You know I don’t even remember who did what to who first but me and my sister have been undermining each other for years. She doesn’t know but I have cancer and I’m on limited time. I don’t want to tell her beforehand because it’ll only make her worry but I want things between us fixed before she finds out. Do you have an suggestions about what I can do to get us back to a good place?
Sister of Mercy
The answer to “What can I do to get us back to a good place?” is: live in reality. That isn’t a snub or an insult. I’ll explain why I mean it literally and why almost everyone falls for the same illusion you have.
You describe you and your sister as having a relationship as though that is a thing that can either be good or bad. I know it can be a handy word, but we’ve all grown so accustomed to using these terms that we’ve forgotten the value in asking what they really mean. Because there is no such actual thing as a relationship there are only threads of moments where you were voluntarily sharing life decisions with someone else. Relationship is the word you use to describe that time-frame, but like there are relationships portrayed over hours in deeply romantic films, the simple underlying truth is that the two-hour-long beautiful relationship is in fact comprised of individual Moments—of individual frames—that are only brought to romantic life by your mind as it strings together these individual stills into a story that will feel so real it will bring tears to your eyes.
Do you see how loose we are with language? When we say we saw a movie, in fact we did not see an entire movie. We, over time, looked through 24 individual still frames per second for a couple of hours, meaning a movie happened as a string of Moments in your consciousness—because that is how your consciousness perceives the universe. So you don’t fix your relationship with your sister, instead you start—moment by moment—making choices that aren’t based on your ego beating your sister, but that are based instead on creating a quality Moment between the two of you. Stop worrying about the whole movie and start focusing on the quality of each individual frame.
It’s actually easier than you think, but it will of course feel awkward at the start. It sounds like it’s been a while since you’ve had a lot of warm, positive contact. But whatever. You’re dying. You know you have nothing more to lose. That makes you free. You’ll be surprised how good it will feel. So awkward or not, power on through. It’ll be worth it I assure you. So how do you do it? The same way we succeed in every arena in life that exists: appreciation.
Rather than remember the things she said or did, or the things you wish you’d done or not done, or whatever history exists, focus instead on the present moment. Get to know your sister like a stranger would. Don’t assume your thoughts about her have been accurate. That’s the huge mistake everyone makes. Because we think our judgments are the truth we only look for evidence we’re right, and we’ll always find our proof if that’s our agenda. You both have to learn to see each other again. Your sister has friends that love her and count on her. Why do they do that? You should know the reasons for that admiration. You should familiarize yourself with who she is—not as your sister—but as the individual that her friends and co-workers meet every day.
When you’re locked in ego you’re having all sorts of mind-arguments about who’s right and who’s wrong, and who deserves what and what you’d say if…. But when you’re in a state of open awareness—a state of appreciation—then being in love is easy. It’s natural. You realize you never needed to build a bond or bridge, you had to remove a wall of thinking. A wall of judgments, of opinions, of beliefs. Take that down, look at someone like a guru, and you see that among the things you do better than them, there are a whack of things that they do better than you. Appreciate those. The act will feel good to your soul.
I would also like to add that I would at least consider actually telling your sister about your situation. It would give her ego the upper hand if you were asking her for help. That means her ego can go quiet—it has nothing to accomplish, it’s already won—and then she can see you more accurately. It might be the very thing you can do that would make the biggest difference in terms of forming the connection you’re seeking. But if you didn’t tell her until you have to I would totally understand because there’s many worthwhile reasons to make that choice too. But no matter which route you take, love is natural; it is what already exists in the space between you. What’s creating that space are narratives in your consciousness about what has happened or might happen. Quiet those and you’re in love by nature.
You don’t fix a relationship. You make choices about what to process in your consciousness on a moment by moment basis. If you want to improve a relationship then become more conscious of what narratives you’re choosing to process when you’re with that person. If they’re critical or blame-based and non-constructive then you will be poisoning your time together moment by moment. But if they’re appreciative and grateful and compassionate and loving then your moments will mostly be beautiful. So consciously write yourself some great scenes to star in and enjoy that for however long your movie lasts. I wish you the very best. Big hug. You’ll be fine.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.