November 23, 2017.
What does family mean to you?
Today is Thanksgiving and I wanted to write about what it meant to me. This will be a shorter post than I’ve been sharing lately, but I hope it’ll be one that leaves you thinking about the nature of love, family, and friendship after reading it.
“All It Takes” by Empathy Test on Safe From Harm
I know that the past few weeks I haven’t submitted any new posts and I apologize for that. When I began this blog I was deep in a depressive episode. My goal was to express and record those thoughts and feelings by “exorcising” them out here. In the past few weeks the despair deepened and, truth be told, I’ve been struggling to hold my head above water.
The last week was the hardest. As a result I’ve had some difficult times with my family. I feel like I’m a cold, hard, irritable person in severe depression. I’m not excusing my behavior. But I know now from experience that I have a tendency towards those qualities during the black days.
I’ve been ruminating on who the people around me are and how much I love them. I’m so grateful and privileged to know the people I do in my life. So I think I’ll write a little bit about them. But before I do, I want to answer that question I posed in the beginning: what does family mean to you?
What is family?
In my view, family is not necessarily about blood relation. People who aren’t related by blood can still be family. I consider my friends, whom are few and far between, to be a part of my family.
Family to me is the only sanctuary we have in the vacuum of a cold, apathetic, meaningless, arbitrary universe. That sounds upsetting lol and very dark, but I say that with a lot of hope.
Family is the only protection and the only home we have in all of that emptiness. And that is a universe of emptiness. I believe that each person is a universe all their own. Everyone is a universe of hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, failures, strengths, flaws, experiences. To me, it’s incredible to know anyone at all even a little bit; there is so much that makes up a person. That that person chose to share a part of the small blip of their existence with me is an incredible privilege to treasure.
Imagine all the different things that could have happened, and you would never have met your best friend, or your girlfriend or boyfriend, or your parents would never have met, or your brother or sister would never have been born. It’s when I consider all of these little things that led exactly to the life that exists now that I sometimes believe, for a split second, that maybe there is an order and a greater purpose to the universe. That is not a common thought to me, a deeply disillusioned person who has lost a lot of faith and a lot of hope in my 26 years.
So now I’ll write a little bit about the people I love.
I love writing about people I love. If I’m honest with myself, I think I can see deep into the characters of others, and I think I have a knack for metaphor and imagery. Combine that with some deep love and let’s just say, I’m no Shakespeare, but good God there’s little I enjoy more than describing my friends and family, painting a picture of them. I invite you to imagine the people who you love in your life as I share a little bit about mine. I’ll give them different names, to protect their privacy. I’ll write in random, with no hierarchy or order to who I write about first.
Who is a part of my family?
My friend Desdemona. I met her in college. She is deeply kind, extremely smart, a leader. She does a very rare kind of thing, combining her compassion with a massive force of will and a brain that strategizes. She could be a compassionate Napoleon; in her case, the conquest she seeks is that of fear, the kind of fear that inhibits and stunts people from being their true selves and living the life they truly want. She’s a force for healing the suffering of others. She doesn’t allow her emotions to rule her. She is in fact more automatically inclined to logic, but she cares deeply about everyone, not just those around her. I think that she is destined to be a catalyst for change in the world. She is magnetic; always she is meeting new people, always she is fostering their growth and understanding. Desi always reminds me how much she loves me. She has told me she is my partner in life before. I view her as a champion of compassion. I’m so grateful she’s in my life.
She’s a crisp breeze on a winter morning. She might nip at your flesh a little so it stings, but the clarity and beauty she brings is indescribable. Everything is new, everything is free of despair and confusion after she has come through.
My friend from high school, I’ll call him Malcolm. He is quiet, introspective, and fearsomely smart. There is an edge to his deep intelligence; there’s no fooling him, no coercing him into anything. He is a born skeptic, utterly unmoved by rhetoric or emotional pleas to conscience. Eternally, he will decide his own values and his own perspectives. He seeks the truth, the cold hard truth. He is in the center, and he values balance; going too far to the right, or too far to the left, and you have on your hands one very skeptical dude. Deep within, Mal has a deep reserve of love for the people close to him (and only the people close to him, lol). It’s very far within, but I’ve seen it before. I know him. He’s a brother from another mother to me. He is a foil and a balance to me; in many ways he is very opposite to me, and I love the shit out of him for that. Always he is there to propose another way of thinking to me, always there to shake me out of the stupor of my own thoughts and feelings and offer some truth.
He’s the colored fabric of a gang bandana. Red, yellow, blue. Malcolm was interested in gangs in high school, in the Chinese Triads. He has woven himself together from all his experiences and beliefs, and he is exclusive; not just anyone can join. But if you’re included in his gang, then, he’s got you. He is full of truth, even if it might be hard to hear, hard to accept. He inspires me to look at the truth, to disconnect from my own false beliefs about the world and myself.
I’ll name my tight little group of high school friends: Ozromeo, Celestine, and Aashiyana. Oz and Cel are married, recent newlyweds. They are gentle, hilarious, easygoing, compassionate people. They’re endlessly hospitable; it’s been many a time I’ve gone to their apartment to vent and also to check in on how they’re doing. Oz plays guitar and Cel draws and creates stories with tons of characters. They have huge imaginations. Amongst all my friends I feel most similar to them. They are incredibly warm people; I feel deeply loved by them. It’s been aeons of memories with them; for more than a decade they have been in my life and have been there for me. There’s been moments in my depression when I have lost contact with them, because I have succumbed to the urge to isolate myself. Oz makes it a point to always describe how lucky he feels to have me as a friend. That makes me feel really incredible. Cel and I both struggle with despair, and with her I feel a commonality of mind. We are both into fantasy and storytelling. I think one day she may be a writer, or a graphic novelist.
I love my friend Aashiyana. She is very outgoing and opens all of us quieter people to new experiences and new people. She is incredibly warm and loving. She is a teacher; she makes friends like crazy, cares about others like crazy. It’s been many times she asks if I’ve made it home safely after hanging out with her. She is a magnetic personality as well. I think she makes friends everywhere she goes, just reels them in. She has experienced a lot of pain in her life, none of which was deserved. Why is that, that the kindest people experience that kind of suffering. I didn’t know her all that well in high school. Now, years later, I feel like I missed out on knowing someone so incredibly loving. She’s pretty incredible.
My high school friends are a garden of gorgeous flowers blooming beautifully. They’re life-affirming and colorful and full of beauty. They bring me so much peace. They center me. They are endlessly hospitable, endlessly comforting. They remind me that life is beautiful and life is good.
Now comes my big homie, I’ll call him Samson. I never had a big brother before, but I feel that way about him. I genuinely and sincerely love him like he’s my big brother. I admire him greatly and I think in very hard moments about what kind of guidance he would give. Samson is an athlete; he played football in high school, and he is a boxer. He’s a fighter, and a thoughtful one at that. He’s very smart. He’s practical and duty-minded, pragmatic. Metaphor, poetry, philosophy; these things are not his go-to, and that’s a good thing too, because I’ve got those things covered. He remains firmly planted in reality, whereas I am on the fringes, lost in dreams. On the outside he presents as a stoic, pragmatic, unemotional young man, but I know he’s got a huge heart inside. It’s not even so far deep inside as you might think. He’s overflowing with looking out for his friends and for his family; I have the distinct impression that to everyone he knows, Samson is their rock, the immovable, unshakeable foundation that everyone can count on. In my insecure and uncertain moments I feel like a balloon tearing away from the earth, losing air. My big homie is there for me to feel like I can come back down to earth again, to gain some stability and some sanity. If I looked for a billion years I still would not find an equal to him.
My big homie is the earth, or stone, or mountains and shale and rock. Concrete. He is foundational rock, unbreakable, unshakeable. Resolute, enduring, strong as fuck in every sense of that word. He inspires me to endure and to overcome, to find the strength within myself.
My mom, endlessly loving, suffocating sometimes in her compassion. Strong, tiny as hell, dark-skinned, traumatized from a difficult past. I love the shit out of my mom. She sacrifices so much for her family. She is our backbone, the engine that keeps us going. She would do anything for her family, to the point where she puts herself behind everyone to take care of. She is an incredible mom, one of a kind. She and I have a bond that is pretty unshakeable; immediately after coming out she was completely on my side, no questions asked, simply eager to provide anything I needed. She is lonely and wounded by a hard youth; she was the eldest of many siblings, grew up in a home that was one minute deeply loving, the next deeply abusive, and endured a civil war and immigration to America barely out of her adolescence. I relate deeply to my mom; I see myself, healthy and unhealthy, in her deep capacity to love and take care of others. She is a star in an empty universe, shining brightly, enduring through the inky blackness.
My mom is a copse of trees on an early autumn afternoon when it’s still very warm. She is protective and embracing. You can read, you can sleep, you can drift off into your imagination in the middle of these trees. The light is warm and gentle, the late summer insects sound off in the air. It’s a place of such safety and such acceptance that it’s impossible to describe. She inspires me to know I am loved beyond measure.
My dad, whom I have a difficult relationship with. I love him deeply but it’s a complex kind of love, often ambivalent. I was starved for the presence of my dad when I was younger: he was often away, because of work, because of the military, because he was deployed. He has experienced a lot of trauma too. I didn’t feel like I was very similar to my dad when I was very little; as I’ve grown older I notice more and more how much I am like him, especially in our turbulent, silent inner turmoil. Altho he struggles with different things than I do, I perceive an enormous kind of “like father, like son” in our ability to isolate ourselves, our reluctance to burden others with our troubles, and our confusion with our own identities. My dad was very young when he and my mom had us; I don’t think he was done growing up. Even now, I don’t think he is done growing up. There is brutal, alienating tension between us nowadays, interspersed by periods of genuine warmth and connection. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.
My dad is a dark subterranean cavern, deep deep deep, dark, quiet. Vaster than even he knows, terrifying at times, exhilarating in discovering what lies beneath. He is full of gems and gold down deep, all of which glitters with light in the middle of the oppressive darkness. My father is my own shadow; at times he inspires me to be a lot like him, to find the same strength he carries, and at times to avoid the same pitfalls and struggles he has encountered.
My young brother. He is incredibly smart, and very alienated. I often wonder if I had a negative influence on him with my own struggles to belong. He deserves so much love and acceptance, but hardly gets it. He bears the brunt as a middle child of carrying many of the burdens that I failed to fulfill as eldest son. I feel a lot of guilt in regards to my little brother. I think I was not a very good guide to him. He is misanthropic, hard, merciless in his honesty. He is also incredibly gentle, sensitive, loving. He is a lion of alienation and a lion of love.
My brother is a comet, far out in space, very alone, dormant, too far from any star to produce that glorious comet-tail. But in time he’ll come close to a star and he’ll become a massive fireball of ice and fire, furious in his spectacle. He inspires me to be greater in every sense: in my capacity to love, to act, to endure, for he as all these qualities and outshines me in every way.
My young sister, who is utterly impossible to capture in mere words. She is incredible, beautiful, brain and heart as huge as a universe. There is no one else like my sister. She is both incredibly gentle, ridiculously empathic and compassionate, and fearsomely strong. She takes no shit. She stands up for the ones she loves. She is, I feel, the best of us. She bears many burdens that I don’t, and struggles, overcomes, struggles again, overcomes again. She is an ocean of strength and beauty. I believe that she has a massive future ahead; I can’t even pinpoint exactly where she’s headed, because I believe she could do anything, and we all would be the better for her being in the world. She is my oldest, greatest friend. There is no one on earth like her.
My sister is the moon. She is grace and beauty and cool intelligence and deep companionship. When the full moon is out you are never alone, even in the darkest night. She has always got you. She inspires me to be my self, every inch of myself. To be me, and to love every part of me.
These are the people I love. These are the people I give thanks to know in my life.
Who do you give thanks for today?