We stopped talking to each other for a long time. We had struggled for years to be harmonious in our relationship and every time I visited her we still clashed at the shoals.
We were too different; I thought I understood her, but truly doubted that she understood me. I’m sure she felt the same. Even though we hurt each other, inadvertently or deliberately, I don’t know, for a long time we were afraid to dissolve our relationship.
In fact, we congratulated ourselves on the fact that we kept “trying.” And sometimes it was true; sometimes we were able to share a close feeling of affection for each other.
That feeling of intimacy was what kept me hooked; it was like heroin. At those times, I felt knit together.
I didn’t realize I had to do my own knitting. Like an addict, I attempted to cover up hurt feelings and would opt for forgiveness because of that strong need for those feelings of intimacy. Not a bad exercise in attempting forgiveness, but still something missing.
She was the older sister having obligations to everybody; I was the younger sister who relied upon her for love as my sole surviving relative. She felt a burden at being in that position so I changed and grew up as much as I could do.
I felt hurt at being excluded from her family; she attempted to be more inclusive. But I knew bottom-line that even though we attempted to be more kind to each other, we were slowly becoming aware that we had to take another step and that the step had nothing to do with trying. It was time to stop trying. We were weary of trying. We couldn’t be what the other one wanted.
We stopped calling each other.
Every day during those months of not calling the other, I wondered if either of us would break down and call; it was so unfamiliar. I had to brave the feelings that swung between anger, hurt and sadness; then with amazement I felt evolving feelings of freedom. I was at last hearing my own voice, no longer feeling there was something wrong with me that had to be changed so that I would be loved.
But I still didn’t call, knowing that I was waiting for that other elusive piece of puzzle.
I had to bear the time apart to look for the missing piece of this puzzle; I couldn’t call or see her again until something coalesced inside myself. I didn’t know what it was. When her birthday was in sight, doubts again arose. Shouldn’t I at least call her to wish her a happy birthday? That’s what a mensch would do.
And then a few days before her birthday, sitting in a kind of silence, a new awareness of myself and my human experience happened; while difficult to describe a feeling, I can only say that I saw my journey in bas-relief. This time I witnessed it without judgment. And in that opening space, I met the critic, and the critic was me.
I saw that judgment of myself was driven by my reluctance even as a child to being on the human journey, always striving for some kind of unrealistic spiritual perfection in both others and myself, which held no room for human failings.
I was angry at being alive, having to live with other humans who were as imperfect as me. My love relationships became a search for the “divine,” rejecting those that evinced ordinary human qualities, especially those that loved me back. How could they? I was imperfect.
The centerpiece of my failure, of course, was my food addiction. I had no compassion for it. It took up such a large space in my awareness that any good qualities took second and third place. I was not worthy of love. And beneath that another story which is too long for this piece.
In a space of timeless awareness, I saw with clarity how the acceptance of this journey and love for myself was what would have to be the true end of the search. In a rare moment of what I can only call grace, I surrendered my expectations and extended at last to myself an olive branch, the peace and compassion I had always unknowingly searched for.
Did I at last call her on her birthday? Yep. Are we going to be girlfriends now or sisters who always love and respect each other now? I don’t know. The more important question for myself now is, can I continue to have compassion for others and myself as humans on a human journey?
We now periodically call each other, checking in to see if either of us all right, more about our physical status I would say. We stay clear of any shared intimacies; neither of us wants to risk being hurt.
We are hesitant in our conversations, not wanting to fall into an old way of speaking with each other. Now in retrospect I see that how we spoke to each other was really too frank, too candid, not considerate of the other’s feelings in a way. Familiarity took over and we thought we could say certain things, not knowing that because we were so close that certain ways of speaking would hurt the other.
I know that people think they can say anything to their friends and maybe some are lucky to have that feeling with their relatives, but we thought we could be sarcastic and biting sometimes, not realizing that our words could sting and hurt even when we thought we were just being funny.
So now we speak in cadenced terms; I speak awkwardly, afraid of saying something untoward to which she might react, outwardly or not. Sometimes however, mostly because I am a funny person, it gives her an opportunity to laugh at my idiosyncrasies. But she does it more lightly now and even more carefully. And in those moments, we both relax into an old “intimacy.”
I am grateful for those times when they come around again.
I think something must happen for me, because I don’t think anymore about what has to happen for her (another mistake people make in trying to “fix” relationships). It’s none of my business anymore. She has taken her business elsewhere as I have.
I now think that all the criticism I think still comes from her I must own as my own; I must take it all deep into my underbelly and accept full responsibility for all the nonacceptance of myself I have endured. I must hear my own voice and if it is negative, then I must consume it myself in my own way.
As the Buddhists say, “Drive all blames into one.”
I want to let the old me die, allow a new perspective to come into my life. Let go of the past, I say; construct your new present. Say your mantras, go to your meditation class, and let the old ego slough off at its own timing. I can’t control it anymore.
When that happens, I know that old criticism that I or somebody might have leveled at me will not find as easily a place to hang out or to harbor. The home where it took root or nestled in comfortably does not exist anymore.
I will be reborn; I will be new! Let the good times roll!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Melody Dashora/Pixoto