About two years ago I wrote a blog called I’m Letting Go. This blog was about my father’s side of the family and the anger, sadness, and resentment I felt towards them. After I wrote that blog I felt free. Writing about my feelings was cathartic and really helped me process and release them. Once I let go of those feelings, I also let go of the hope I had for a meaningful relationship with them and just kind of took everything less seriously. When I initially wrote “I’m Letting Go” I fully intended to break off contact with them; But for some reason, probably because I love them, I decided not to go with that idea.
My father’s mother is nearing the end of her life. She’s started having visions of Jesus and dead relatives. My mom has worked in nursing for years and calls this sun downing and she has told me countless stories about dying people passing shortly after experiencing this. I’m an atheist so I believe this is all caused by chemicals in the brain but I do realize lots of people experience this before passing; so when my aunt called to tell me this is caused me pause. I hadn’t seen my grandmom in ten years and I had to decide whether or not I could live with myself if I never said goodbye. My grandmom has been sick for years and my friends who no longer have their grandparents have been telling me to go forever because I would regret it if I didn’t. I wasn’t sure if this was true but I decided to err on the side of caution.
So I broke my ten year streak of not seeing my family and flew down for a couple of days. I started a blog while I sat at the airport waiting for my flight but boarding started and I forgot all about it. Here’s the bit I wrote:
“Right now I’m sitting at the airport. I’m flying to see my grandmother who will probably pass away soon. I’m not sure how I feel about it, I didn’t even know if I would go see her until yesterday. It was a spur of the moment decision. My feelings about people are complicated. Sometimes I feel like I don’t care and other times I care too much. So I always have to remind myself that although I’m not feeling much for the person in the moment, those feelings will come back.
I’m full of anxiety at the moment. I haven’t seen my family in almost ten years and I’m not sure how to interact with them. I don’t even know if I will be able to interact with them comfortably. My impulse at the moment is to cancel this trip, go back to the comfort and isolation of my apartment and just live with the fact that I never got to say goodbye to my grandmom”
I was full of anxiety. I wasn’t sure what my family would expect from me but I was confident I wouldn’t deliver. The last time they saw me I had not yet developed schizoaffective disorder or social anxiety so I was worried I would be awkward and weird, definitely not the person they remembered. But I boarded the flight and when I landed I had a couple of texts from my aunt. They went “Good morning, was your first flight on time?” Then “Yeah! I see you’re in the air I’m following you on flight tracker!” Then “Everyone is really excited to see you!” When I read those texts I felt a warmth rise in my chest and I kind of forgot my anxiety.
After my connecting flight, I landed at my destination and my aunt picked me up. We still talk every couple of months so it wasn’t really awkward being trapped in the car with her for two hours but it was good to see her in the flesh. What was awkward was phone calls she got that she answered with her car. Why? I wasn’t sure if I should speak or not lol and on one call her best friend referred to me as “the baby.” THE BABY?! I’m going on thirty lol.
Anyway we went straight from the airport to the hospice so I could see my grandmom. She didn’t recognize me but she did say I looked like a member of my grandpop’s family. When she realized who I was she was shocked but happy and that made the trip worth it for me.
I won’t go into detail about everyone I saw because you probably don’t care but I saw most of the people I intended to during my brief visit. And although there were times where I got anxious and didn’t have anything to say, nobody treated me with anything but love which made me rethink the blog I wrote. My mom had told me for years that if I physically went down there things would be different then how they seemed over the internet or on the phone. And like most things she tells me about relationships and family that I balk at, she was right.
I think my conversations with one of my cousins drove home this point. She said to me on my last night there, “I wasn’t sure how to take you.” I think this was a problem on both ends. I wasn’t sure how to interpret their behavior and they weren’t sure how to interpret mine. But I interpreted pretty much every action that irritated me as being done out of malice. The short conversations, the lack of communication, things I heard by word of mouth, etc. All caused me to feel unloved and rejected even though that was not necessarily the case. That is not to say that I did not have the right to be angry about some of the things they did but I drew the wrong conclusion from those behaviors. I have several thought traps I fall into which I am working on in therapy, these thought traps were a big contributor to my feelings of rejection.
But after spending time with said cousin we met each other where we were and reconnected on a new level. When I boarded my first flight on my trip home, I was reduced to tears. I really did not want to leave my family so quickly. My cousin confessed to me she cried like a baby on her drive home. I scheduled a three day visit, one full day, two half days, and that was not enough. Things kind of went back to normal about a month after I got home communication wise, but now that I have the experience of physically being with them, I know its nothing personal and is just the way they communicate.
Letting go of my feelings and expectations were a big contributor to this experience. Had I held on to all the negative emotions I was feeling I would never have went down and experienced the healing that I now feel. I’m now able to let them in again. I was in crisis not too long ago and actually called some of them for support and guidance and they were there for me as best as they could be.
SO I guess what I’m trying to get across in this blog is that sometimes we need to just release the past or how we perceive events and give people a chance to show us who they are in the present. I don’t mean this in a naive, “love your enemies and let people treat you like crap over and over again” or “forget the past” way. I think sometimes we need to be cautiously experimental. This visit was my litmus test for future contact. If I never gave them a chance to show me different than what I had built up in my head I would have kicked people out of my life who genuinely love and care for me.