Family ties. When I was living in Boulder I got a letter from a Vermillion cousin I didn't know. Both my parents had close to a dozen siblings in their depression era families and everyone had kids. I doubt I ever met even a quarter of my first cousins, let alone those more remote or removed. She probably got my address from one of the Christmas letters my folks sent out every year. She was inviting me to a Vermillion family reunion somewhere in Arizona the coming summer. She'd written in plenty of time. It was still months away. I had less than no interest in attending such a gathering. I wrote back something vague about commitments and summer being a busy time but thanks anyway. I got a reply that flat out flabbergasted me. She took a downright menacing tone, warning me that if I didn't make time for this once-in-a-generation event there would be dire consequences. I would be drummed out of the family or some such. I never replied, and I never heard another peep out of her or any of them. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome.
A necessary evil. That's my take on families. Parents are a biological necessity, but large families and extended families are holdovers from the mesolithic era, when a strong extended family or clan favored survival. For me, when it comes to family, less is decidedly more. My siblings were most valuable to me before I was born: they gave my parents lots of experience in parenting and softened them up. I caught comparatively little of the draconian discipline they grew up with. My place as a replacement for the dear departed Stevie strongly reinforced that. They had all moved out by the time I was ten leaving me the de facto only child. I liked it that way. I loved my sibs (well, Tim…), but the extended family always seemed awkward and pointless. I went along for the visits for as long as I had to growing up then dropped them all like a hot papa. My dislike for families extends to clubs and organizations of all kinds. My only membership is in the guild of partner dancers, and guilds are different, based on skill. A guild is a meritocracy. Partner dancers are my family of choice. There are plenty of weird uncles and dubious cousins in my dance family, but I feel related to them all, savory and un. I find I enjoy some group socializing with dancers as long as there's a dance involved. This is a change for me. I used to avoid socializing even at dances, pleading introversion. Maybe dance is finally softening me up a little.
Sentimentality sucks. As I look over what I've written about my family I can see it's tainted with sentimentality. Now that I've gone through this internal critique of my family relationships I suspect future edits will cure that. There's nothing good about being sentimental. Hitler, mafiosi and serial killers are all famously sentimental; that's enough of a clue. It's mental, based on memories, words and images. It's in the realm of emotions, not feelings. I have to overcome sentimentality. That's part of making progress with love.
Guilds and granfalloons. A granfalloon is a group of people who consider themselves connected for some meaningless reason. Most granfalloons seem to hinge on drug use, especially booze. They're just gangs of drunks supporting each other in mutual drunkenness. A guild is a group of people who share a certain skill. Sharing skill in music or dance makes it possible to join with another or others to create art. That's the only kind of association that actually means anything because art is an important element in the spiritual quest. Groups anyone can join, or join via an accident of birth are granfalloons. I'm deluding myself if I think being part of those groups has value. That includes my family once I'm launched. I still had affection for my family but as I worked my way through my twenties I lost all interest in doing things with them or just hanging out, except when that got artificially revived in my marriage. Marriage was a useful misadventure, a quixotic quest to reinstitute family ties by getting adopted into my wife's family. Did not fly.
The spectrum of connection. There's a spectrum of ways to connect or attempt to connect with my fellow humans. They range from genuine and direct at one end to social media at the other. Love is the model for all human connections: the simple direct connection I have with a lover or dear friend. I used to think that only with a lover could I have the kind of direct connection I long for. Partner dancing expanded my horizons. I can have rich physical intimacy and friendship with any number of partners. All that's required is we both want it, we each love to dance with the other. We love to hold each other in our arms and move together in the embrace of partner dancing. That's a sweet connection.