During the course of the next week a lot of us, me included, will be travelling to see relatives that we do not interact with on a regular basis. In many cases it is simply that we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to stay in touch.
In some cases however, these are people we actually avoid as much as we can because they represent unfinished business from our past. We say “we don’t like them”, or “we have nothing in common”, or “I will never forgive them for what they did”, but what we are actually admitting is, I don’t like the memory of how we were together, and I don’t like how this makes me feel about myself. And to make matters worse, if you can’t be your true self around these people, then they will never get the opportunity to see that you have changed, and they will go on thinking the same bad things about you and avoiding you.
They say you can’t pick your relatives. What they should tell you is, like it or not, these people grew up with you and are at the core of your being. They know you better than anyone else ever will. Ironically, if they recognize that you have changed for the better in some capacity, they will celebrate you more sincerely for being better, than any outsider ever will; likewise will they denigrate you if your character has diminished in some capacity.
At some point – someone has to break the ice; and therein lies the problem.
Years have gone by. We have changed, they have changed (Yes – they have changed too whether you are aware of it or not) and yet our own refusal to let go of these painful memories blinds us from seeing who these people have become; and blocks us from having a different sort of relationship with these people going forward.
To open the door to a new relationship, you must first acknowledge the positive ways in which they have changed, and let them know that you have noticed. Don’t expect immediate hallmark card reconciliations – you will be catching them off guard. In fact, in some cases you can expect stunned looks of disbelief or outright cynicism. But don’t let this dissuade you in the least.
If they are hostile back away, but leave the door open. Give them time to process your kindness and acceptance and you might actually part ways with a hug. If not, at least you can tell yourself that you tried and I guarantee that you will feel better about yourself.
We are not children anymore; it is time for us to treat each other with gentleness and appreciate that we have to help each other release our pain.