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Midlife Questions: Should You Have A Talk With Difficult Or Estranged Family Members So You Can Reconcile And Get Resolution?

Episode 9 | (00:00):

Hey there, Easy Ager! Guess what we're talking about today? Yeah, difficult or estranged family members... whoo-hoo! Yeah, I know.  But when you hit midlife, sometimes there's just an uncomfortableness inside of you.

When you think of these people, you think, "Should I reach out to them if we haven't talked for many years?", "Should I have a talk with them?", "Should I just get over it and you know, tolerate them at family gatherings?"

I mean, these are things to think about. And while I can't tell you what to do — because you're a grown-up and you can make your own decisions — I'm just going to give you some things to think about so you can figure out what next steps are right for you, alright? You ready to do this? Open your ears and open your hearts. We're going to have some good stuff today. 

(01:30):

Alright, so before we get started today, I wanted to remind you to go pick up your free gift at TheEasyAgingShow.com. I think you're going to love it.

Today, we're talking about communicating with family members, with relatives that we see once or twice a year. And this normally happens during the holidays. However, this information can be helpful to you any time of the year.

So whether it's Grandma, who's hard of hearing, or Uncle Fred who calls himself "The King of Pun," we all have those relatives, right? Or whether it's cousin Mildred, you know, and maybe she never forgave you for beating her out for cheerleading. There was one spot left on the cheerleading squad and you got it.

We have a mish-mash of relatives and family members and blended families that whew! Communicating with them can bring up some old feelings and some unresolved issues.

(02:29):

Now there's a phrase that says "the meanings are in people, not in words." This has never been truer than at family gatherings, I can assure you. So if you listened to episode eight (hint, hint: if you haven't, go back and listen, please).

In that episode, I talked all about meanings and how we all have meanings that live inside of us. And at the end of it, I gave you a fun-sized action, a little exercise to do so you could figure out what meanings live inside of you and if they're still relevant.

Because sometimes we attach meanings to facts and experiences when we're young, and they may have served us well then. But maybe they're not serving us anymore. Maybe it's time to change those.

So go back and listen to that episode, do the exercise, and really start exploring and investigating the meanings that live inside of you.

(03:17):

So here's an example of one word that has a lot of different meanings. Whether you're driving, whether you're doing something else, that's fine, but I'm going to say a word and I want you to commit to a picture in your head. The very first thought that you have.

Okay, so the word is fly, F-L-Y. Alright, you got your picture? Now, if we were sitting in a room together, I am pretty confident that we would get a lot of different answers. There's going to be the group that answers "fly. Oh, that's an airplane. That's a helicopter, that could even be a drone."

Then we have another group who's going to say, "Oh, it's the fly. You know, the insect that gets in your house that you have a flyswatter for. Or it's a butterfly or it's birds."

And then there's a whole other group that says, "Oh, it's kites, it's parachutes, it's paper airplanes."

(04:05):

So do you see how one word can have so many different meanings? And the meaning is inside of each of us, it's not "out there." We can look in the dictionary, but we automatically associate a picture with these meanings without even thinking, without giving it a moment's thought, right? 

Meanings can also be in experiences. We all bring our own perspective to every experience and attach a meaning accordingly. Even two siblings in the same household can attach very different meanings to the same experience.

For example, when I was four years old, my mother took my brother and I to Summer Children's Theater. Ooh, that was so exciting! From the moment the curtain went up, I was mesmerized by every single detail of Rapunzel's story. Oh my gosh, even to this day, I can tell you all the colors and what Rapunzel was wearing and what the castle looked like and the colors that were in the vegetable garden.

(05:06):

And I could go detail-by-detail because I was so amazed. So I quickly fell in love with live theater, and this experience was so pivotal for me. It was so rich. It was so amazing. And it was significant because it was the moment I knew that I would be an actor. At four years old, I didn't even know what it meant. I didn't even know what it looked like. All I knew was that I would point to the stage and say, "Yeah, I'm going to be doing that."

Now, this is important because later on in my life, I did become an actor. I became a stage actor, oh, and I love that so much. And then I became a voice actor, and I loved that even more because I didn't have to wear makeup. And then I incorporated improv acting. I became an improv actor...

(05:53):

And I love that just as much, if not more than the other two, because you didn't have to go to rehearsal. I moved this acting gig into my business model, and I was a professional actor for many, many years.

One Thanksgiving, we were sitting around the table after dinner and I told my family about my first theater experience, what a significant moment this was for me, and how it affected me so incredibly deeply. I was just like, "Ahhh" and of course, being an actor, I might've been a little dramatic about it. ;)

And then my brother looked a little bit puzzled and he paused for a moment. He said, "We went to children's theater?" So that's the perfect example: two children in the same household having the same experience and yet, they walk away with two completely different perspectives and attach two completely different meanings to that same experience.

(06:46):

One of the big things you can do before any family gathering before the holidays or not, whenever you're getting together, for whatever reason, you can decide in advance how you're going to be responding to this relative. I mean, you're going to more than likely see the relative that you don't like, the one you don't get along with, and they push your buttons.

But as you learned in episode eight, you're able to see how the meanings you attach to the facts are affecting you. Understanding why it bugged you in the first place is going to help you release it a little bit. So you can become more aware of it, be aware when you're getting triggered and just really start looking at it, asking, "Well, was that really worth all the energy that I put toward that?" Now, when you start evaluating these meanings on a deeper level, you may find out that some of them were so trivial.

(07:35):

I mean, maybe it was something that happened to you in second grade and then you're thinking, "Oh, well, that's a little embarrassing, it's time to let that one go," right?

But if the event was bigger or more serious, you have to decide whether it warrants a conversation or not. Maybe you want an apology from them. Or just as importantly, maybe you need to apologize to them. And maybe that's why they trigger you so much. Because in the back of your mind, you know you need to give them an apology because you know you did them wrong.

But you really need to decide what's right for you, and whether you're going to have a conversation about it or not. Whether or not you take the leap into a conversation is up to you, and it really does depend on the individual situation and the seriousness of the offense.

(08:20):

Now, I want to specifically say here that if this person abused you in any way, if this person was violent toward you and you have not talked to someone, I would highly encourage you to go speak to a licensed professional counselor or a therapist. This therapist is going to help you get clear on where you are right now and what your next steps will be. And that's an exceptionally important part of having some resolution to all this.

So that's what happens if you see the person at a family gathering. But what happens if you're estranged? What if you don't speak at all and many years have passed? It is a little tough to reach out after so much time has passed, but a lot of it gets down to one thing and that's you deciding. You deciding that it's worth it to get over the hump in this relationship. Someone needs to break the ice.

(09:12):

As Dr. Phil says, "Every story needs a hero," and you can be that hero for this story.

Amazon Prime has a great series called Goliath, and it's with Billy Bob Thornton as the main character. There's a scene in season four where he's talking with a guy who's taking a picture of a dog, and he's there having this conversation: "So why are you taking a picture of the dog?" And the guy says, "Oh, I take pictures of dogs and send them to my kids."

Billy Bob Thorton's character is very intrigued by this because currently, he and his daughter are estranged, they don't even speak at all. And at the end of the series, they show him taking a picture of a dog so you know he's going to be following through on that. He's going to be sending pictures of dogs to his daughter, because he has no idea how to talk with her...

(09:56):

He has no idea how to reach her after all this time.

Now for you, it may be a dog or it may not, but maybe you can start thinking about sending a meme. Maybe you can send something from childhood like, "Hey, I saw this and I thought of you. Remember when the time when Mom got mad at us..." and you can go in that direction.

But this is the important part to understand. When you do this, it is incredibly important that you understand why you're doing this. You're doing this to break the ice with this particular relative, right? You want to have an ongoing relationship with this person and you haven't spoken in a while and you're doing it because your heart knows it's the right thing to do. And sometimes we do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do.

(10:40):

The reality is this person may not respond to you. That's not the point. The point is: you're following your own heart. You know this, you already know this. I'm not telling you anything new right now. Your heart may be agreeing with every single thing I'm saying, but your ego and your pride are resisting.

So the big question for you is what road are you going to take? Are you going to allow more time to go on without talking to this person?

Because if COVID has taught us anything, it has taught us that:

Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Tomorrow has never been guaranteed, but COVID brought that to light.

Don't miss an opportunity to reconcile. Don't miss an opportunity to have a relationship with a person you used to love, with a person who you were close to. Keep at it. They may not respond, and that's okay.

(11:31):

You're doing what's right for you. You're trying. You're giving it your best shot. You're putting forth an effort there. And at some point, they're going to see that and they're going to appreciate it. Even if they don't respond.

Because, my friends, the bottom line here is we want to live our lives without regrets. We have to have those hard conversations. We have to put ourselves out there. We have to sometimes take a risk if we want to have a relationship with certain people. Until you take that one small action, you're not going to know if that's even possible, right?

Because relationships are the spice of life. They are the essence of who we are and what we're about. So why would you let your ego stop you from having a relationship with this person if that meant your life was going to be more fulfilling and more joyful and more peaceful? Please don't let any more time go on.

(12:21):

You can take a first step today, and that step is deciding. Deciding what you want in your life. Deciding if you want this person in your life whether it's a family member you see occasionally at family gatherings, or whether it's someone you're estranged from, someone you haven't spoken to in years.

Maybe that person's just waiting for you right now. Maybe they're really wanting you in their life, but they don't know how to get started.

You take the first step. You be the hero for this story. And you be confident in knowing that if this is what your heart is telling you to do, it's the right thing.

So that's it for today. Just a little something to think about as we move into the holiday season. Don't forget to pick up your gift at TheEasyAgingShow.com. And until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care. Bye-bye!

 

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