I’ve recently been stuck on this concept of expanding definitions. It’s very much a situation of “I have a hammer [of a concept] and everything is a nail [aka fits into the concept]”. I’m realizing how much freer life is the more you expand definitions of things. Family. Marriage. Health. Happiness. Accomplishment. These massive concepts gloriously explode when you loosen the chains of their definitions.
I’ve been thinking about this more as I try to wrap my head around how best to write a book on surrogacy. I have more half started paragraphs than fully formed ideas than I care to admit at this point. In the spirit of redefining accomplishment, I’ll take it as I’ve at least started when many have stopped or never begun.
I was forced to expand my definition of family at a very early age due to surrogacy – due to my existence being stretched across people, places, and time. Being queer added another apt layer to this saga as the concept of “chosen family” in the queer community so perfectly fit into my surrogacy puzzle. The irony of the word “chosen” is not lost on me seeing as one cannot choose their sexual orientation despite the myth one can. (I still am baffled when people ask why I would “choose” to be gay.) It’s almost as if the queer community purposefully used that word “chosen” as a middle finger-ed response to the concept: I cannot choose my sexual orientation but I can choose who gets to be in my life. It’s an incredible way of reclaiming power over your own narrative and who has power over you. I’ve found it to be equally helpful being queer as it has been being a surrogate baby.
“A chosen family is a group of individuals who deliberately choose one another to play significant roles in each other’s lives. One definition of chosen family is a group of people to whom you are emotionally close and consider ‘family’ even though you are not biologically or legally related. There are many reasons why this concept is of great importance in many queer communities. When most people think of a traditional family, they think of marriage and having children—both of which are exclusive towards or inaccessible to queer individuals. Many queers simply do not have access to these conventional methods of building families.”From “Queer Queries”
Some ideas are easier to redefine and expand than others. Marriage is a locked term and pushing the boundaries upon it in favor of short term love, multiple soul mates, etc. becomes precarious quickly for many. Meanwhile, redefining happiness to be more expansive runs the risk of being lumped in with the accusation my generation (millennial) gets often of the “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. Acting as though anything can make you happy can erode the true moments of happiness and shove you into a box of needing to be happy constantly. Outside of family, the idea of expanding the definition of health has been a recent ah ha moment.
For so long, I’ve anchored my definition of health on athletic ideals to the detriment of my mental health. Health was boiled down very simply to working out, eating healthy, and maybeeeee getting enough sleep. Health has radically transformed for me to encompass being social, having time alone, meditating, going for long walks, getting enough sun (!), sleeping in, choosing to go somewhere on a busy day so I don’t isolate myself, choosing to go somewhere to have time truly alone and in silence, reading books in a hammock for way longer than normal, listening to podcasts for hours on end smiling to myself, writing long letters to long distance friends, calling friends to warm my heart, etc etc etc. I have this incredible definition and relationship to health now that’s beyond my wildest dreams. It nearly broke me to get here but I’m here :). I just want to remain here.
On tough days, my definitions shrink. Happiness. Health. Family. Success. Everything narrows down into this terrible box of limitations, disappointments, and dead ends. The stereotyped definition becomes my reference point and I am so far from a stereotype. The world feels microscopic in the worst way and I return to a state of stumbling through the darkness trying to find the damn light switch yet again to return to myself. I forget how expansive the world can be – how many lives I could live, how many places I’ve experienced, how many people I love, how far I’ve come.
Hey, Anne. I wrote this post for you on those tough days. Here’s the light switch. Turn it on and trust it.