**Warning: This will be a slightly meandering post.**

For years and years now I've been truly blessed to have some of the best friends a person could ask for. Beyond close friends, these are the people that I consider my chosen family. I said recently in a quote that "family is more than bloodline", and that is something that I have felt since long before I ever read that quote.

Through High School and after I've had the amazing luck and joy of having at least one really close friend whom I could confide in, lean on, and trust. Someone that I could simply just be me around. In the past few years I've taken stock of those people, and have been amazed that they are still around. For the longest time it felt like I would make new and close friends only to lose them... have them fall away... after time. LIke it was just how life is.. you lose the people closest to you..

What I have come to truly understand

in the last year or two is that it's not the true and close friends that fall away, it's the temporary ones that do. Temporary by either their design, the stars, or my own... who knows. They were and are people that are important to me and whom I needed at that point in my life and then we moved on. But instead of seeing it as an internal fault of my own it is simply just how life works.

The more telling thing to me has been the continued affection and care I have not just for those that went away, despite my better judgement at times, but the continued loyalty and care I've been shown by those who I've not given nearly enough credit over the years.

Some of these people I've lived over 800 or even 2000 miles from for a period passing nearly 7 years now, and yet the bond is no weaker. We go weeks... months... without talking and yet pick up right where we left off. No diminishment of love and care, just picking up right as though there was no break in communication. And now I've a new chosen family, not to the exclusion of others, but simply a new group of members that are local and very important to me.

The hardest part of being in a friendship for me has always been that I have an extremely difficult time understanding the affection and care that is shown to me. It's always raised two automatic internal reactions, one being great appreciation, and the other extreme confusion. I can plainly see these wonderful peoples good points, and even some of the bad (though the bad is irrelevant since it's not really bad, just... different), and feel truly enriched by their kindness and company. And to that kindness an intense bond of loyalty becomes part of my second nature.

The trouble comes though when I've tried to grasp the concept of what on earth they could ever see in me. So twisted and screwed up is my self image in my own head that to allow for the concept of anyone truly knowing me and still liking me is just beyond all reason.

There are things in my life that I know I am good at, but in my head they are irrelevant. There are aspects of myself that I do like, but again feel irrelevant and nothing compared to those around me. There is a dark and scared side of me that has had such a death grip on me for so many years, that I don't know if I will ever shake it. The part of me that has taken comfort in the idea that one day, one year, I could just make all the pain stop and put an end to the masquerade. That at some point the mask will crumble and the self perceived faults all be seen truly and that I can just simply walk away from it all.

For more than 15 years now, at least once a week if not once a day, the thought of a final exit has crossed my mind. Never in relation to any one situation, or rarely so, just a random thought. For many years that scared me...especially the 10 or so years that it was daily. And then at some point it became a comforting thought... And THAT really did scare me. And so I gave up the solitary struggle and started seeing a shrink and got medicate to help balance the bipolar bit of me. The dark thought still hasn't gone away, but it's not nearly as constant anymore. Or at least I'm not nearly so aware of it that it becomes a focal moment in my mind.

I'm not sure I can put into perspective the feeling of it, not for people who've never personally experienced it. Sure it was there when things seemed bad, when the bipolar cycle went to hell and back. But it was also there as a celebrant in times of happiness when things were going my way. Somehow not detracting from it but enhancing the moment. All in some way or form an idea of an end to the internal pain and to the guilt of being a burden on those friends that I care so much about.

Because for me, I've always felt like that's what I am... a burden. That no matter how many times these wonderful people reached out to spend time with me, to communicate, that it couldn't possibly be of friendship/love as equals but that it was in sympathy for the broken toy in the corner... I recently came across a post on Facebook that had an image that was startlingly personal to the internal feelings I've had for so long and still struggle with. The subsequent comments opened an interesting dialogue, not just between friends but for me within me. (Click Here To View It).

I've never felt like I could allow myself to have pride in the things I feel are good about me. The skills, traits, etc.. I grew up in a region that still very much says that all those things are negated and or irrelevant if you're not a straight good ol' confederate male who spends every last second regurgitating scripture even if you don't understand them. My family was not like this, not totally and not with such intensity. My scars were not born of my immediate family, but of the society and region we lived in. I still struggle with this which is what makes it so hard for me to feel any form of self confidence that might be visible to others, let alone accept a compliment. Something I still have to put great effort into doing without being rude or refusing it immediately.

All of these things happening at once, for years on end. Hearing from truly wonderful people that I am NOT worthless, that there is merit in my life and in my being in theirs. That I am NOT a burden, no matter how much I feel like one. And still at 30, having only dated twice in my life (both horrible relationships) and not at all in over 10 years. Still struggling to accept the most basic of compliments, not to mention any attention that might get paid my direction, struggling to make any sense out of it when it just eludes me to the point of near insult to the people showing me such kindness.

The door behind which my most vulnerable of parts of my heart, the door behind which self esteem, self worth, and hope; that door has been locked and sealed so tightly for so long that I'd simply given up on ever seeing behind it again. I'd made my peace with it. And Still have to be honest, should I never get it to open fully.

Up until just this last week I had resigned myself that even with therapy and meds' and good friends and family, I'd never see behind that door again. And as sad as that sounds, I was ok with it. The scared angry wounded inner child had come to terms with this.

Before I go on, I should note that there are some long time friends who will read this and wonder, why didn't I have this impact on him... and for that I've no answer beyond this. I think that somehow in our own mutually damaged ways, and sometimes not mutual, we had accepted each other without verbalizing it, without making a specific request of the other to be considered family. We just did it and never really talked about it. Which is fine and wonderful to have such an unspoken bond, a bond that needs no discussions. And honestly it is those bonds that are the only reason the darker side of me hasn't won out in its idea of comfort.

This is all lead up and background to try to explain the impact of what happened recently.

A few years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting a very talented artist. She understood me, and even knew how to take my ideas and turn them into reality when I wasn't even able to fully put them into words. During all of this she became more and more of a friend in my eyes. Someone whom I could share the pain with on a more personal level, someone who understood and knew the importance of letting the self imposed pressure out at critical times. And someone who did not see these things as failings or weaknesses but as reasons to like me more, that I was not an outsider, not fake, not totally the wall and mask that I so desperately try to maintain.

In the years since our meeting we've shared a great deal of things about our lives, pains and joys, and like myself, I'm sure we've both only scratched the surface. Some scratches deeper than others.

I've considered myself very lucky to have found this person. In fact I've found a few people in the last few years who have become so very important to me. But for some reason in this case there was a moment that I've not had before.

They asked me if they could call me brother, not like the generic religious brother, or just the flippant dismissive brother, but brother in the sense of family and a close connection. They were asking ME to be their family. After the kindness and generosity of this wonderful person, I didn't think I could be set to speechless twice in one week, but that did it.

It took a day or two for it to really sink in. I'm not sure it fully has yet or not. But something in that request, the act of directly requesting, it did something that I've not experienced before. It hit that sealed vault door like a battering ram the size of Montana. And in that impact the door creaked open just a bit, the seal broken. A sliver of light seeping in.

I'm still not entirely sure how to process it all, and the effect it has had. Something in that somehow gave me permission to look and see the positive and not discount it as self delusion, to actually welcome it back in some form. To start to embrace it again.

Ever mindful that I don't want to head down a road of arrogance and inflated self worth, I am traveling this path with extreme caution, I don't know that I could ever truly arrive at full acceptance let alone the teenage mask of arrogance I once wore so well, so far torn down I have been on the inside... I am trying to keep my mind focused on this new experience and not let the distractions that have been my survival from the dark take over again. It's a surprising effort to not let that door close again.

I don't know if I will EVER open it fully, or even enough to step inside that vault... but for the first time in nearly 20 years... there is a possibility. One that to my mind, and my heart, has never existed before.

Life is funny how just when you think you've got so much of it figured out, another aspect comes along and just throws you off stride like a charging buffalo. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to adequately repay the enormity of this opportunity, but I'm going to spend a very long time trying.

And so my chosen family has grown, and once again I am all the richer for it. Richer in spirit and in happiness.

From Mando'a to English Characters: "Aliit ori'shya tal'din"  

From Mando'a to English: "Family Is More Than Bloodline"