Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I know you are but what am I?

As children we had countless arguments and as adults we have not always agreed on everything. However, in all of my years I don’t think I ever called my sister the name I called her tonight. I know that she loves me and just the other day I telephoned her just to tell her that I love her but that couldn’t stop me from feeling how I felt this evening. That couldn’t stop me from calling her the name that I did.

Of course, I know that in sum she isn’t what I called her. She has been very good to me and everyone else in my family, to her friends, to my friends, to the young people she works with. But tonight we had a disagreement and I called her selfish.

On the surface it is a simple matter. Everyone in the family has come to a consensus on an issue. My sister is the sole dissenter. She says, for the same reasons she always uses when it comes to matters like this, that she can’t afford it and that when looking at the grand scheme of things she can’t side with everyone else because it is not in her best interest. That pissed me off. That is when I told her that I needed to get off the phone with her because I was disappointed and there was nothing else at this hour for us to discuss. She had made her decision and on this issue we would agree to disagree.

Yet, what I battle with now isn’t just my feelings about what I said to my sister, or how I feel about her decisions, or my concerns about her reasons for coming to her own conclusion, moreover, not even that I need to step back and try to see this thing from her point of view - but what I am wrestling with now is her response to me calling her selfish. This in some way really makes me the selfish one for making it about me.

She ended our back and forth with – Sometimes we all have to put our individual self ahead of our families. You should know that. Where do you live? Not here with us.

It is true. I live hundreds of miles away from my entire family. I graduated high school and with the exception of a few summers in college and the occasional holiday visit I have not looked back. I am not there with them on the day-to-day. I have created a world of my own in a new place, planted different roots and moved on. I have placed my individual self ahead of my family, and not just because I moved away and cannot participate in the activities of looking after and caring and sharing with them immediately and in their presence. There are also other reasons.

More often than not I am cognizant of those reasons and more often than not I do not feel guilty. My me has over the years become more the focus than my we. The last two years, seeing my grandparents age from visit to visit, the relationship with my brother and sister mature as we do and quest for centeredness has brought this to the fore front of my mind more than it had been in the past, yet I know that my me is still priority over my we. I don’t know if that is a bad thing or a good thing. Right now I recognize it and it is what it is.

Twenty years from now I don’t want to be resentful or resented. I suppose I have to figure out what it means for me to be true to myself while at the same time truly balanced and present in whatever ways as a son, brother and member of the tribe.