As I once again silently and wistfully wished my estranged sister a happy birthday…from a distance that may as well be as wide as the Grand Canyon is to a tiny insect, instead of the short 20 minute drive I imagine it to be…I am suddenly struck again with a deep sense of melancholy and foreboding.
It has been a long four years since we last spoke, since I last laid eyes on her…this time.
Being the children of a dysfunctional upbringing, that at times felt as though it bordered on insanity. My sister and I had a bond and connection that was more akin to mother and daughter; me as the oldest always being her protector and champion. And though we did have the normal sibling spats, our 6 year difference soon played a big role as to how our relationship would further develop….so when in the course of the years, she would be the source of such deep hurt and pain, I being as I am would always forgive and try so hard to understand and empathize…after all we were the product of our environments…right?
Over the course of our adult relationship we had many a rift, and each time I would diligently and faithfully seek her out, engage and share my empathetic compassion, casting aside my own hurt and sense of betrayal I would take on the burden of culpability, all the while not realizing that I was doing more harm than good. It wasn’t until she had already divorced and begun a new relationship that I began to question the perpetuation of our childhood dysfunction, and my unequivocal role in enabling her to “feel” wronged by so many, myself included….
Thus began a major shift in the dynamics of our dance…no longer willing to be the sole “mea culpa”, I began to call her on her “antics”, so to speak…and of course at first this caused more anger and hurt than previously, but this time it was shared by both and no longer mine to shoulder alone. As the course of life continued a miraculous thing happened…our relationship grew stronger and more solid than I had ever thought possible. I was able to confide in and even seek out advice from my younger sibling…or so I thought…
It was in 2009, I remember it clear as it was today…the day she pulled the rug out from under me, and it felt as though my world were going to truly collapse upon itself. That sounds dramatic…I know…but at the time that is how it felt. My emotions were as raw and vulnerable as a newborn infant, having just experienced the most stressful and heartbreaking 13 month period in my life…
ahhh, but that story will have to be told at another time…
What ensued next was anger, hurt, acrimony, exasperation, resentment, distress, bitterness, sadness…all of my emotions were tangled up with my ego and need to understand HOW she could do this to me yet again…and at this moment in my life, when I so needed her to be strong for me…hadn’t I been strong so many times for her?
How do we forgive when we’re angry and hurt…? When we feel betrayed and distrustful….?
As a first step, we must be willing to truly feel our anger and hurt. We must allow ourselves to grieve in it, to feel it with our body, heart and soul. Honoring our feelings by being fully present with them helps to release the feelings themselves….and that is the key to forgiving.
Remembering that people, who live their lives in pain, will almost always hurt others because of this pain. Allowing ourselves to recognize the other person’s suffering, our heart can then open in compassion and love. There is not a one amongst us, who at some time or another has not inflicted their own blend of hurt upon others through their own unskillful actions.
Only with love will we heal the rifts caused by hurtful deeds, and words. Forgiveness holds immense power because it mends separation. It moves us towards unity and the love that lies at the core of our being. It is a fundamental part of who we are and of our healing process.
And so you ask…what of my estranged sister…? I silently and wistfully wish her a happy birthday, secretly hoping and praying for the day that she too will run the gauntlet of her emotions and find her way back to the joy of our sisterhood….