Celebrating Family

Sean and Raven and Bubbles (the floating kind, not the dancer)

Last weekend, we celebrated a family wedding – we, meaning family for the most part, and some of the couple’s friends. A lot of family. And while we weren’t all there, my immediate family had a reunion – immediate, in this case, being four out of six siblings and some of their children.

We always miss the ones who are absent.

But given that we are far-flung, from Texas to Michigan, Oregon and Washington, Hawaii and California, to New Mexico, we did good in gathering to celebrate. And we had a rousing time of it, even while getting an outdoor wedding ready in Seattle rain. The rain, as if understanding the significance of the occasion, stopped for the ceremony.

The trip out was one of those nightmare-in-airplanes stories we’ve all heard. Denver, socked in by six hundred feet of fog (yes, fog!), lives up to its reputation of being a busy airport, and shut down…. well, you know what happens when a busy airport gets shut down on a Friday. Chaos. We ended up flying from Kansas City to Denver to Albuquerque to Denver to Boise, Idaho (yes, Boise), to Seattle and arriving ten hours after we’d been scheduled. Missing, of course, the rehearsal (we, the wedding presiders) and missing much of the rehearsal dinner. And the last to arrive of the several who’d had travel glitches.

But when my husband and I walked into the restaurant, applause broke out. A welcoming. You’re safe now; you’re with family. We’re so glad you’re here. Sit down. Eat. Others had guided the rehearsal and everything was fine.

I know not all families are as ours. But many families are. The groom’s families, both on his mother’s and his father’s side, are like ours. And several of us from both families stayed in the same house with one bathroom – you get to know each other pretty well with ten people and one bathroom. And the best part is, we’d never have know that part of the groom’s family without it. The other best part is that we spent a lot of time blowing bubbles at each other during the reception.

Jeanne and Janet and more bubbles

While wondering what this family thing is all about, the word, “freedom,” came to me. We are free to be who we are and as grumpy or outrageously funny as we need to be and still be accepted. Freedom. The freedom to be safe and the freedom to be accepted at a core level.

I suppose at base, I’m talking tribal here. Members of a tribe might leave, and sometimes they never return, but if they do, they are welcomed – and whoever they bring with them welcomed (at least until the new person does something damaging and then, perhaps, less welcome).

Statistics say the number of multi-generational families living in one home is growing in our country. We own some of those multigenerational families. I say that’s a good thing – good for the elders and good for the young. The middle generation may wonder what in the world they’re doing, but they go off to work so it’s probably all fine.

Take some time this weekend to reconnect with your family. Tell them how important they are. Offer your love and welcome them home. It’s fall in a very contentious year, so we all need to be circling those human wagons and staying safe.

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A Moment to Stop

My mother used to say, with some regularity, “This too shall pass.” My siblings and I say it too. It’s a way of remembering the chaotic or frustrating times won’t last (rarely said during the good times although true then, too). This morning is the first I’ve had in over a week to sit quietly, stare out my window, and reconnect.

The willow has lost most of its leaves. A light breeze tickles the few remaining at the very top. Different birds from even two weeks ago flit through the yard. A squirrel dashes, busy. No sirens this morning. For the most part, it looks like a morning when nature also takes a break from the over-the-top energy of the past couple of weeks and rests. 

I thought, given my mother’s proclivity for memorized sayings from the Bible, that “this too shall pass” is a proverb from that same book. But here’s what reliable (mostly) Wikipedia says:

This too shall pass” … is a proverb indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words… Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The proverb and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and being employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

So there you are. Not biblical at all. But useful none-the-less unless life becomes so over-the-top there’s no view of the light to passage.

In last night’s class, several of my students looked as though they’d been as blasted by the past two weeks as much any of the rest of us. One could barely keep his eyes open – he’d been out the week before and down sick; another is recovering from a car accident; another has a cold beginning; another missed class all together because of illness; another stayed home with her little sister while her mom was at the hospital with her brother’s appendix operation. This too shall pass.

It will, but in the meantime many are stressed beyond civility and peace of mind. It’s easier to say, “this too shall pass” when we don’t have a five-day-a-week stressful job and school and family. I have family, but they’re adults and self-sufficient; I have school, but that’s my work and I really like what I do. I expect there are many who read this and wish they had a morning at home to stare out the window.

I don’t have any easy answers. Life is pretty demanding these days, even with a lighter schedule. How do we manage the stress and frustration and plain old tiredness? Yes, this time will pass, eventually, but how to manage it in the meantime? I suppose if a king can be humbled by the words, they may also remind the rest of us to drop our shoulders from our ears.  

I’d appreciate any comments that offer good ideas to one and all.

In the meantime, I’ve added a couple of links to other sites asking the same questions.

Work / Life Balance? It doesn’t!

Misconceptions about work-related stress