Chosen family

At 57 I found myself on my own, trying to rebuild my shattered finances. I spent a lot of time envisioning a lonely old age, probably holed up in a shabby room somewhere. No one to play with. No one to notice if I didn’t open my door for a week.

You get the drift. Overactive imagination focusing on black holes instead of sun-drenched fields. Even during the darkest hours of that difficult transition, I had resources. Come to think of it, they were pretty considerable. Yes, the money situation was troubling, but I hadn’t lost the skills acquired over a lifetime. I hadn’t lost the scattered friends and family either.

Linda and Cathryn

Linda was one of the first people to befriend me in Oakland, California

Still, I was starting over. I didn’t know anyone in the California city I moved to when I caught wind of a job that seemed tailor-made for me. When I returned to Canada fifteen months later, to a new job in a new city, I knew no one. I counted transitions. The Kelowna apartment I was heading for was my 33rd home in my 24th city since my birth in Los Angeles.

Once again I was starting over in an unfamiliar place and with no circle of friends. But when I looked back I saw a whole lot of shining orbs. Somehow I had ended up loving every place I lived, not always because of its exceptional beauty but because of the exceptional people who’d come into my life. After so many moves, I realized I’d become pretty adept at starting over. I knew I’d find friends.


Some of the Kelowna trekkers

Those transitions are on my mind tonight, as I reflect on all the social events my partner and I are looking forward to over the holidays and in the months after. Robin has lived in Kelowna 42 years. I’ve been here five and a half. We’ve been together all but one year of that. His friends have embraced me. Mine have embraced him. We’ve made new friends. Now they are “our” friends instead of “his” and “hers”.

Some of us have been here all or most of our lives. Others are recent transplants. We come from countries around the world, but we all feel at home here. We invite each other for dinner and events, support each other through illnesses and sorrows. We check on anyone who doesn’t show up when we expect them.

We’re like pieces of a shifting human puzzle, creating beautiful patterns as we meet around our varying interests. We are fortunate to be connected. Our lives are enriched because of all we share.

Various life paths have brought us together. We have no crystal balls but know the only certainty in life is change. Right now we count our blessings and know how lucky we are.

We are not alone. We are chosen family.

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16 comments for “Chosen family

  1. Carrie and Wayne
    December 15, 2010 at 9:12 am

    We’re so lucky to be part of your lives! :o)

  2. December 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    You are a delightful part of our chosen family.

  3. Tess
    December 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    okay crying again… !!

  4. Carol Mason
    December 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Ah, dear Cathryn, how special are the words that you so caringly share. And how many across the world treasure your great heart. We are indeed the members of one great family, extended now with greater ease due to this technology. And so great love such as you continually express reaches out to your extended family (and returns to you)…wherever all may be. How fortunate we all are to live in a time when previously accepted barriers to understanding are able to be lifted and the great beauty of seeing what is most important and common to us all may be understood. To you both, may your Christmas be blessed and may the New Year continue to bless us with your wisdom. And may your Christmas gift reach the others who spend it with just the beauty of themselves as company.

  5. December 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    You weren’t ever ever alone. In Hazelton we were waiting for you to return, not just to Canada, but to B.C., and particularly to the sort of North, but we are very happy to settle for Kelowna and hearing from you and being part of your life, even though it has been a while since we laid eyes on you!! Love you tons and wish you the best Christmas ever. Take good care.

  6. Michelle
    December 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    While you can’t pick your family – you can pick your chosen family, which seem to make those connections all the more special. 🙂 xo

  7. peggy
    December 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    indeed we can not pick or choose family we are thrust upon each other
    like toys from santa claus now it is our job to carefully pick them check them maybe dust them off if need be,put on a shelf if it is meant to the toy will soon have a face of long-ago a heart of gold with a tinge of softness the look in the eyes toward the future to where we go and a look into the past to see from where began and regardless we can truly know that every mile we have crossed thus far , every friend, family member is right where we are to be at this very moment
    happiest of holidays to you and robin

  8. December 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Beautiful. And to read between the lines…so much life lived….causes me pause.

    Thanks for this lovely snippet…

  9. December 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks, Carol. Your comment means a lot to me.

  10. December 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I love your comments, Peggy. They are like poetry and full of insight and wisdom.

  11. December 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    And for those of us who haven’t stayed in one place or been able to move closer to family, trusting the connections keeps us anchored.

  12. December 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    My eyes filled with tears when I read your comment, dear Alice. All through the confusing years when I was bouncing around like a rubber ball, I always knew you were there – and that made all the difference.

  13. December 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Your words touch me deeply, Carol. I am such an admirer of your writing and photography so am doubly honoured by your words here.

  14. December 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Oh, Tess, no wonder I love you! 🙂

  15. December 20, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Hi Cathryn, I am so pleased you wrote this post, you have given me hope in my life, I have hit rock bottom in my life and having to start all over again. It is so true we can find a chosen family when our given family seem alien to us. Life can become very daunting indeed. I am so blessed you are my friend and I wish you and your friends blessings. Love Nanette xoxo

  16. December 21, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Re-forging identity out of the shards of our shattered lives is something most of us will experience, some of us repeatedly. It’s so darned painful, but we meet angels along the way. I can’t pretend to understand the mysterious workings of the universe, but one of those mysteries is how people come into our lives when we need them. I’m grateful we’ve come into each others’ lives.

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