We all have blood ties to our immediate relations. This bond is one that we do not choose. We are born with these attachments, just as we are born into a certain religion and race. I love my blood family dearly but have also created a family of choice. These people I chose and they chose me. The bonds that we created have been based on mutual respect and willingness to be present. It is hard work that never seems to end yet it remains totally worth it.
I was 13 when I met a group of woman at a prayer circle. At the time, I was incredibly reserved and terribly uncomfortable in my own skin. I watched them share from their hearts and connect fully with one another. This exchange terrified and intrigued me. I desperately wanted to be able to attach with such ease and yet I found it nearly impossible. Luckily, these women simply loved me through it. They were inclusive, kind and patient with me as I learned how to interact. This group was my first family of choice. I was engulfed in their tender grandmother energy; it was the medicine I needed at the time.
A few years later, I was taken to another prayer ceremony, in which I met a dynamic woman. Upon meeting her, she ran up and gave me hug, looked me directly in the eyes and said I’m glad to see you. This display changed my life. I learned later that it was the gift of intimacy that she had given me. Though I was timid and unsure, I knew instantly that I wanted to learn how to be like that. I wanted to walk up to people and let them know that they mattered just by making eye contact. For the next few years, I followed her around. If she was going somewhere, I was there. Throughout this time, I asked many questions, went many places and learned many things. She became my Auntie in many ways. Her presence in my life kept me accountable, as long as I was following her around I was not getting into trouble. This interaction would be the foundation for the life I have now.
When I turned 18, I moved to Arkansas. It was an experience I needed to have and nothing was going to change to my mind. At 21, I returned home broken and confused. The decisions I had made were poor, their effects were devastating and I felt completely alone. I was too ashamed to call upon my family of choice, so they called on me. The first call I received was an invitation to the prayer circle, I was welcome and wanted, One Grandma told me. Honestly, I didn’t understand. At the time, I did not want me, and I was leery of those that did. Still, I showed up. As I walked in I was overcome with love, those grandmothers took me in their arms and once again loved me well. That same evening my Auntie was also in attendance, it was if no time had passed and no mistakes had been made. Each of them welcomed me back into their homes, their lives and their hearts. Though I did not deserve such kindness, they gave it regardless. My family of choice has often been my saving grace. When I fall, they catch me. When I cannot love myself they do so for me. When I forget who I am, their smiles and trust remind me.