That’s a lot of ships crossing on our personal sea. What a truly HUGE topic, and beyond the clichés, what do I know about the mysterious social connection, called relationships? Pretty much nada.
I mean, other than life itself, is there anything more complicated, mysterious and crammed with risk and reward and wackiness, than human relationships? We are social animals and vulnerable to what social connections include—emotions, sensitivities, awkwardness, love, hate, warmth, joy–you can pretty much name anything.
Here’s my truth. Relationships are totally baffling to me. Are they to you? If you say you understand them, you may be smoking something.
Family—So let’s just throw all family into this bucket and give it a good stir. We’re talking husbands and wives, partners, kids, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Who are these people and why am I related to them? Is there anything more past, present and future than our family? I think not! They are the sum of your history and like it or not, a big big big chunk of your future, all with caveats attached. Yes, we are related, but let’s face it, sometimes we like to pretend we’re not.
And most families are a little insane. When you ask people about their family, they will recite a few facts about what someone is ‘up to’, but no, don’t really want to share the truly horrible parts. For example, at the family reunion last year my sister and I drank too much, and for the first time in our lives, screamed at each other while throwing things, in front of our kids. It was like a scene from some unsupervised, off the rails, sitcom. The next morning, we sheepishly apologized and hung our heads. At the same time that it was idiotic, it was slightly funny. So, hmmm no, let’s not share that. And you know how people say “If Josephine wasn’t my sister, we wouldn’t be friends.” Well, of course you wouldn’t be friends—no one would be with their sibling. But that’s not the tie that binds us. It’s much more primal and profound than that.
I guess when you get right down to it, it is the unique combination of molecules and events that make a family tick. The things that you would never do or say to anyone else. The secrets and insecurities of multiple years, that you would never admit beyond the family cone of silence. If it was all beautiful and flowers, well, then it would not be a family. Families are challenging and messy and complicated. So let’s just take a moment to salute our family for the lunacy and irrefutible magnetic bond that it brings to each of us.
Marriage and live in partnerships are a subset of the family insanity. I’ve had close friends leave their spouse, when they seemed quite content together, and close friends stay together when they seem totally and irreconcilably miserable. And people who partner up, surprising everyone, and make a go of it. Take a gander at these tweets:
For 42 years I have admired a married couple– Barry and Marg. They are the parents of 3 friends of mine. Barry and Marg’s relationship has shown me what an amazing partnership looks like and feels like—humour, fun, tolerance, and as Barry once told me, “I work at it every single day”. They have had almost inconceivable life tragedies– the death of a daughter and granddaughter in a horrific accident together–that would sink many couples into total hopeless despair, but they held each other up constantly and without wavering. And their resilience kept filling a wide and deep well of humour and fun and strong friendships in their lives. Human, not perfect, and exceptional role models.
As for siblings, my mother once told me that siblings are the only people who you will know for your entire life. So, take care of them. This was a lesson that I have tried to teach my kids—take care of each other. Even when they (adult siblings or children?) may be whacking each other witless on the head.
Family picture, with the presentable ones.
So, families, here’s to you! In my extended family, I have learned that we each see each, in a unique way, and from our own experience. But overall, our excitement to get together, our sense of fun and relentless humour take over whenever we are within spitting distance. And the best sign is that my kids love our family get-togethers. Props to you, Mom and Dad.
“Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie—not perfect but who’s complaining?” Robert Brault
Friendships may be slightly less mysterious. Good friends accept each other, have a communication connection, and often mutual interests. Bad friendships tend to be off balance—one respects or likes the other more. So, a ‘like and respect’ balance needs to exist. And friendships often connect, disconnect and reconnect over time. That’s part of the evolution.
I have learned that each friend brings something specific to the connection, as do I, I suppose, and that no one friend can be everything to the other. So now I don’t expect it. This perspective has taken a great weight off my expectations, and I can accept friends more readily for who they are and what we bring each other.
I’ve realized that I have a small handful of close friends, not many, and that is how I roll. Our friendships range from 5 years to 42 years. And I’m learning to put the care and time into being a better friend to that handful— doing new and more frequent things to connect. With email and text taking over, I am finding recently that a phone call adds a new friendship dimension. Ha! Ironic, isn’t it? A phone call feels like a new relationship tool!
How would you describe your friendships? What do you value in your friends?
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.” W.H. Aude
Good neighbours mean different things to each of us. I don’t want to be best friends with my neighbours, I just want to be a good neighbour. What does that mean? I’ve learned to do a few things: take their empty garbage cans back to their garage, in our mutual driveway; occasionally invite neighbours over for a BBQ; make the time to stop and chat for a few minutes whenever we meet. If they won’t split the cost of a new fence, just build the fence and move on. I would like to think that when asked, they would help me and I would help them. I’m sure there is more that I could learn about this—any ideas out there?
So in this short blog post, I’ve exposed my perplexity with relationships. Relationships are organic entities and evolve, sometimes dissolve, and sometimes reboot over time and circumstance. Some can take a licking and keep on ticking. Some do not have that kind of stamina. It’s not easy to forecast a relationship’s trajectory. But, by all means, be aware of which ones are important to you. Today I have reminded myself to invest in those ones.
What have you learned about relationships? I’m all ears, my friend.
“Want to see who your real friends are? Screw up and see who’s still there.” Anonymous.