Here is something about me that probably won’t surprise you. One of the values I hold closer to my heart is the importance of family. As a born and raised South American, I had the privilege of growing up within a culture that values and emphasizes family. When my family and I first moved to Canada, we began to compare our culture to the Canadian culture. Something that I think is common to do when you are new somewhere. You try to find commonalities and by default, you also find differences. We were amazed at the level of organization and cleanliness the city had and we were very impressed with services such as free health care and education. These are aspects of that our country, Colombia, could learn much from. But we also noticed almost immediately that families did not seem as connected and as bonded as we knew them to be back home. We had friends who hardly saw their parents, siblings that didn’t speak to each other and others who had not seen their cousins, aunts and uncles since last Christmas. This was shocking to us.
One of the first places in which pretty much all of us volunteered shortly after our arrival was at old age homes. We could not believe that there were so many “grandparents” aging alone. This wrinkled our hearts and moved us to the point that we were happy to do something about it. At the core of every south American family there are the grandparents and we say that they are the “glue” that keeps families together. From that center, the family circle grows to siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins. I personally grew up seeing all of my aunts and uncles every weekend at the cottage (one weekend was with my mom’s side of the family and the other with my dad’s side of the family). And for that reason, today, as a grown woman, I feel very connected to all 32 of my cousins and my 24 aunt and uncles. In fact, if you ask me what I miss the most about home, I will always conclude the same: I miss my family.
As time goes by and we continue to live in this beautiful country, we have gotten used to the differences in culture and we have grown closer to the families of our spouses, as they are like the extension of the family we miss. Both, my sister and I married into families whose cultures are also family oriented. My sister’s in-laws are Italian, and they all get together on Sundays for dinner (and by all, I mean, the grandparents, their siblings, the aunts, the uncles and even some cousins). On my end, my husband is French-Canadian and his family is also large and very united. We see his parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother almost on a weekly basis.
You may be wondering why am I writing about this subject today. Well, yesterday morning, I went for brunch with my sister and her family. As we were enjoying our coffees and chatting about our up-coming week and how busy we were all going to be, I reflected on the fact that we are almost always busy, yet we do our best to make time for family reunions. I had to stop and reflect on this for a moment. Other than following cultural traditions, why is it that we are so attached to spending time with the family? Why does that matter so much to us?
I arrived to the conclusion that when we are surrounded by family, we feel a sense of belonging. We feel that despite everything that may be going on in our lives (professionally or personally) we have a link to some special people that no matter what, are there for us. That sense of belonging and attachment is a very rich source of self-esteem, happiness, self-confidence and for most of us, those random meetings raise our vital energy to a high vibration, leaving us feeling happy and complete.
Sometimes it would be easier to not make that phone call, to skip that lunch, to not answer that text, yet when we actually put in the effort to connect to our families, the people that remind us where we come from, where we belong to, we feel a sense of togetherness that brings joy.
I am aware that there are many dysfunctional families out there, and that for some, the getting closer to family would be more damaging than helpful. I am sure that if that is your case, you probably already have a group of friends that feel like family. So reach out to them, invest in those relationships because those are the invisible cords that keep us emotionally healthy.
I am here to urge you to connect to whoever you call family, because that connection can help you in more ways that you may imagine. I know we often use distance as an excuse. But with today’s technology you can see the faces of those you love by pressing one simple button on your phone. I am one of five siblings. Only my sister and parents live in Ottawa. My three brothers are all over the world, yet you can ask me any day what my brothers are up to on that particular day and I will be able to tell you. Why? Because we have a family chat via text where we greet each other every morning, send photos of what we are doing and share one positive word for the day. I also have gotten used to the habit of Face-timing my brothers once a week, so I can see and chat with my nieces and nephews, because the last thing I want is for them to forget that they have an aunt named Olga ;) But to be honest, half the time they are more excited to see my dogs than they are to see me.
I rule my family connections by a concept I learned through meditation: “this day could be your last day”. This reflection makes me not want to waste time being upset over little things and motivates me to reach out to them and tell them how much they mean to me. Because maybe, today is my last day, and I want to make it count.
I hope that by reading this blog, you feel somewhat inspired to put more emphasis on your family connections or to keep giving them importance. Because they are not only incredibly beneficial to you, but also to all of those around you.
As for my family, if you are reading this, know what I love you more than words can express and I am infinitely thankful to have your presence in my life. Your existence alone, makes feel complete and joyful.