In her Soulful Sunday share on trust, Brene Brown mentions that “as small as the moments of trust can be, those can be the moments of betrayal, as well. To choose to not connect when there is an opportunity, is a betrayal.” (10.35)
That summed up last Saturday for me. Standing at the local farm market, under the oak trees shading the vegetable vendors, flower sellers & omelette makers, there unfolded moments of opportunity for connection ~or~ betrayal.
Suddenly seeing my Aussie-based older brother shook me up – I thought he was outside Sydney, not in the heart of our hometown. He casually mentioned that he & Kerry had been in town since Wednesday. Mike spoke to me in the exact same tone of voice, with the exact same level of engagement, as the person he talked to before spotting me. Neither of us moved in for a hug & kiss.
His host eagerly assured me, “You are on their radar, tagged for a visit!” That did not help with my hyperventilating over what I guess Mike & Kerry thought would be a happy shock. What they might have planned as a big surprise went down as surreal – and not in a good way.
From Mike & Kerry’s angle, it might have seemed like a swell way to surprise me. Up to this season, I’d been the farm market’s Cupcake Lady. Since we have no contact outside of their Christmas card, they might not have known I skipped this season, focusing my energies on nurturing my eldercare (r)evolution efforts.
One reason for our shocked response – John as much as I – was that on their two earlier joint visits since Mom died, they ignored numerous invitations to get together. The shift between being dissed & “Hey! You’re on their radar & tagged for a visit!” stripped my spirits. And I couldn’t get as upset as I wanted, to say “WHAT?” because there were people milling all around us. Again – surreal describes how it felt.
Even at the time, I felt sorry for Mike. Am sure it was not the reaction he expected. being relatively cold-shouldered, in front of everyone. Kerry could reasonably have chalked it up to “typical Elsa, still rude & hurtful.” From their point of view, possibly from their hosts’ & others, that’s how it could have seemed.
I dissect everything, so naturally did a post-mortem on last weekend. Came up with confirmation of what I already know to be so – we process things in opposite ways, which does not bode well for building strong healthy connections.
Brene completely captured what happened last weekend – “As small as the moments of trust can be, those can be the moments of betrayal, as well. To choose to not connect when there is an opportunity, is a betrayal.” But one person’s experience of attempted connection can be another’s moment of betrayal.
Background: For two previous visits – one of them including Mom’s memorial celebration – Mike & Kerry made no effort to connect with me, neither as friend nor sibling. They did not connect with me after our sister, Mim, died – my communication with them was directed through their daughter. They never shared their response to the online memorial tribute their daughter & I created together, which saddens me more than anything.
My guess is that Mike & Kerry avoided contact due to fear of being hurt. They would have been right – seeing & experiencing things so differently creates an unbridgeable chasm that makes miscommunication & mangled moments of connection almost inevitable
They triangulate, I am direct. Oh, Kerry prides herself on being a frank Aussie, but my experience is more in line with my s-i-l as someone who detailed to Mom things about me that made her blood run cold, then saying while SHE never talked to me about those things, MOM was welcome to.
This blog is an opportunity for me to do the very thing my sibs & s-i-l find so irksome – write things out, look at them from different angles, reframe situations from another person’s perspective or even a totally different set of circumstances.
Which is my rambly way of saying there are times that past histories (separate & shared), life expectations & communication styles leave even the best-intended people setting up what they hope to be heartfelt connection that’s felt as betrayal. It’s not personal – it’s personalities.
I will forever grateful that the Universe gave me an opportunity to be open & honest with my brother, Michael. When he asked us out to breakfast on Monday, my sensors were on overload & I said yes because I lacked the grounding to say anything else. It didn’t take me long to realize what a disaster that could turn into – and I didn’t have the energy to take the risk.
When Mike called on Sunday to confirm the plans, I told him, tenderly & firmly, that they – especially Kerry – feel unsafe to me ~and~ past experience suggests that I am equally unsafe for them – especially Kerry. That I wish them well & accept that they wish me well, but we – Kerry & I – do not do well together.
I was able to feel the emotions on Saturday, register & respect them, let them past through & out of me because of years of reading & our current yoga/meditation work. Seeing the situation as the story I was telling myself & processing it was thanks to Brene. But the opportunity to understand, process & speak my truth to the appropriate person, at an appropriate time? That was literally God sent, to all of us.
For some people ~ like me, my sibs & s-i-l ~ maybe the best course of action is as basic as accepting that our conflicting communication styles don’t mesh, that it’s hard for us to connect with each other, that we can respect each other’s good intentions & honor one another as special-place-in-the-heart people.
And keep a safe, loving distance.