Respect the way you feel before you respect how others feel about a situation or about you.
Yesterday a friend called to say that my father was unwell. He said my brother-in-law was trying to reach me. I spoke to my brother-in-law and inferred that my dad indeed had not been keeping good health. However, I excused myself from visiting him.
My family – parents and siblings – and I have been estranged for several years now. In the recent past the estrangement has been acute – a lot of it has to also do with the money my wife and I have borrowed from my parents in the past to resurrect our business. Naturally the money still remains due to them because our business has not picked up enough to enable us to repay anyone. (I have talked about this forgettable family saga in my Book – “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money”; Westland, August 2014.)
But my decision to distance myself from my parents and siblings has a deeper context. I feel there is complete mistrust between all of us. Besides, I don’t find any of them true to who they are making themselves out to be. So, like I have done in the past, I chose to stay away from the present situation concerning my dad. And I prefer to remain this way in the future too.
My stance, without doubt, is debatable. In the world’s view, what I am doing may be seen as dereliction of duty. Some may term it as total abdication. Others may view it as lack of compassion: “A 76-year-old is pining for his oldest son, but the son obstinately clings on to his ego!” Yet others may believe that because it is a short Life, we must let go, bury our differences, and move on. My siblings have, for their part, on more than one occasion, pointed out to me that since I have been unable to return the money I owe to the family, the least I can and must do is to be a “dutiful” son and look after my parents physically. Indeed, there are these and several other ways to look at the choice I have exercised.
But I have not been driven by any of these considerations. To be sure, I hold no grudge against my family for the way my wife and I have been treated by them. I also recognize that I have, in the past, contributed unwittingly to the fractious environment in the family. Even so, after much reflection and soul-searching, my realization is that I don’t relate to any of them anymore. I can’t trust any of them and I feel there’s so much “untruth” and “pretension” on the rare occasions we have met. I believe they feel this way about me and my wife too. So, therefore, I have decided to refuse to brush aside this intense discomfort within me and pretend everything is normal by “showing up and being seen”. I feel that by staying away from each other we are all anchored in our own peaceful states. For everyone, including my ailing father, this is the best place to be in. This is my view. And I am peaceful living my Life with this view.
Yes, my wife and I owe my family, just as we owe 178 other creditors, money. And we believe, when things turn around for us financially, we will repay every rupee to everyone, with full interest due.
I don’t expect anyone to agree with my view here. But I will still share the learning I have gleaned from the experience I have had of being a “member” of my dysfunctional family! Sometimes when relationships become very messy, when there is no more relating among the people in the relationship, it is just best to let go of the relationships. Or, if you can’t, then let them simply be. Trying to get people, who are hell bent on misinterpreting you, to understand you is a waste of your precious time and energy. Trying to fulfil your familial obligations or filial duties at acute discomfort to you, while letting your inner peace be disturbed, is absolute hara-kiri. The past does not matter anymore. The future no one has seen. In the present, if you can’t trust someone, if you don’t feel happy being in someone’s presence, simply don’t pretend being comfortable and suffer in the bargain. Nothing is worth more in Life than your inner peace. If you cannot feel good being someplace with someone, don’t go there, don’t be with them. Whoever they may be. It is important you respect how you feel before you even respect the way others will feel.