Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 4: Chosens

Cabin, Bayou Segnette State Park, Louisiana. Pre-Katrina.

On Build thus far

Word of the Year 2020: Build 1
Word of the Year 2020: Build 2
Word of the Year 2020: Build 3: "House"

While drafting Build 3, I found the Psychology Today article, Finding Connection Through "Chosen" Family. A nice definition for chosen family that the author gleaned from another source: 

According to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Marriage, Family, and Couples Counseling, chosen families are non-biological kinship bonds, whether legally recognized or not, deliberately chosen for the purpose of mutual support and love.” The term originated within the LGBTQ community and was used to describe early queer gatherings like the Harlem Drag Balls of the late nineteenth century.

Perhaps this counseling term of art, "chosen family" - in vanilla US culture - arose from the specific history above, but humans have been creating chosen families since the beginning of time, I reckon.

Cabin, Leroy Percy State Park, Mississippi. December 2011.


For life lessons on how to age richly, I've got role models in friends and family members at least a decade older than me.

My role models have taught me how I do want to age and how I don't want to age.

How I do want to age is to carry a positive view on life and be engaged in life. If I were to put a 12-step spin on it, my aim is to be happy, joyous, and free. .... And, oh yeah: to maintain every right to self-determination for as long as I can.

What my positive role models for aging have in common:
  • Active participation in a circle of friends who give each other tangible and intangible support in difficult times
  • Active participation in a special-interest community that encourages relationship-building, such as one built around fun, service, faith, 12-step program, the arts, or activism, etc.  
  • A "yes" default setting - remaining open to, even seeking out, new ideas, music, arts, perspectives, and ways of doing things

Cow Cabin, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas. March 2010.

What my negative role models for aging have in common: 
  • An insularity of thought, experiences, and relationships - in other words, they have chosen to live in a closed system that can only contract as time goes on, as the members of their restricted circle of intimates begin to die off or move or become unable to interact
  • A "no" default setting - a reluctance to engage with new people, experiences, or ideas
  • Inertia - being unwilling and, after a certain point, unable to take actions that might enrich their physical, mental, or spiritual selves

My positive role models have built, I don't know, let's say, additional "houses."

So many folks have fraught families of origin. If such is one's only "house," it is almost a sure thing to get sucked into a dystopian worldview.

Building additional "houses" gives us access to more ways of thinking about how to live a life, wisdom from others about how they dealt with problems we're dealing with in the present, reality testing from more neutral intimates than fraught family members, accountability buddies to keep us going with habits we're trying to adopt, and soft places to land when we feel overwhelmed.

The idea of building houses outside of my family's "house" is the antithesis of how I was raised. Throughout childhood, and even today, the message has been: All you need is your family.

Building houses for chosen families: I'm studying the blueprints these days.

Acadian-style cabin, Louisiana. July 2015.

No comments: