Who's In Your Family?

When you hear the word "family", who comes to mind? For many, family means you share blood. Others may have chosen family members or consider their closest friends to be family. In this episode, we'll have a conversation about altering and or expanding the meaning of family.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Inner Warmup where your inner work begins. My name is Taylor Elyse Morrison. I'm the founder of Inner Workout and you as always are our expert guest. Let's get into it with a quick check in grounding activity. You can probably hear from my voice that I'm really stopped up right now, I've got a summer cold. Thankfully it's not COVID, it's still honestly really annoying. And so the activity that I'd love to start our interview, our episode with is taking a deep breath if that's something that you can do right now, and just being really grateful for the fact that you can breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. That you're not stuffy. That the air just flows through exactly how it was designed to do. If you're like me and you've got a cold or you've got allergies and that's not something that you can do right now, maybe you just put a hand on your heart. Just marvel the fact that like, you're still able to have oxygen, even when you've got like major signage, blockage or other things going on. Our body is such a miracle y'all.

That could be the topic of our conversation today but it's actually not. The question that we're going to be discussing is who's in your family? And I'm really excited about this, I'm really excited to spark this conversation. And then to see where it leads you in reflection today, and potentially some conversations in the community too. If I just say the word family, that can spark an emotional reaction, depending on what your relationship is to your family, depending on who you're viewing your family to be. It can be an emotionally charged word, and it might bring up phrases like "family first", or "blood is thicker than water". I'm painting with super broad brushstrokes here.

But generally, in the West, I'm recording this from Chicago, and born and raised in the United States of America, we tend to take a more nuclear approach to family. Like our family is your parents and your siblings, and then maybe we even call it our extended family. In our extended family is our aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, right? It's like we've got this little circle, and then a broader circle around that. And that's how we tend to view family. I remember when I married my husband, yeah, now he's my husband. And when we were getting married, and we were engaged for a little bit, and people were telling us like, you're building your own family.

Now remember that you too are not totally leaving your families but you are embarking on this journey to create your own family and create your own family traditions and norms. And at the time, I found that to be something that was so expansive. Like, yeah, we get to define what our daily lives look like and what we value as this family that started with just us. And then now it's us and a dog, eventually it might be adding some kids. But yeah, we're creating our own family. We're family now but as I think about that more, I realized how in telling us that we were creating our own family, which is entirely true, we are also being expected to continue the norms and the definitions of what it means to be family, which is again, that nuclear construct. And then if we want to broaden it a little bit wider, it's still people who are related to us who share the same blood are parts of the same DNA as us. And the purpose of this episode isn't to say it's bad to have family though, I think family is a beautiful thing. I wonder how we can expand our definition and if it might be useful, especially as we're having conversations around what it looks like to exist in community and how we practice community care to even widen our circle a little bit, further and broader definition of who can be a part of our family.

And as I've been thinking about this myself, there's a couple of references or touchstones that have been helpful to me. So one is this idea of chosen family. And this really comes from queer and marginalized communities where people, if they are gay or trans or some sexual identity outside of what their family believed they should be, they were often shunned and kicked out. I shouldn't say where they are, they continue to be shunned and kicked out and have high rates of homelessness and joblessness. And they've modeled what it can look like to create a chosen family. And to have some of that, I will be here for you, I will love you unconditionally, I will have your back outside of where we've said that love can exist, which is traditionally within the nuclear family or within romantic relationships. It's such a beautiful model. And to take it further, I have been reading this book, How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong, (we'll make sure that we link to that in the show notes) and she talks about family and relationships and how there's so much more room for love and care and support when we remove some of the limited definitions that we've been socialized into. And I want to read this quote that really stood out to me from the book, where Mia says "I'm trying to step outside the narrow list of possibilities that we've been given."

Part of this means squashing the relationships hierarchy that says a monogamous romantic slash sexual relationship is infinitely more important than the other relationships in our lives. For me, that doesn't mean diminishing by marriage, but elevating other relationships. How beautiful is that? It's not about diminishing my marriage, or my partnership, it's elevating other relationships. And ever since I've been reading this book, I've been thinking about little things like how can I put people in my life? And as I think about who my family is, I have friends who, if my husband and I decide to have kids, they will want to 100% be my children's aunts and uncles. They are not related to me, but they are part of my family. And how can I treat them and elevate that relationship? Now simple things like making sure that we have keys to each other's places in case there was any type of emergency, being willing to be an emergency contact, especially for my single friends, especially for my single friends who don't live near family.

And being able to do the things that I would do, like I would drop anything for my family to rush to the hospital or to I don't know, take them to the vet or do whatever. If my family is a little bit short on cash, like I'm willing to help and support. How do I make sure that extends beyond just the narrower definitions of a family and gets into these friends who are 100% my family, are people who will be with me for the rest of my life. So that's the question that I want to pose to you. Before we even can fully have the conversation of how we treat people like family, and what we have to unlearn in order to treat people like family, we've got to start to define who is actually in our family.

So I want to give you some time to think and reflect on that. I will turn the mic over to you. Who's in your family?

Thanks for taking the time to reflect with me. If you want to continue the conversation, you can hang out in our free online community. Feel free to shoot me a DM if there's something that you want to share but don't want to share in a public forum. Thank you for your time and for your expertise and take care!