Upholding Framily Values
As someone who has been orphaned twice – once by my biological parents and more recently by the death of my parents – and who just went through a divorce, I’ve been thinking a lot about what family means to me.
I no longer fit the definition of a traditional family, but that just makes me part of an overall U.S. trend. Ward and June Cleaver are becoming the exception, not the rule.
Still, as traditional families splinter, they need to be replaced with something. We may no longer need the official bonds of mom-dad-2.5 kids to create a family, but we all still need connections.
In fact, the key to aging well isn’t a healthy diet, exercise or abstaining from cigarettes (though all those are good ideas). It’s social connection. Having a strong network of friends, family, colleagues and neighbors is what give us resilience and the emotional support we need to make it through the tough times.
I may not be a part of a traditional family anymore (though I still lavish more than enough attention on my son), but I make my “framily” a priority. They are the friends who have become the axis of my social life. There are no blood ties, but I rely on them – and they on me – to help me navigate the good days and bad.
We all need framily, especially if we no don’t have actual family around, or if those bonds are strained beyond repair. Our framily can be friends, neighbors, pets, even work colleagues.
As we get older, it can be difficult to create and maintain the social ties that keep us healthy and happy. And to make matters worse, technology has made social isolation easier than ever.
When I was a kid, very few people isolated themselves because, frankly, it was too boring. There were only three or four TV channels and no internet to provide hours of distractions. In 2017, though, you don’t ever have to leave your house if you don’t want to. Amazon can deliver just about anything you can conceive of, Blue Apron can bring you groceries, and the unholy trinity of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon can bring you an unlimited stream of entertainment to your iPad.
But that doesn’t change the fact that we need most is other people.
So if you’re feeling disconnected, host a game night. Invite a girlfriend over for grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. Join a book club or a hiking group. Don’t give in to the urge to isolate.
Family is what you make it, and life is too glorious to live it alone.