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 am 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 any 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 those can be handy words, but we’ve all grown so accustomed to using these terms that we’ve forgotten the value in asking what they really mean.
There is no such actual thing as ‘a relationship.’ In the moment, a relationship consists of periods of moments where we are voluntarily sharing life experiences and decisions with someone else. ‘Relationship’ is the word you use to describe that collection of time-frames and the consequences of what happened within them.
Much 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 our mind as it strings together these individual ‘stills’ into a narrative story that will feel so real it will bring tears to our 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 our consciousness —because that is how our consciousness perceives the universe.
This means you don’t ‘fix your relationship with your sister.’ Instead, you start —moment by moment— making choices that aren’t based on your ego’s desire to best your sister. Rather than ‘winning,’ or ‘exacting revenge,’ or ‘make things fair,’ you simply want your choices to be based on creating a quality Moment between the two of you.
In short, 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.
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, it’s the nature of the human mind that we will only detect evidence that we’re right, and we’ll always find our proof if that’s our unconscious 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 with your history— 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 in looking that way, with anyone, we all see that among the things we do better than them, there are a whack of things that they do better than us. Appreciate your sister’s versions of those. Celebrate her. That 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.
As ironic as it might feel, it may be the very best thing you could do in terms of making the biggest difference regarding the sense of 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.
No matter which route you take, love is natural; it is what already exists in the space between you. What’s creating the barrier is nothing more than narratives in each of your consciousnesses, and those thoughts are all about what has happened or might happen and who was right or wrong. Quiet those and you’re in love by nature.
We don’t ‘fix’ relationships. We make choices about what to process in our consciousness on a moment by moment basis. If we want to improve a relationship, then we should endeavour to become more conscious of what narratives we’re choosing to process when we’re with that person.
If our thoughts are critical or blame-based, and non-constructive, then we will be poisoning our time together moment by moment. But if our interactions ignore history and are focused on moments of being appreciative and grateful and compassionate and loving, then our time together will mostly be beautiful.
I wish you and your sister the very best.
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.