We all are like onions - Wisdom for relationships, regrets and reconciliation
Each and everyone of us has a multitude of relationships in their life. Up until I started reading this book though, I was never aware of the different levels and impacts these relationships have on my life, for years still to come. So while reading chapter after chapter and with each sampled extract of someone’s story and how they approached reconciliation, I began to wonder: Was there any relationship in my life that needed work, needed a spotlight on it to flourish or develop? Was there a relationship that is no more but may be mended? Where there regrets in my life that I could tend to for development as an individual? Or maybe someone out there was in dire need for my apology, desire to reconnect or even simple words of clarification in order for them to let things of the past go?
Without realising it, without consciously being aware of it, there were several plopping into mind, which surprised me very much. I thought I had a very clean slate. What amazed me even more was that some of them actually still evoked a certain level of regret within me.
For one I am estranged with both my siblings. I could find an excuse like our age gap of more than ten years, but then that does not hinder other siblings with this difference in age to have a very strong bond. The fact that I immigrated to another country could play a vital role in our estrangement. I went away before both of them reached their teenage years and therefore a significant time in their lives when they may have been glad to have a mature sister to look up to, get advice from or simply just act as a cover up when they wanted to hide something from out parents. Then again, with technology these days even borders to foreign lands would not suffice as an excuse for estrangement. My brain tried hard to give me ease from a bad feeling that I simply neglected them and that I, or some part buried deep down within myself, rejected them. After all, I knew I wanted to leave my home and my country behind since the age of ten, the exact same time my sister was born.
Honestly, I am at a loss for words and ashamed too, but subconsciously I was, indeed, and very literally, fleeing from my family and consequently from my siblings. I never gave us a chance to forge a bond and looking back, this I regret very much.
They have grown up to become an inspiration to me, they live their lives with determination and big dreams, confidence and very successfully. Consequently, there may have not been a need for my being there as a big sister at all for I would not have been able to fulfil that role at all. I speak the truth when I say that I was still a child, maybe not in age (since I was 23 at the time of my departure) but very much so in my behaviour and mind. Now that I see both of them in their early twenties, nearly the same age I was when I left, I am relieved though about the connection they have with each other Sometimes I think I could make more of an effort to reconnect, more than a line or two through Instagram messages, more than a hello while talking on Skype with my parents. Then again, since I am convinced that they have each other and do not at all feel so alone as I sometimes feel in this world, I comfort myself and know that several times I have told them that they have a home wherever I am and a friend in me whenever they are in need. I guess, I am at a point where I lean back, observe and be glad and happy and excited if they reach out to me at some point. Thinking about regrets my relationship with them came to mind, now that I have thought it through, I feel better and will act when the time comes, no regrets there anymore, just understanding and appreciation for the weird ways in which life works its magic.
The other relationship that was resolved long ago, for me anyway, or so I though, was my first boyfriend in Switzerland. It ended in tears and heartbreak, and probably even betrayal in one way born another on both sides as well. Admittedly, I did not care back then about how he felt. I made the terrible mistake of only thinking about myself, recovering from my first burn-out with no one to turn to, no real understanding or emotional support from him or his family. When he himself sent his childhood friend to keep me company and listen to my troubles, for he did not have the nerves to do that, I fell out of love with him and in love with his friend. Before anything more happened in a romantic sense between us though, we told him what had happened and we even broke contact with each other in order to prevent things from going further. It did not help much, neither him who felt betrayed, nor myself for I had fallen in love with someone else. The deed was done, and I to blame for our failed relationship and the breaking of the circle of very closely intertwined, friendships surrounding us three.
I reached out to both him and his family some years after everything had happened, apologising, blank slate before leaving Switzerland to find a home in Scotland. Now that I read this book, and once again thinking back to this very peculiar time in my life, I definitely know that I am still hurt. From the outside it might seem like I should not be hurt for I was the one hurting him, but I am scarred. At a time when I was in desperate need of support, when I did not know what was happening to me or my body, when I did not know how or if at all I could go on living, I was let down. Send to someone else. Although I absolutely one hundred percent understand his situation, starting college, being young and carefree, in a family that provided material and emotional support and love no matter what, who would not want to just enjoy? Who would want a fiancee that was hurting badly, not even sure if she wanted to live or die, sad and unconsolable, on medication that made her numb and unreachable. I had my guard up, with walls so high it would have been a lot of work to break them. I would not have made it easy to get through to me either, I am absolutely positive that I would have pushed him away over and over again in this exhaustion and depression and darkness that hold me captive. Even when I know that I have achieved the majority of healing from this traumatic break up, knowing that I am not forgiven and blamed, wholly blamed, for everything as though not two people are responsible for the failure of a relationship, hurts me very much. Then again I am convinced that at some point one has to accept the way other people cope with their experiences and let it go.
And that is it exactly why I will not feel guilty, ashamed or even hurt anymore. I am done with regretting because I am absolutely positive that what happened back then was more than necessary for my mental health and my moving forward in my life. I have reached out, I have given apologies for my part of the equation and reading this simple sentence in Davis’s book led me to the final healing for the bruises that remained. Reflecting on it again though brought me not only the last part of the necessary healing process but also something else. Being grateful for giving me an opportunity to learn. Standing my ground, to raising my voice when I am in need of love and help and support, to not settle for anything less than what everyone deserves: unconditional support and love. It may have took me another relationship and another break up and another coping of three years, but now I know that this was exactly what the voice and inner guidance during that time urged me to do. It may have not been conscious, it may have looked like I was “just” madly in love with his friend, who turned out to be my guardian angel through the next six years. Nonetheless the experience is crystal clear now and I am very grateful for it.
Lastly but certainly not least, my parents. I could fill the pages of a whole book with that story. There was and maybe is (and experiencing that subconsciously things come up only when you are ready for them, and not when you think you have worked through them) a lot of regret, hate, despair, guilt, shame- basically a lot of hard, difficult feelings. Seeing as I am only able to experience my perception and have limited abilities of imagining theirs, I had a lot of work to do. I suspect that I will have to work through a lot in the years to come, even though our relationship now is very soothing, easing and loving now. Maybe the roughly 2’500 kilometres between us have something to do with that, maybe I matured and grew up a little bit, maybe I was able to see them as human beings who did the best they could rather than remaining in a victimised mindset, maybe all of it combined. I do not know and I do not care. The relationship we have right now is important to me, I feel connected again and that is the most important thing to me right now. Additionally I feel like I have a home with them now, the one ting I never felt I really did have before, I know I can and would come home to them whenever I was in need of their assistance.
It is one practice within the book, to find out where your boundaries lie, how you define the relationship and what you want it to feel and look like, define the closeness you want it to have. This gave me a desperately needed freedom for I was constantly debating whether I was a bad daughter for not being able to feel closer to them or even have contact more frequently with them.
Still this book also brought up a lot of thoughts about my childhood and flooded me with sadness, shame and regrets.
A very moving story in the book, about a father and daughter, reconciled only on his deathbed and herself freed of a lifelong struggle to forgive and not fall back into old behavioural patterns, brought me to tears and accordingly made me write down why I was crying:
“I know I am running, I know why I cannot seem to grow roots anywhere, why I do not want to. I am hurt, very badly hurt, I am far from healed. I run from having stability in life and abide to conventional norms, I run from having a family. Contrary to what I though where the real reasons, it turns out they are only reasons of the surface. Subconsciously, and on a soul level, I have not forgotten the trauma of my childhood, my teenage years, my growing up. I felt so much pain, unfathomable loneliness. Therefore it is much easier to run away and hide behind a noble cause than admit that on the bottom of it all, I am just hurt and in search of a home for my heart. I might be aware consciously that our societal systems and norms in the western world are not sustainable, old-fashioned and not in the least a realistic approach for the future of our Mama Earth. Subconsciously though I am on a quest to heal myself and in order to do this, I project the goal to find a home for my heart onto the external world, onto founding an intentional community. Basically I want to rebuild a family that can make up and provide everything that I felt was missing from my childhood. I envision a future with a family, in the sense that a group of people come together and share life experience, not only on a material level but more importantly on an emotional, soul and communal level. Now I am aware that I am running from an idea, a system that enslaved my parents to adhere to capitalism when all I needed was a home for my soul.”
Isn’t it interesting how one can feel solid in their decisions and following their desires and dreams, being an adult, but then still feel like a child at times, weeping for comfort given by a parent, craving for not being an adult anymore and just bundle up within the warmth of an embrace and as a result being able to let go of the pressure of being all grown-up by just being small, innocent and held. Curious how all we really ever yearn for is love.
Regret, noun, a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.
Relationship, noun, the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.
Probably the words that correlate with each other the most in life. It truly is all about being connected, the most fundamental part of the human experience. It was so wonderful being able to reflect on what I have done as well as failed to do when it comes to my personal connections with fellow human-beings. Wonderful not in a sense that I was running over a field of flowers with a rainbow up above, Marjorie on my side, a summer breeze in my hair and a smile on my face. Wonderful in the sense that only becoming aware of, therefore acknowledging emotions that arise within us during the process of reflection, can we open up a space for healing.
“The cure for pain is pain itself.”
Laura Davis’s book opened up bits and pieces in me that would have been forgotten in an unhealthy way, buried underneath time passing by. It is so very refreshing and enriching to reminisce from time to time and let feelings come to the surface, might they even be from situations long past. This experience, meaning the sheer coincidence of this book falling into my hands (literally it fell into my hands while being in the attic of my current hosts), gave me a new perspective on life.
We all are onions.
A smile appears on my face while writing this because I remember hearing this kind of statement in the first Shrek movie once.
The wisdom in it is simple and, for me at least, holds truth. Even if we think we worked through something, we can never be sure of it, because we all have layers. Not only that but our emotions are layered as well, our perception of reality is layered, our very life experience is layered, dictated by past experiences and thoughts. There might come a time in our lives when we think back on a situation and another layer of our perception of it, our reflection on it, our feelings towards it, can surface. What a freeing revelation this is, like a library within our very soul, ever open to new possibilities of reconciliation, reconnection and remembrance.
And what opportunities this opens up as well for everyone around us. Having all this in mind, I want to emphasise the power we hold within this wisdom to support others in their journeys. If you know me personally and I have ever done anything that you have unexpressed feelings towards, let me know. Let us both revisit this situation and in the process of expressing ourselves, learn to listen to each other in order for both of us to take away growth and trust from it.
I am all ears, and due to the distance between us mostly eyes, my dears!
Love and light to all of you, beloved souls, in your heart and within your life and every relationship you have!
(Text & Edit by Nadine Almer)