As I am getting older (and hopefully more wise) one of the shifts in my perceptions is allowing me to understand relationships in a whole new way. And perhaps because I am a writer, seeing relationships in the context of a plot or story is a better way of embracing something peaceful and important. That you and I are writing the story of our life, and weaving in chapters of fruitful, or destructive, temporary or long term relationships.
In the story of my life, there have been so many different types of characters thrown in the mix. There have been the volatile, self-hating or self-destructive types. The peaceful, innocent and naive sorts, who I love to get to know because their world is so linear and calming to me. Ultimately that type doesn’t hang around long because I am none of those things. Part of me would like to be.
In the story of my life there have been angels. They kind of pop up mysteriously out of nowhere when you are sure that no one is “seeing” you and that you are doing a good job of hiding your angst or emotional difficulties. For me, my angels popped out of the ether after some heartfelt prayer, leaving me both grateful and looking straight up to the stars at night and whispering a quiet “thank you”. I don’t think I am special, but I do sometimes get exactly what I pray for. I haven’t yet received the Diet Pepsi fountain installed in a bar on my patio yet… but there is still time for that to be bestowed upon my life.
When the angels presented themselves to my story, they came with strength and sometimes sarcasm. They weren’t about coddling me per se. They were good listeners and great advisers. They were the type that I suspect have spiritual x-ray vision. “See that cocky girl over there who say’s she is happy being alone? She’s full of shit. That girl is hurting.” And their stability and sage life wisdom rubs off on me. I end up saying ‘sorry’ to them a lot, but I also let them know what they mean to me.
In the story of my life there have been wild passionate nights and romantic abandon. There have been relationships built on infatuation and fantasy that felt like amputation when I did not want the fantasy to end. For a pragmatist, I can hold on to plausible denial longer than you can imagine. I have thrown myself like a life raft into the water to save quite a few people, only to learn that you can’t save most of them; and the ones you do save will likely hate you for it. These days don’t ask me to save you. I’ve hung up my cape for good.
There have been moments of violence and terror in my life. Flash backs surface sometimes and I thump them back down because they serve no practical purpose. That was then; this is now and ruminating or re-living the memories only makes me victimize myself over and over again. I’m not a victim. I am a chick that plenty of bad things happened to, and I navigated my way up and out of those things. That is why I consider myself formidable now, not because I think I am that great or better than anyone; no. Because I’ve experienced some of the darkest things that other people can throw at you, and I stood up and walked (or limped in some cases) away. Part of that is my spiritual constitution. A lot of it has to do with the presence of Angels in my weekly life.
I train myself to look at the new chapters I am writing, rather than dwell on previous iterations and plot’s that I don’t really care to remember.
In talking to my sister Kim now for almost a year, and getting caught up (which I love love love!) we hit an awkward wall every once in awhile. There are people in our family she doesn’t talk to, who I talk to and remain on good terms with. She is close to my Father and Step-Mother, and I haven’t spoken to them I think… in six years? With my step-sister Tracey, she maintains a relationship with my Mother and Step-Father (her Dad), whereas well… if you’ve read my previous blog, you probably have a good read on my feelings about them.
It can be hard in family relationships when the story is different for siblings, right?
So my Step-Sister and brother in law would have seen my Mother and Step-Father this weekend for Canadian Thanksgiving. As much as I would sooner die than share a table with my Mother and Step-Father, there is still something in that which hurt my heart this weekend. I don’t know why. It just did.
My sister spent the weekend with my Father and Step-Mother. Again, no desire to connect there at all, but it landed like a dull ache in my heart. And I cried about it briefly to Kevin as I put away laundry last night.
Me: “It’s just really hard to explain that it still hurts my feelings, but have her understand that I think it’s wonderful that she is able to continue having a healthy relationship with them you know? It’s not jealousy. It’s more like… rejection I guess.”
Kevin: “Well, your relationship with your Dad and Step-Mother wasn’t the same as Kim’s.”
Me: “I know. She was able to navigate it better than I did. That’s a good thing. So why, if I don’t want them back in my life at all, does it still hurt when I hear about it?”
Kevin: “Because you are a loving person, and you wish that your parents had built a different relationship with you. But they didn’t. You tried. It takes mutual effort to build Lori”.
Me: “Well I am glad she has Dad looking out for her. Having 50% of the parental equation is better than 0%. I wouldn’t wish that on her. It’s a pretty shitty feeling.”
And then I got a smooch and a big bear hug from my husband, who always sees the “ouchies” that I try so hard to bury and ignore.
I am not the only person who has this kind of story with their parents. In fact, I know quite a few successful, intelligent, loving and wonderful people who wish they had a different history with their parents. But like me, they resolved to create their own life and focus on the positives, rather than dwelling on what didn’t work (and would never work based on repeat evidence).
There are good people in this world who have no relationship with their parents. But the part of your heart that loves family, will always wish the story had been written differently, you know? Because as time marches on and your parents get older, you feel like you SHOULD be doing something for them, but the context of your relationship (or really, the lack of a relationship at all) makes that impossible.
Tracey and I don’t talk about my mother or her Father and that works really well for us. We talk about our lives and build our relationship, our news and our kids. When I talk to her, I am not interested in anyone else but her household, my niece Raven and nephew Aidan, my brother in law and cheering for the success of their photography business. And she doesn’t need to feel conflicted. My story with her doesn’t include notes in the margin about anyone else to distract us from enjoying our talks.
And with Kim, I’ll do the same thing. I told her that it’s best not to bring them up as a topic, even in the slightest way because it creates mutual discomfort.
Me: “That way, I won’t get my feelings hurt and you won’t feel the need to be defensive. I’m cool with never mentioning them to be honest. I don’t want to know. I’m interested in you, and my relationship with you, not anyone else. You are the one I miss.”
The story my parents wrote with me resulted in neither of them being involved with my life. And truthfully, I am happier and feel safer, more energetic and optimistic without the needless negativity that came with trying to make a close relationship with either of them work. You can’t fix what will never work, but you can focus on what is beautiful and the relationships that are wonderful in your own life.
There will always be a pang of sorts for what you don’t have with your own parents, but in between chasing dogs and a cat, training a new puppy, chasing and loving on (and more frequently grounding lately) our twin son’s, spending peaceful time with my husband, getting to know my Texas family and making new friends… I feel there is too much good and working the way it should in my life for me to dwell on what didn’t work.
I prayed for years to be in touch with my sister again. And that is what I am most grateful for. The chance to know her as an adult and rebuild our friendship. Despite all our adversities she turned out to be a pretty cool vegan, animal loving, environmentally conscious independent woman. Someone who loves her dogs, volunteers as a shelter foster parent, and loves to garden in a little house she bought and paid for herself.
The apple does fall far from the tree, but rolls to gentle stop beside an apple that reminds her of someone else she knows… and there is so much tenderness and beauty in that, and anticipation as a kind new story begins.
Because she never really did anything to create the rift. She was a victim of it, and of my inability to hold on to her when she needed me the most. But she was the one I never stopped loving. Not one single day.