I’m giving up the dream, today, right this second, before I lose my mind. I have a habit of imagining how I want things to be and then actually expecting them to be that way. The problem is that what I imagine is almost never what is. There’s often a wide gap between what I desire and the reality that I experience, especially when it comes to family.
My family is lucky even though we clearly don’t realize it or perhaps it’s that we take it for granted. My mother, father, sister, brother, and me—we’re all still here, living, and in reasonably good health. We can pick up a phone and talk to each other or travel anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to see each other. We have the option to improve our relationships with each other, whether that means talking more regularly or spending more time together. We can choose to be closer. There’s nothing stopping us except us. Time is moving on, and change is imminent. You know, the kind of change we don’t really want to face—loss and limitations. Loss of our loved ones. Limitations that often accompany illnesses, which tend to surface as we age. When we’ve been forced to face loss or serious illnesses in our family, we’ve tended to automatically come together, which is a good thing, but we don’t have to let these kinds of changes drive our relationships.
I want to make purposeful changes in order to have better relationships. I’m no longer spending time wishing my relationships were a certain way. Instead, I’m accepting my relationships exactly as they are, in whatever state they are in, right now. This isn’t something I could do just a couple of weeks ago. It would’ve been impossible because I was obsessing over family dynamics that (to me) seem to have roots in generational favoritism, excessive selfishness, crippling low self-esteem, depression, co-dependency, suppressed or over-expressed emotions, the inability to truly listen and at least try to understand the perspectives, ideas, and actions of others, and a serious lack of willingness to forgive. That’s a long list. I know, but there they are—all our ugly ways and challenges.
Now, if you’re not related to me, then these family dynamics probably don’t mean much to you. However, if you are, then know that I’m not writing about a particular family member. So don’t bother to accuse me of blogging about you (see other posts for that—kidding, sort of). This post isn’t about you. This post is about us—living family members and many of those we know from previous generations.
I know many family members who’ve been part of a few situations where our ugly ways and challenges caused some kind of separation in relationships. I’ve revisited my own experiences and those I know about concerning family, and it’s clear that our ugly ways have held us back from being happier and healthier together. None of us probably wants to admit any of this, but we’d be better off by taking responsibility for the parts we’ve played. Believe me, I don’t like admitting it, but my ways can get pretty ugly sometimes. I can’t undo the damage I’ve caused others in the past, but I’m making a small adjustment that I believe will go a long way to improve future family experiences. The past two weeks have shown me that it’s not hard to face reality even if I don’t like it or understand it. Acceptance is a good place for me to begin.