"Happy families are all alike..." and what I think this quote really means

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" 

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

How many times have we all heard this quite famous quote? It is ascribed to so many different things, but what the hell does it really mean, exactly? 

People have been excavating and analyzing this quote for decades. It occurred to me the other day, when talking to my friend Mick, a wonderful therapist : When things are right, they are just RIGHT. They feel right, You are in alignment with your choice to be in this moment-whether it be a relationship, lunch date, job, vacation, family gathering, new outfit-you name it. The experience just "fits," there is no guesswork, no icky, achy feelings inside about it. 

Happy families, I feel, are the same: They just, well, "work." Each one is of course different in its minute, emotional make-up. But, for the most part, those feeling of peace, of being in sync, these feelings are universal feelings. This, in my humble opinion, is exactly what Tolstoy was talking about: Being at peace is uncomplicated, and feels, well, good! Across the board, no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you were brought up with. Dysfunction, disrespect, abuse, neglect in all its many forms-within the context of a family-these are all achingly different, and can be extraordinarily difficult deal with. Unhappiness within the context of the family,  "in its own way," is putting it sort of mildly, right? Of course it is. 

This is just a gentle reminder:  When something does not feel right, but REALLY, does NOT feel congruent with who and what you are, feel and believe in, please-do yourself the service of stepping away, and trusting this feeling, for as long as you can, and go and find the time to reflect on it. (This may also sometimes even be stepping away from your family, if necessary.) 

You can also substitute the word "family" in the quote above for about any other noun you truly care about-including relationships, friendships, careers, gigs, dates, trips, pets...! I'm serious, here! Need a real life situation? Think back to a time your life and friend circle profoundly changed/expanded for the better when you dumped a few energy-sucking people from your life. This is something almost all of us can relate to. Except, it probably took you awhile to disentangle those feelings, and get to the very bottom of it?  But thinking back some more, can't you probably admit that you really DID know from the very get-go that this person was: Crazy, wacky, (insert bad adjective here) ? Of COURSE you did. And you weren't lazy for not cutting the cord on them sooner. You just didn't TRUST YOURSELF ENOUGH TO DO IT!

Please use the coming end of the winter to think about stepping into the spring with a feeling of renewed confidence in your own choices. I promise you, it will be one of the very best decision you will ever make in your life. xo (And with much gratitude to Mick Kubiak for inspiring this post!)