A Week with Family

I often hear people say “he’s just like this” or “she’s just like that.” No one is just any way. We are the way we are because of the choices we make, the intentions we set. When we live our lives in an unexamined or unchallenged manner, we let life happen to us and let well-rehearsed patterns repeat themselves — we become hamsters on wheels, destined to a cycle of the same reactions to the same stimuli.

No situation is more prone to hamster on a wheel behavior than family get-togethers. Dad plays this role. Mom plays this role. I play this role. My brother plays this role. It’s the same tired play. Last year, I chose to play a different role — to be the loving and accepting one instead of the argumentative and angry one. To my surprise, my family members couldn’t play their same roles anymore because one character was no longer cooperative. I like to use an analogy of four buildings creating a wind tunnel — as soon as you move one of the buildings, the wind can never travel the same path again. That is how one person’s orientation can gravitationally pull an entire dynamic.

I spent this past week with my family again. And I have to say that it was hard. I really wanted to convince my family members that the world is not just the way it is. I really wanted them to see their own individual potential as well. But I just wasn’t able to bridge the gap. I became a bit of a nuisance about the topic. I became the flower child musing about impractical ideals. But I just wanted them to know that THIS IS NOT IMPRACTICAL! It breaks me to see this kind of stagnation and unknowing resignation. I learned…or rather re-learned two things this week:

  1. Inspire by example and not by preaching. I got a little preachy. Yes, I may have played an Eckhart Tolle audiobook on the trip to Yosemite. There may have been one half-way receptive ear in the car, and to the rest it further alienated them from the concepts. What worked last year for me was just being different, being love, being kindness. Being living proof of what’s possible is far more effective than appealing to an intellectual mind that may or may not have a direct line of communication with the heart.
  2. We don’t always learn once and forever. Sometimes we take two steps forward and a half-step back. And that half-step back helps us learn more deeply what we thought we did the first time around. I learned point #1 above in the past. I could even give it to someone as advice. But I forgot it in the moment for myself. Mistakes are great learnings and enforcers.

Awakening is a hard process. While I feel closer and more connected with literally everyone and everything, I sometimes don’t know how to communicate with people anymore. And I get looked at like a stranger in some ways as well.

Let’s be real. I’ll allow myself to end a post on a sigh.

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