Family is a personal topic. One that is ultimately unique from one individual to the next: a real interpretative subject, not limited to blood but embodied by a feeling, I think. A feeling, as if light barrages out of your heart in laughter. Your smile extends the whole length of the globe: embracing the glow in your cheeks of interweaving concentric circles; tiny suns peering over the streets and alleys of your facial contours. In amongst that literary rubbish, is that family ambience. In short: a ‘cushdy’ feeling.
The infamous phenomenon that is Michelle Obama, whom I can’t give a deserving enough introduction (as if she requires one), once said ‘we should have three friends in our lives: one who walks ahead and whom we look up to and follow; one who walks beside us, who is with us every step of our journey; and then, one who we reach back for and bring along after we’ve cleared the way’. Perhaps this doesn’t have an exclusive application to friends and can be transferred to family also? Maybe even not just for individual people but for separate communities or passions of yours, that provide you with the feeling described above. After all, family are the friends whom we feel unwavering love for.
Arguably, the first friend is the inspiration – a label that shouldn’t be taken lightly and yet also is a quality that harbours itself in forms and states of any dimension – shape, size, form, figure – non-discriminative and completely up to you… an inclusive liberty for anyone and everyone. It’s simply up to you, who you picture in this way.
The second friend – the staple of affinity, described, as it seems here, as an equal. Not an equal in the way that some measure equality – via comparison and some sort of cruel measuring system. Not height, weight, or length. Not a quantity that needs to be worked out like a maths sum. Not a religion, race, culture, sex or age. No, none of the above – which seems like an inundation of pessimism and personifies exactly what this ‘equal’ comparison does: pointing out the ‘negatives’ that in fact, without, the first friend could not thrive. Is someone an inspiration if they are exactly like you? Or is it the fact that their qualities aren’t parallel to yours, that you admire them? There’s no green-eyed monster, jealousy is merely a non-existent party. You don’t aspire to be identical to them You can appreciate them and not yearn to be their exact reflection. The first friend, ladies and gentlemen.
This camaraderie of ‘a fellow passenger to the grave’ perhaps is an application of what is meant here with the second friend, however. Equal in ‘the content of your character’, a phrase taken by the pioneering voice of Martin Luther King. A fulcrum of compassion and consideration. Similarly, the third friend is, to me, not intended for a literal interpretation. They are the people we respect to such a degree that we protect and nurture them unconditionally.
I say people here, as an umbrella term, but this may not be the case. Your family is not going to be the same as another’s, but the feelings of inspiration, affinity and respect may resonate with every person who has one. It could be a single person; it could be a club. Blood or not, a community, a home for your heart to rest.
The reasoning behind this, I suppose, is that as some people lose their footing and the myopia of a mental health murkiness overtakes them: family can seem to feel like a detachment. How can you feel those three fundamentals for someone else, when you don’t even have those feelings towards yourself? What I would say, is that what separates family from any other thing entirely, is that their feelings of inspiration, affinity and respect – ultimately love – are stubborn. In the best of ways: if you don’t feel those things towards yourself, your family feel a love for you, even more relentlessly.
For when you feel like your family is far away, remember these final words courtesy of the ingenious Charlie Mackesy – ‘“sometimes I feel lost”, said the boy. “Me too,” said the mole, “but we love you, and love brings you home.”’ Inspiration. Affinity. Respect. Family – an indescribable amalgamation of all three.
People to talk to that will shine a light on mental health matters better than I: