Posted by: darcieczajkowski | July 23, 2015

The Cycle of Relationships

Family is complicated. We all know that. At times, all of us have experienced disagreements with our parents, siblings, extended family, or any and all of the above. And simply put, it’s not fun. In fact, it’s often very painful to be at odds, at war, or even estranged from family members. I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic (or any others on which I write), but what I’m about to share has been my experience and maybe you can relate to some or all of it.

My sister and I are opposite in a lot of ways, but I don’t remember much conflict from our childhood. Given our four-year age difference, we were often at different phases of our lives, so we didn’t always play together, but we were rarely acrimonious. When she went to college, the age gape seemed to lessen and we grew closer. I visited her relatively often and we were partners in crime. But shortly after her college graduation, she met her now-husband and there was family disagreement about their relationship. Things were said on both ends about the situation, and it affected her relationship with many family members in the subsequent years.

Since then, in the past ten-plus years, she and I have worked on mending our relationship, but mostly the efforts haven’t been truly and fully successful. But now, after all this time, I’m writing this in her kitchen, where I’m staying with her and her husband for three weeks. This time with her is allowing us to build upon a fresh start to our relationship that started last year with a trip we took to Brazil with our mom. I’m remembering all of the reasons why we used to be so close still exist. And that feels glorious.

I can stay pretty definitively that the primary reason why we are able to connect now when we hadn’t been in years past is that we are both ready. We both chose professions that required a lot of education and thus didn’t spend much time during those periods cultivating or maintaining relationships with anyone. Her path was considerably longer than mine, though, and one of the reasons why she is such a fantastic doctor is that she gives one hundred percent to her career. She didn’t have the capacity to work on our relationship while she was trying to stay afloat with medical school, residency, and fellowship. But what went along with that was an inability to explain to me why she was distant from me. And I was too hurt by her actions to try to pull it out of her. Now we are both in a place where we have the time and the interest in making our relationship a good one. I have every confidence that we will continue to build upon the progress we’ve made in our relationship.

Will our relationship ever be exactly the same as it once was? No, of course not. For starters, relationships as adults are inherently different than those as teenagers. We also now live on opposite sides of the country and don’t get to see each other very often. But I believe that these potential roadblocks won’t stop us any longer from making an effort to stay connected in each other’s lives.

While the reasons that estrangements exist are undoubtedly varied in type and complexity, it is never too late to try to mend broken relationships. It takes time, effort, and understanding to rebuild trust and to get to a place where you feel connected again. And, even then, the relationship most likely will never be the same as it once was. But maybe that’s okay. In fact maybe that’s better because you will be able to appreciate more fully what you have now after knowing what was lost. Sometimes you need to take a step back from someone to grow up, to get some perspective, to miss that person, to realize what you were missing, to recognize that they held a special place in your life and that you want to have that back, and to realize how important relationships are in giving your life purpose and meaning and making it feel worth living to the fullest. Time and distance have a great way of showing us what we really want in life.

So set your pride aside, go to that person you love, and apologize (there’s always something to apologize for – on both ends!). Maybe he or she won’t be ready now or maybe they will, but either way, you know you have tried. In life, you miss out on one hundred percent of the chances you don’t take. So when it comes to the ones you love, don’t miss out on the chance. Because we only get one life, so why would we want to waste it, letting our past mistakes dictate our future happiness?

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