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If Family is Everything, What Happens When Yours isn’t Healthy?

It’s an odd experience learning how to accept nurturance as an adult. I feel like I’m 30 years behind and finally learning to experience allowing. It’s like the emotional equivalent of trying new foods in a foreign country that are completely unfamiliar to my palate.

In the past few years, I started experiencing allowing (a state of receiving where I allow myself to be taken care of without expecting to reciprocate). I don’t have to do anything to “be good enough.” I just let love in because I deserve it simply by being alive. This past weekend, I was able to see how allowing felt in a healthy, functioning family.

Exhaling after my stay in Portland

Like many others, I grew up in a family where animosity was the norm. Although I never doubted my parent’s love, neither one of my main caretakers were of the nurturing sort.

Staying with a childhood best friend’s family last week,  it was kind of like traveling back in time. I saw what it would have been like to grow up in a family where morning coffee pots are renewed just to keep up the flow of conversation. We shared late night snacks together and talked through each tidbit of the happenings of each day.

Love was a palpable and free-flowing exchange, the expected form of emotional currency. There was a visceral sense of nurturing, and every moment turned into an excuse to share an update on daily affairs. I found myself in a home where a good-natured joke or a friendly smile communicated care even more effectively than words could capture.


Tiny Heather
Tiny Heather, approximately age Three

As I opened up to allowing myself to feel the wholeness of a loving family, my attention was pulled towards the little me who desperately longed for nurturance but at some point deemed it unsafe to receive. We often forget how a few moments, hours or days of generosity may be the only experience that someone else has of things that we take for granted.

I am proud to say I’m an extremely kind-hearted person, in part because I have truly suffered in my life and know what it is like to feel basic emotional need.

Please allow this letter to be an invitation to show kindness in every opportunity possible.

In my experience, the first step to being able to fully give from my heart started when I learned how to value my ability to contribute to the world. This required a shift from seeing myself as a selfish, unimportant individual, to realizing my potential for doing incredible good in the world.

By going through this bittersweet experience, I was able to learn more about how to give and receive love. My take away was how we’re all capable of offering our best and that is a beautiful gift to give.Giving and receiving can come in many forms. In this case, my friend opened her home to me, which was an amazing experience to receive . You don’t have to host me or anyone else for a week – there are a million different ways to be generous with what we have! Perhaps one person chooses to donate their money to someone who is hungry, or another gives a smile to a stranger walking down the street. We can give in a million different ways, what do you want to give the world today?