My sister is coming to visit for a week. You may not find that exceptional or newsworthy in any way and for many people (and I’m just guessing here), it probably isn’t.
For me, it’s a big deal.
My sister and I had, shall I say, a turbulent relationship growing up and even for a great part of our adult years. It took a long time, and more than a few deep, emotional conversations for us to get to the point we are at now. More on that later.
She is staying for a week. Seven days and seven nights. It is the longest we’ve been together since she moved away from home to go to university when she was 19. I was 14. Almost 45 years later, we are at a point where we can share space, share emotions, and share our history.
It wasn’t magic that got us here. I can’t speak for my sister but what I know to be true for me is that getting to this point required a change in perspective on my part.
Although yes, of course, I view her as my sister, I now relate to her more significantly as a woman. Another woman who shared a very unhappy, dysfunctional home with me and who dealt with that dysfunction the best way she knew how way back then. Just as I did. When I removed the emotion of what we went through in our early years and viewed her for who she is, a by-product of an unhealthy environment, just like me, it also stripped away the hurt that came with those emotions. And it placed that hurt where it belonged, with our parents.
Has it been an easy road for either of us? Most certainly not. We had more than a couple of failed attempts at reconciliation over the years. So maybe it’s our age that helped bring us closer. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age. I’m not sure it even matters.
The challenge for this visit
The challenge for the week we spend together, I feel, will be that we don’t fall back into the behaviours we exhibited when we were young. It’s an easy thing to do. Put a fully grown adult back in a room with their parents and they can very quickly slip back into the role of child and display whatever emotional baggage accompanied that family in years gone by. I don’t want to have things slide like that.
For me, I have to remind myself to check if any anxiety I’m feeling, any worry or fear, is based on the present or is it a relic from years ago? And if it is just a relic (as it always is, these days), recognize it, acknowledge it and then let that shit go.
Another item in the life list of things that are easier said than done. But it is doable. And that is my advice to anyone dealing with a difficult past and how it’s impacting your present. Don’t deny your emotions when you feel them. Rather, dig in a bit and try to identify the source. Is it something from today? Or is something from today triggering something from your past? Either way, see it. Acknowledge it. Give it some space. Call it out for what it is. For me, it’s acknowledging the fear I felt as a child, and reminding myself, both who I am now and who I was then, that now, I am safe.
The darkest stories of our past lose some of their power when we hold them up to the light.