Are we there yet? Every parent has heard that call from the backseat of the car on a long trip. It’s not the vacation trip call, however, that I want to talk about today. As we strive to be our best selves, we often hear our inner voice call, “Are we there yet?” As irritating as the children in the backseat, our inner voice always hears the answer as no, because we are never there. In this life, our destination cannot be reached. There is always more to give, more to do, and more to be in order to be our best selves.
Being our best selves is easiest when we have a good support system — people who love us enough to help us get there. Sometimes, however, those who love us and those we love can unintentionally block the path to being our best selves. Sometimes being our best selves requires courage to remove ourselves from the influence of others. It is interesting that those we love can often bring out the worst in us — and vice versa.
My mother and her sister loved each other very much. They lived in the same town most of their adult lives, and talked on the telephone every single day — except during the years they weren’t speaking to each other — which happened periodically throughout my childhood. The two of them would do battle over something seemingly insignificant, and then they wouldn’t speak for a time. Then, my mother would pick up the phone, call my aunt, and act as if nothing was wrong and they had talked just the day before. Neither one of them ever apologized for anything; it was not their way. The relationship between the sisters would go on as if there had never been a day between phone calls. When my mom died, she and her sister had not spoken in a couple of years. Some people thought that was sad. My cousin went so far as to blame my mother for dying first so that it was her mother who had to feel guilty –yep — and she said this to me at my mother’s funeral. Whatever!
While some family members thought it was sad that the sisters weren’t speaking at the time of my mother’s death, I didn’t feel that way at all. Mom needed to be Mom — without her sister’s criticism. She needed to be free from the daily influence of someone who brought her down. Mom loved her sister very much. Love isn’t always enough. There are many forms of love. In fact, there are as many kinds of love as there are people. We all love in a different way. That’s what makes it so special, but also what makes it so complicated. Mom loved her sister, but needed to live her own life without turmoil and stress. I don’t think that is a bad thing. We all need to be able to live our lives as we see fit, free from constant stress and the meddling of others. She needed to be “her best self,” and realized that there were times when she couldn’t do that and be a sister at the same time.
When Mom had her life in order again, she would renew the relationship as if nothing had ever happened and move on. I may not totally understand that — as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ll ever understand that part of their relationship — because for me to move on requires apologies or forgiveness — preferably both. I know for a fact that neither my mother, nor my aunt ever apologized for anything — although I assume they both had forgiving hearts. They simply moved on — always after my mom picked up the phone first. Mom learned with each break in the relationship how to “be a better self.” I watched the growth in her each time as she separated herself, regrouped, and moved on. It was akin to pulling up large galloshes and sloshing through the rain puddles until the sky had cleared. She came away stronger and more self-reliant each time. By the time she died, she knew she didn’t need her sister’s approval, advice, or even daily conversation. She could be her best self all by herself. Did she still love her sister? Of course, she did. Did she miss her? I’m sure at times she did. Was it worth it? I think for mom, it was. I don’t know about her sister, but maybe it was good for her, as well.
Before I’m misunderstood, I do believe in forgiveness. It is something I strive for, even though it does not come easy for me. Forgiving is different from continually putting yourself in situations which drag you down, depress you, or (heaven forbid) are abusive. It is possible to forgive someone without placing yourself in a position to allow further hurt. For me, personally, I can forgive you for what you did yesterday and today, but I won’t allow you to do it tomorrow. I will remove myself from the situation until such time as trust has been rebuilt. Forgiving and trusting are two completely different animals.
My inner voice often yells, “Am I there yet?” The answer is always the same. I’m not there yet — not even close. At this point in my life, I’m racing against the clock. I have less years to live than I have already lived. I did the whole get married, have kids thing. The time flew by so quickly while we were trying to carve decent human beings out of those little creatures, that I feel I haven’t spent much time on making me into a decent human being. I surmise that’s probably true of most parents. It’s back to me and my husband now. I’m trying to be a better me, and I think he is trying equally hard to be a better him. There are some people who aren’t going to understand the path our lives will take for a time. We have some work to do on ourselves — and we need to do that away from drama. Our entire lives have been spent doing things for others: our kids, our extended family, our friends, our church, and our neighbors. That’s not a bad thing, and I cherish those moments. We want to continue serving others, but we must also take care of business. That takes time. Time to progress. Quiet time. Time away from stressors and turmoil. Time away from voices that bring us down — even if we love those behind the voices.
Some will misunderstand. I get that. Wow, do I get that. I’ve been misunderstood for a number of years. This will not be anything new for me. I don’t mean to be hurtful to anyone or to shun anyone. I’m not trying to be mean spirited, spiteful, or malicious. I just need to remove myself from turmoil and regain peace in my life. When I do that, I’ll be able to again move forward. Then, and only then, will I be able to say, “I’m not there, but I’m closer.”