One of the many gifts of being a writer is that I can ponder out loud, without anyone hearing. I can utter deep reflections, secret vulnerabilities and unspoken notions through my fingertips as they dance across the keyboard. I have the option of deleting, editing or publishing what has been exposed to the page. It is a contemplative and creative experience. One that reveals my voice and viewpoint. It is exhilarating and frightening – simultaneously. Therefore, a constant conundrum.
And so I am revisiting and digging deeper into the challenges I face around having expectations. Five years away from my seventh decade, they still have the power to usher me to sadness, anger, and self-centred despair.
For many years I have practiced the art of acceptance. Buddhist readings, most self-help books and my recovery program insist that it is the path to peace and contentment. I can accept that I will never be on the ladies PGA golf circuit. I can accept that I am a recovering alcoholic. I can accept that I have more years of life behind me than ahead of me. The process of acquiescence requires honesty, humility and courage. While there are periods of frustration, resentment and fear, I am capable of moving through them to see the value in assenting. Only occasionally do I sense a slight unraveling of the smooth edges of living in the truth. It passes with little consequence.
What I now know for sure is that I have a file folder in my brain and heart of experiences for which acceptance isn’t enough. It leaves the door open for a revisitation of the events. For a visceral repeat of the emotional upheaval. The hurt, anger, and sadness, return with vibrancy.
It happened to me three days ago. On a walk in my beautiful valley. My black rubber boots shiny with the dampness from the frost-tipped blades of grass. The gold and orange leaves still clinging desperately to the tree limbs. The clouds were particularly spectacular as they skittered across the sky in clusters of grey, mauve and white. I was anticipating the upcoming visit with my older brother, whom I haven’t seen in two years. I could blame the pandemic for the prolonged gap in connection, however, it would have been there regardless of the lockdown.
Beginning twenty years ago, as our parents devolved into poor health we shared the responsibilities of eldercare. As our wayward middle sibling devolved into poor physical and mental health, moving further and further away from us, we shared the burden of worry and the almost impossible task of maintaining a connection. As his wife devolved into a life-ending chronic illness we shared her bedside chair beside the tower of monitors and tubes that kept her alive as we came to terms with the horrible loss unfolding. We held each other up. He was the piece of my family that made me whole.
We were at our best managing the traumas and losses. Only now do I realize the assumptions and expectations that grew from these missions. I believed we had created an unconditional foundation of support and connection. I am reminded of the warning that expectations are really premeditated resentments. I am living with the folly of holding on to a hurt and disappointment so tightly that it has become obsessive and haunting energy. Practicing acceptance has enabled me to sustain a regular cadence of sibling communication. However on that beautiful morning valley walk, with a single memory, my heart squeezed shut and I crumbled into tears. The hurt was as fresh as the frost on the fields.
Lest it redefines my relationship with my brother forever, I need to find forgiveness. My dear friend and mentor reminded me that we are all flawed. I need to rewrite the storyline to include empathy and compassion. For him; for me. It’s the only path to silencing the sad and resentful voice in my head. A new script has the potential of a prologue and epilogue.
I choose the epilogue to be a warm visit, good conversations, and a gentle reconnection with my brother.
At least, that is my intention.