Last year, I attended the funeral of a family member.
It was unexpected. We arrived at the funeral home after a long day’s drive, shocked and grieving. It was the first time in years that I’d spent time with most of those relatives. I kept hearing the familiar refrain of how we should get together more than just at weddings and funerals.
But people got really cagey each time I suggested we plan a time for the family to get together.
The truth is, there are relationships that we say we want to have, and then there are relationships that we truly want to have.
I like to listen to TED talks and podcasts while I work. It’s a nice change of pace from my music playlist, and I often learn new things. Recently, I listened to Elizabeth Lesser’s talk, titled: “Say your truths and seek them in others.”
One of the takeaways of this talk is that we have the opportunity in this life to forge deep, authentic relationships with others, but doing so requires that we get past all of the garbage that may come between us. Having these relationships requires vulnerability and courage.
Why do we feel like we have to wait for serious illness or a death in the family or some other major crisis to mend relationships? Why do we only say what needs to be said when there’s fear that time is running out?
Time is always running out. But we can have the relationship we want right now—if we truly want it.
Actually, that might be overstating it. We can’t control how others treat us. What I mean to say is that if we want a relationship with someone—be it platonic, familial, or romantic—we can take the necessary steps to have that relationship. Sometimes, it might not be reciprocated.
What’s important is that we try.
I know that this works. Years ago, when I was first in college, I decided that I wanted a relationship with my grandparents. I felt fortunate to still have living grandparents when so many of my friends didn’t, but I didn’t really have much of a relationship with them. I loved them, but I only saw or spoke to them on special occasions when the family would get together.
It just wasn’t enough.
I realized that if I wanted the relationship, it was up to me to put in the work. So I started calling them at least once a month, just to talk.
I found they wanted that relationship, too. They just didn’t know that I wanted it, and they weren’t sure how to bridge the gap that time and distance had created between us. My initiative gave them the courage to reach out and grasp that relationship too.
We have a wonderful relationship now, but we likely wouldn’t have it if I hadn’t decided to take the first step.
I think back to the funeral that I attended, and how some family members clearly do long for closer relationships, while others are happy with the distance. I think we’ve gotten away from our truth.
The ones who don’t desire those relationships often still utter the nice platitudes that don’t reflect their true intentions.
The ones who long for those relationships keep silent, hoping someone else will be the one to reach out and bridge the gap.
We’ve gotten so far away from our authenticity that we often don’t know how to speak or live our truth.
Building or salvaging relationships takes time and effort. We will likely have to draw on our courage or put aside our pride to do so. There are times that having the relationship we want requires apologizing or forgiving someone who has wronged us, regardless if they have apologized or not.
We simply have to figure out if we truly want that relationship—and if we do, we need to take that thought and find a way to turn it into action. A phone call. A text. A letter. Maybe we even go as far as having a face-to-face conversation.
Doing this means facing uncertainty and rejection, and there are no guarantees.
But life is short, even when our days feel long—and I know that we can have so many of the relationships we want if we’re willing to set aside the time and make the effort. And when we do reach out, we’ll likely find others reaching back for us.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Callie Rushton