A few weeks ago Bloody Good Bloke sent me a video he’d made that made me burst into tears.
The video was of his Nona and Dida — his Croatian grandparents — some of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever encountered. BGB was in Sydney visiting his family.
[📷 Photo credit: Jarrod Bryant. Jarrod did a family photoshoot and captured this exact moment I met the family for the first time!]
Nona kicks off the video.
“Hello darling. We were so looking forward to seeing you, but [BGB] assured us that you’ll be coming down soon. We’re enjoying having some fish in the sun with [BGB], and see you soon darling, miss you!”
Dida chimes in: “Hi Andrea, Nona said nearly everything what I wanted to say, next time I’ll need to be the first one to talk” he laughs, “How you going? We’re having a good fun with [BGB], next time we hope with you too, we love you, we love [BGB], we’re going…”
Non interrupts Did mid-sentence – “Show her your new slippers!” she cries excitedly.
Did, rolling his eyes good naturedly, kicks up one Kmart slipper, laughing- “See my new slippers I bought – by a designer!”
They laugh and joke playfully with each other throughout the video – as they do always.
I cried a surprising amount when BGB sent me the video.
And did a little solo jig around in the hammock I was unsuccessfully attempting to work from.
It made me feel so loved and welcomed into their family, even though I’m only new in their world. BGB and I have only been together a year, and much of my face time with his family has been via Facetime! The first 6 months of our relationship was spent in various states of Covid lockdown (see: A romantic camping trip… to my balcony)!
I had been assuming that BGB’s family would be happy I wasn’t there so they could have him to themselves for a change.
I watched the video another 4 times, then sent it to my mum, who also cried
and said “Gosh, aren’t they beautiful!?” I’ve since rewatched it at least 15 times, anytime I feel like doing a joy jig.
Spending time with BGB’s family has been the most beautiful experience.
I have never felt so warmly accepted, cared for and so un-judged upon meeting new people, ever.
Almost immediately I felt safe to be completely myself around all of BGB’s family, not just his Non and Did.
When I first met the family, we stayed for a week, during which time BGB’s mum went wayyyyy out of her way to adapt all her usual recipes to make them safe for my coeliac-self.
She took on gluten contamination awareness faster than I’ve ever seen anyone do before.
“Hummus Andrea… you can eat that right? I’ve put some in a clean bowl, I’ll hide it over here for you so no one dips any of the bread in it. Also I’ve made you some gluten free gozleme.” (The actual best GF food item I’ve ever tasted – I’m now obsessed with GF gozleme, having previously never had one before!)
As we drove away from a week-long stay with BGB’s family I found myself unexpectedly crying happy-sad tears (BGB immediately snapped a photo of my teary face and sent it to the family Whatsapp group, he thought it was hilarious!).
Within one visit, I somehow felt like I was leaving my own family, and I laughed at myself for getting emotional about people I’d only met and stayed with for one week.
BGB’s family is like that, they seem to warmly love and accept anyone who arrives in their family — sibling’s partners, friends (with 7 brothers and sisters – there are many!), business acquaintances, people they meet on the street.
The guy who services their cars walks in through the perpetually-unlocked front door and is immediately invited to join all 20 of us for dinner, which he seems completely unsurprised by.
In my younger years, I went into meeting my boyfriends’ families with my invisibility cloak on.
I’d observe what they were like, then chameleon myself into whatever it was that I thought they wanted from me.
With BGB’s family, I immediately felt safe to be my weird, blunt self. It felt as though they would accept me and try to see the best in me, however I showed up.
It made me think… why don’t we all do this for each other?
What if we all went into every interaction with the intention to make the other person feel accepted and encouraged to be their full selves. What if we put our mind’s automatic judgments to one side and tried to see the best in everyone we meet?
We so often go into social interactions wondering whether we’ll be liked, that we forget to make the other person feel good.
I suspect this might be really obvious to many of you, but to me it feels like a revelation.
I’ve started trying to really understand and see where everyone is coming from when I meet them, rather than allowing the inevitable judgements of my mind to colour my perception.
I’ve also been practicing something I learnt off my grandma — to compliment people about the beautiful qualities I can see in them.
My grandma Heather complimented people all over the place – people she’d walk past in the street, in supermarket queues, her doctor, her family and friends – anyone really. It was a joy to be around her.
She was also blunt, hilarious, and said exactly what she thought. Which often included something along the lines of:
“Ohhhhh, darling! Aren’t you beautiful!?”
Or the boyfriend treatment — inspecting my boyfriend while looking at me:
“Daaarling, isn’t he handsome!? Great teeth too! When are you going to marry my granddaughter, young man? Oh you’re part Ukrainian are you? I had a Polish boyfriend once, his name was Jerry…”
People loved her. When she passed away I wrote this blog post (Say it to their face) about what I’d learnt from her – and I still practice it to this day. It really changed my life.
When you expect the best from people, accept them, and try to understand who they are without the filter of judgements our minds try to add, people bloom into the best version of themselves.
It feels bloody good to empower people like that.
Humans only become themselves when they feel safe.
How awesome that in every meeting, we have the opportunity to make someone feel safe and accepted, and to watch them unfurl into the beautiful human they are.
Join me in channelling some of the warmth and love of Bloody Good Bloke’s family.
This world needs more people who are encouraged to be fully themselves.