Do you know anyone who’s burrowed so deeply into their storylines, their beliefs, that it’s as if they’re in a trench?  One of their own making?  Every year, holiday time and extended interactions with family members can provide unique opportunities to love or shun some with whom we share DNA. One wonders how siblings who were brought up by the same parents, in the same house can have vastly different outlooks on the world and their place within it.  And yet they do, confoundingly so. Nature? Nurture? Both? I love that we humans are maddeningly complex. I hate that we are, just as much.

Life’s journey provides offramps and pathways for do-overs – routes we can take, should we choose to, to mend old wounds.  Even when the mile marker says, “Opportunity Ahead” pointing to an off ramp, beckoning us toward “Better Days”, the allure of the well-worn path feels safer.  More familiar.

A recent, extended conversation with a dear one who’s struggling with her sister provided a glimpse into the choices and decisions we make, sometimes irrevocably, if we lack the courage to intervene.  My friend hoped that Christmas this year would be family reunion-like.  She and her siblings are aging, feeling the weight of illnesses and diagnoses, some serious and life-threatening, many pesky and perturbing as joints and limbs begin to talk back with aches and ailments. 

My dear one?  She’s staring down the ultimate challenge. Despite sailing through life as a healthy person, she’s been dealt a blow she can’t dismiss with nutrition, exercise, meditation, and self-care.  Her body has rebelled against her, allowing cancer to overrun her organs and migrate, shamelessly, destructively into her bones.  “It came out of left field”, she said, when she called to share the news.  Yes, she has treatment choices to make, but the prognosis is sobering.  Time is short.

She looked forward to family time last week and hoped she might find an opening to have “the talk”, a long overdue heart-to-heart with her sister.  For years they’ve been at odds and my friend hoped to uncover the origin story, the reasons behind her sister’s intense vitriol toward her.  Whatever IT is, she thought, might we put it to bed now, once and for all? 

Explaining her game plan to me, she acknowledged that she may have unknowingly hurt her sister.  A slight or oversight, so large (and yet imperceptible to her) that it’s stood between them for thirty years.  “I’ll apologize, but I need to hear from her to understand”, she said. 

After an awkward dinner and the forced revelry of two rounds of ‘white elephant’ gift exchanges, my friend figured the time was right to ask her sister to take a walk with her – around their old neighborhood.  No one in the family knew about her diagnosis yet; she’d been delaying, living in a shroud of secrecy, fearful about sharing her devastating news at a festive time.  This is my friend in a nutshell – forever putting others first.

And yet…my friend’s nature includes frankness and fortitude as descriptive characteristics, too. In her head and heart, she felt compelled to mend the rift with her sister as job #1…the long overdue task.  Secretly, she hoped her sister might morph into an ally to help her as she broke the news to their parents, who aren’t in the best of health themselves…older and fragile.   

Remember the trench I mentioned?  The well-worn paths we create through our choices and the tendency to cling to realities…those that feel protective, safe, and warm? Despite her savvy awareness of her sister’s tendencies, my friend, the perpetual optimist, said she felt hopeful when her sister said yes, a walk would be great.  But as they wrapped themselves up in winter gear – hats, boots, scarves, and gloves – my friend caught a rush of intuition, an omen that “nice” wasn’t on the menu for their sisterly stroll. She was right.

Crunching down the snowy driveway, her sister bluntly said, I know what you’re doing and it won’t work.  I know you’re looking for a smoking gun…you want me to tell you why I don’t like you, provide a moment, a memory so you can spin it, massage it, and make it better.  There’s no moment.  There’s no reason, other than you’ve always been the favorite and everything’s easy for you.  I guess I hate that about you.  You’re the one – the pretty one, the smart one, the accomplished one – and I’ve always felt less than, because you exist.

For my dear one, her sister’s rant, the torrent and tumble-load of arrogance, sounded rehearsed. Practiced. The words flew out of her mouth with ease, and yet her voice cracked as she spoke.  As they approached the end of the long, sloping driveway, my friend paused, turning toward her sister/stranger as if she saw her for the very first time. 

Wondering if words would come, she looked at a face that mirrored her own in so many ways.  Same nose, dark eyes.  Except for the differences in color, thanks to Clairol, their hair was the same, too.  Curly and wayward, forever poking out underneath winter hats like corkscrew filaments of static and frizz. 

She saw her sister tremble.  First the bottom lip and then her chin, prompting my friend to embrace her, in a wave of love and insight.  In that moment, she understood. While she may have been a target, a focal point for her sister’s frustrations for many years, the source was her sister’s self-loathing, her lack of confidence and compulsion to compare.

What happened next?  An expansive exchange about their shared histories of hurt?  No. They just walked.  From the end of the driveway and around the block.  Not speaking, but moving in cadence, shoulder-to-shoulder, guiding each other around snowdrifts and icy patches. 

As my dear one told the story to me later, she shared this: “It was enough.  That walk? It was the best Christmas gift.”  She didn’t tell her sister about her medical news.  Not that day, she said, but soon.  Their plan is to spend New Year’s Eve together at the family cabin.  Just the two of them, pulling each other out of their trenches, to higher ground and hopefully new, and more loving territory.  Together.  I think it’s an excellent start and my friend’s trust in me, allowing me to be near to listen and love her? That’s her gift to me.

Vicki ❤

17 thoughts on “Finding Better Days…Together

  1. Wow, this story really show the power of presence and understanding. Your dear friend listened without judgement or reaction, and that was enough to create a makeshift bridge across the deep trench that had forged over many decades. Beautiful. ❤️

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    1. I love that — you’re right – she built a bridge because she was willing to be open. Terrific point. Thanks for that, Erin! Appreciate your comment…appreciate you for reading and sharing. xo! 🧡

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  2. Wow, wow, wow – I’m stunned by the power of this story and the beauty of your writing. I’m so sorry about your friend’s diagnosis. The amazing nature of her intuition, acceptance, seeing is deep and profound. It strikes me that her sister might truly have many reasons to be jealous but hopefully grace wins at the end of the day. Love, love, love this post!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you so much, Wynne. What I didn’t share? The torrent of tears as I talked with her…it was a marathon phone call…and you’re right…so much to feel and think about her diagnosis — and I still need to spend time with her just about that. This was a tough one to write because of the layers but most of all, she IS amazing and I’m glad that came through. Grace, indeed. xo to you. 🧡

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  3. This is heartbreaking. While it is understandable to try to make amends, to say what was unsaid when faced with a terminal illness, I don’t think that everyone in your life needs to know. In some cases, telling someone you care deeply about but are estranged from or in conflict with can bring more heartache. I was afraid to read the rest of the story, wondering if your friend would share the devastating news and be met with an unexpected, less than loving response. You don’t have a lot of control in this situation but you can control who knows what and when.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that, Evelyn. I must admit, I’m holding my breath as my friend moves forward and decides how and when to share. She doesn’t have control over everything, as you said, but she CAN decide who knows what and when – and even IF she wants to share at all. xo…and hugs to you! 🧡

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  4. I can only imagine the pent up tears and emotion. It really is amazing that two people can share the same DNA, look alike, be brought up by the same parents can have such different perspectives and outlooks. I’m very familiar with this and hearing your friend’s story, I can feel the emotion running through the story like the current from an electric fence, ready to zap at any moment. I’m heartened to hear how your friend’s story went. I wish her luck at New Year’s as well as with her diagnosis. Hopefully the positive turn bodes well for her body too. Love how you tell the story Victoria!

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      1. I can relate to your friend’s story. I have two brothers – one of my brothers has fallen out with the family. Fortunately I still am very close with my oldest brother. In any event, happy for your friend. Wish her the best on her next steps. She’s lucky to have you by her side. A friendly voice of reason makes a big difference! Definitely helps with seeing the big picture!

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        1. Thank you, Brian — sorry to hear that you can relate, but how wonderful that you have a close connection with your oldest brother. That’s lovely. And you’re sweet to say my friend’s lucky to have me in her corner. I feel blessed that she’s in mine! ❤️

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  5. I’m sitting here, thinking about the depth of your post, and what it is about your writing, in general, that always speaks to me. I believe it’s this: besides the way you’re able to weave a story together in the most fascinating way, it’s also the fact you’re able to pull out pieces of all of us in the process. You’ve certainly done that here. This was stated beautifully, Vicki, and sending my heartfelt best wishes to your friend. 🙏

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