enlivened my life. Devoted family members give each other the very best wisdom that they have, to assist each other to enjoy life to the fullest. In my life and my work, I have attempted to pass on to others the richness that has been given to me by these generous, loving beings. I honor what they have passed to me by passing their practical wisdom on to others. And I pause for a moment to say from the bottom of my heart: “Thank you.”


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Family of Choice

Bloomwork

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at: www.Bloomwork.com


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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2018). Family of Choice. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2017/07/family-of-choice/

 

Last updated: 31 Mar 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Mar 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.