Reunions


Over the past three weeks, I have participated in an extended and distributed family reunion. In Houston, my mother and I saw some cousins and an uncle. In Southern California, we saw different cousins and my brother and his family from Seattle, and my sister from North Carolina, who caught up with us there after missing Houston. Now I’m back in North Carolina with my wife, visiting the uncle from Houston along with his two sons, and some of their spouses and children. It feels a little like Grand Central Station with all of the comings and goings, but life is like that sometimes. We learn to adapt.

Something that came up at lunch was how we often remember people we have known a long time differently from how they are now. My youngest cousin seems to be much larger than I remember him from childhood, where he was always the youngest of the cousins, and the smallest. Now he is the tallest of the three brothers, but it is the third brother, the oldest, who we are here to memorialize. I wonder if the memories we recount will be from the cousin we knew early in life or the one we said goodbye to later. How does memory get to be so selective? And when?

My sister’s mother-in-law continues to call me by my middle name, which I went by until I went into the service back in the 1970’s. She manages to add my first name in front of it, but still calls me the middle name. We joke about it whenever we talk on the phone. Her son, my best friend growing up, doesn’t usually remember to call me what I go by now. I don’t worry about it so much with him, as we are related now. He married my sister.

But it makes me wonder how much of the status quo comes from people who just don’t want to look at people as they are right now. Is it just easier to remember that little kid we always picked on in grade school, even though he is the branch manager at the bank? Wouldn’t it be easier to leave your home town and move somewhere else, where no one knows you were the kid everyone bullied and picked on because you were small for your age? We moved five times when I was growing up, so I had regular reality resets to compensate for the memories of people around me. And I rarely went back to those childhood places, perhaps because I knew people would remember that earlier version of me.

When we want to change something about ourselves, it isn’t just about changing the way we deal with the world. Sometimes, we have to change the way those around us see who we want to be, which might be significantly different from who they think we are. After all, if they are able treat us like they always did, will we have actually accomplished any changes? Does some of our planning for our future need to include those we love, or work with, or associate with? I hadn’t realized it before, but now I realize it will be a big factor.

Who are the influencers in your life? Who nudges you forward toward your goals? Who holds you back? Who needs for you to stay where you are so that they don’t have to change?

Think about these questions when you are ready to do something different with your life. I’ll do my best to make sure the method I am developing provides some support tools to help you, and maybe help them. After all, they are part of your team, and you can’t be truly successful until they accept the you that you have become. You may as well get started now. It won’t be easy.

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