What does family mean?

I’ve been thinking the last few days about how sad it is that we’ve turned facing dysfunctional family patterns during the holidays into a joke in our culture. We even make movies and tv shows about it. It’s so accepted – “normal” – to have bad feelings about your family at the holidays. Or to bite tongues and tolerate unkind, unhealthy, addiction driven, or emotionally violent behavior from people defined as family. Dear Sugar even stated that we have to accept we will “eat shit” when we visit our families at the holidays on their most recent episode. WTF?
 
Aren’t the holidays supposed to be about deeper connection rather than faking it? Is it really necessary to make ourselves smaller to accommodate others just because we are called family? Why do those who desire to be healthier have to be the ones to compromise? Would our families really fall apart if we spoke the truth and figured out how to reconcile, forgive, and connect for real? What kind of family or love it is it if we don’t like each other and/or only make time and space for each other once a year?
 
Isn’t the greatest gift we could give our love and our presence shared from true desire and freedom rather than obligation?
 
I suppose the biggest questions is – What does family mean? Because the definition I often see in action is that family is a group of people connected by blood (or adoption or choice) who are full of dysfunctional patterns that hurt one another all year long, and then come together once or more a year to pretend there isn’t any pain and fake being connected by joy. And that just doesn’t make sense to my heart.

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