• Emily Win

Family Shows Up.

“If you haven’t seen the latest Jane the Virgin episode, you must watch it,” read a text I received from a good friend last week. This friend wanted me to watch it because she knew an episode titled “Jane the Heteronormative” would spark my interest. While watching Jane discover that her boyfriend is bisexual in the storytelling beauty of a telenovela is fun and dramatic, I caught a morsel of wisdom in the secondary plot. In the midst of Jane’s dating fiasco, her baby daddy comes to stay after being hit by a car and losing all of his money, his love, and his career. After she wakes to check on him in his vulnerable physical and emotional state, he thanks her for all of her help despite their rough history. Her simple reply is, “family shows up.”

Her response echoed in my head for the rest of the day, begging to be written down, reflected on, and thought out. Family shows up. All season I had been reading through many books and devotionals yearning for a verse, line, prayer, or reflection question to jump out and guide me to processing something. I never thought I’d find it in the middle of a Netflix series (for those who don’t know, I’m not a big TV watcher). Family shows up? Indeed Jane, they do.

Yes, two months ago I was hit on my bike by a cargo van that didn’t stop after speeding through an intersection. Immediately I had enough awareness to know I was going to be somewhat okay. The true pain came from isolation, discomfort, and unfamiliarity. Laying on the road alone, riding in the ambulance, and even waiting for my housemates to come to the ER proved to be the scariest parts. I kept thinking “Thank God I have people who care about me enough to come and sit.” My housemates entertained me into the night while texts and calls were rolling in from many loved ones. The next morning my mom showed up and a few days later I was on a flight home, only to be welcomed by flowers, cards, presents, and friends all wishing me well. I had never felt more thankful for my friends and family than in those first few weeks of lifting me, feeding me, showering me, and changing all of my bandages. I often felt myself getting extremely emotional because I knew I needed them all to show up in the ways that they did and I couldn’t offer them anything in return. It was the ultimate test of receiving with open arms. And for that, I really do thank God. This wide open space for receiving and healing left many hours to distract myself away from what was really going on in my head.

About halfway through my healing time at home I FaceTimed with a very good friend to exchange year-of-service stories. When he asked me how I was “really doing” I described my emotional/mental state as “all of the questioning, challenging, and theoretical thoughts of a year of service without any of the fun or joy from my placement or community.” For six weeks I’ve been evaluating my home-self under a microscope: How much have I consumed today? How much is appropriate to spend/eat? Is watching too much TV a sin? What does my annoyance with the small inconvenience of my health tell me about my privileges? Why is it that I am blessed with the ability  to have a “month off” and others are not? What does it mean to have a day off of serving and working towards justice when others are living on the other end? To what extent is control a privilege? Am I really living simply? Should I be giving up more right now? Do I need to change my future plans because they don’t serve any particular need? These are what I call ugly, but important, thoughts. They weigh me down, taunt me, poke at me until I speak back and act up. These past two months have challenged me in more intellectual and emotional ways than I ever thought possible. It is becoming clear to me that the hidden and heavy parts of JVC are in the choices, actions, and thoughts outside of the JVC community (which is the goal of the program…go figure). This whole post-college year-of-service life comes with its obstacles and barriers, but I am always reminded that family (extended and all) shows up to offer gentleness and assurance.

For me, family literally showed up: at the scene of the accident, during the aftermath, and continuously through the days and weeks. The phrase “family shows up” sparks my soul because the sentence implies so much more. Family shows up even if you can’t show up for them. Family shows up even if you haven’t called them in weeks. Family shows up even if you’re in an argument. Family shows up even if it costs thousands of dollars. Family shows up even if it’s across the world. Family shows up even if it means rearranging your schedule. Family shows up even if you think you have complete independence, proving that you don’t.

In the two months I’ve spent healing at home I have felt the power of family showing up. Intense, emotional, crazy, silly, and unconditional, I know now that family will always show up for me even if I’ve done nothing to earn it. There is a bond so much deeper than holidays and vacations, nights out and final exams, that is present in all of my family that shows up for me. So thank you, family (in all of its forms) for showing up and challenging me with unconditional love and comfort.

From one heart to another,