When you are missing people. Hard. Seven truths will move you toward reunion.
Last week, I watched a video of a tornado as it swept through the bottom level of an office building. I had clicked on it because I thought I would see a funnel tearing up a field and chewing on farmhouses. Tornadoes strike my heart cold, so of course I view live-action clips whenever I can. Aren’t we always fascinated by that which terrifies us…or maybe that which reminds us of ourselves?
My daughter is sixteen and fighting teenage angst with the best of her spirit. She has remained remarkably respectful (for the most part), but I was a different teenager altogether, a storm of fury. My anger was unchecked, unkind and inconsequential to me. Not for good reasons, which I won’t go into here…suffice it to say we all have our childhood circumstances… Mine, in a few words: desolate, desperate and dire. The worst of the worst can make a kid furious, but I choose not to dwell because it restrains you from greater blessings. I only share to give you context.
The footage started with a group of people looking out of the glass doors and windows of an office building. Trash swirled in the street and soon, no living creature was visible beyond the exit. Then people scattered! The tornado was imminent and they knew it. Crying and clinging to each other, they quickly realized they needed to evacuate.
The tornado roared in, a curious phenomenon. Litter circulated faster, doors rattled and whatever makeshift brace had been placed in front of them shot out of the screen. When the tornado exploded into the building it was crazy-making, rotating, a destructive riveting awe. Taken from a vantage point inside the storm, it held me rapt as the devastation played. No one appeared to be hurt. The cyclone slowed to lazy-and-lazier, displaying the mystery of its eye before hurrying off again…and the whole thing took 10 seconds to transpire, from approach to total engulfing chaos.
I was that tornado.
My rage was the only thing that mattered to me and I didn’t care who felt it…it stayed this way for a long damn time.
From my teens until I was over 40-years old!
At some point, I realized what I had done. Surrounded by a family of my own making, but no one from my past, so focused on my own pain and suffering, I had not taken the time to listen to the needs of anyone else.
Pissed out of my mind for nearly 30 years.
Then as people tend to do when they age, I grew reflective and mellower (not to mention I’d amassed about twenty years of therapy under my belt!) I missed people. Hard.
My sisters, in particular. I ached for them.
But the damage…as they say…was done.
I grew very, very sad. So incredibly regretful for what I had torched. Forget burning the bridge. Nothing could salvage the fallout, because rightfully, I had established I was an asshole…who pushed people away religiously.
There were things I wanted to say, but I had spouted off so many thoughtless and painful comments, no one wanted to listen and I didn’t blame them. I longed to tell my family I understood we had all failed each other because we had been so young, so bereft of tools or any wherewithal to do anything, but survive ourselves.
I know now we should have been gentle and forgiving with each other, and expected to not get it right. Who the hell sticks the landing in their twenties, and even thirties? When you come from the dusty path of hardknock survival, barren of help, you are concerned with yourself, with building a life from nothing, with discovering if the love people experience is real.
If you are worth anything.
I was lucky. I have my family around me again. I can stop saying I lost the love of my life, my oldest sister, who told me recently, “I’m not going anywhere.” I cried for the rest of the afternoon.
Think about these coping and relationship tactics if you are also wishing for reconciliation and unsure how to move past emotional blocks:
- History doesn’t matter. It is so important to move past this perception because you can rapidly get sucked into another round of he-said/she-said. In fact, you may never understand the other person’s motivations and responses (or even your own), but forgiveness doesn’t hinge on that. You must move past all indiscretions in order to start anew.
- Reach out when you are at last at a point where you can extend an authentic gesture. But be prepared to be rebuffed. Get comfortable with that possibility. You can’t force forgiveness, for another’s recuperation to happen and you can only imagine someone else’s pain. What was said by you for whatever reason, hurt and while you might want to excuse what you said because you were angry, sad, threatened, whatever, you weren’t the receiver of your sharp tongue. You have no idea of another person’s pain. Healing and rebuilding trust takes time. Keep that in mind when you first make the request to grow closer.
- Let the other person have their feelings. Wanna know how successful telling another person how they feel is? Well, it NEVER is. You are in charge of your own feelings, don’t dare try to control another, because this will not end well for you. The person you have wronged will feel invalidated, not listened to, unimportant, cut off and as if they have no voice. So you, focus on you, and let them process. Remember also, each person is different, they come through trauma in a manner that might not match yours, and they might not be able to bounce back at your speed. I had hurt both my sisters and they each needed time and to be taken seriously, to have their feelings respected. Their journeys did not mirror the other…because they are different people.
- Do your internal work. Let’s say an attempt to reach out and reestablish connection happens. Lucky you! But please, please, please complete your due diligence and make sure you have taken the steps you have needed to, to get a handle on your temper. If you haven’t dedicated yourself to truly changing your response, eventually another conflict will break out and more trust will be destroyed.
- Take responsibility for what you have wrought. Own it, apologize and pledge to react differently, but also forgive yourself. I’m not blaming my choices on my childhood, but I am saying I can understand why I made some of the decisions I did. Why I was self-destructive, hurtful, sabotaging, etc.
- You may be hyper-sensitive to statements your estranged loved one says to you that you would receive well from someone else removed from your pain. It’s okay to recognize this, to step outside yourself to see the truth. Sometimes when we are angry we look for reasons to continue to be angry. It is what we are familiar with and so we gravitate toward it. Want to stop the cycle? Issue a reassuring message to yourself. Your loved one is not trying to hurt you. People make mistakes and you are getting to know each other all over again. Give yourselves some slack to earnestly screw up.
- Do not internalize you are worth less because you are separated from a person to whom you used to be close. We need to go through phases from time-to-time where we figure ourselves out, and maybe the person you are trying to mend fences with requires the same consideration. It is easy to fall down the mineshaft of regarding yourself as a bad person. But you are not a bad person. You are a hurt person. Keep attempting to make contact and be kind with each other. Realize today is not the rest of your life, and it will not determine your relationship’s fate. Let phrases float on by and do not pull them apart for hidden meaning.
I used to post memes about family being the people you choose, but I ached with the desire to believe the message every time I elected to share, because I had a deep longing to reconnect with my family and to grow closer to them. To feel a part of the miracle of kinship I worked so hard to convince myself was never important. Of course, I lied about that, too, because the pain was so unrelenting and powerful.
Lying made it weaker and more bearable.
Now, I am reveling in getting to know my family again, sharing in authentic laughter and realizing what truly matters to us all. Loving relationships. Kindness. Striving to forgive in order to settle our yearning hearts.