Despite all the anxiety I experienced before E took off for her
completely unnecessary and thoroughly annoying annual vacation, I’m doing well. I’d like to say it’s because of my excellent and well-integrated self-regulation strategies. More likely, however, it’s because I spent five days in California visiting my sisters and cousins.
It should be a new things, sisters and cousins therapy.
For the past three years, my two sisters and two female cousins and their mom (my mom’s sister) have been coming together for a reunion over a long weekend. It’s so much fun. We are all born within a five year span, and we grew up living near each other and spending not just holidays, but many ordinary days together, playing Barbie, making up plays, writing ridiculous songs, racing on bikes, styling each other’s hair, teaching each other bad words, and otherwise shaping one another’s development. And my aunt, well, she’s a softer, perhaps less intellectual, certainly less judgmental, more affectionate version of my mother. She’s what my mom could be like in her most open, gentle moments.
My sisters and cousins and I are not all exactly the same kind of people. But when we are together, we slide back into the easy playfulness of childhood. There is no other time in my current life when I laugh so much in such a short period of time.
My youngest sister has recently started therapy–and I’m so glad, because her anxiety is ferocious; it has been for years. She told me that her therapist asked her, “Who did you have in your life who loved you unconditionally?” She said she answered, “Well of course not my parents. But I had my grandparents and my aunt.” I’d say the same. We got to enjoy time with our grandparents for a long time, into my 40s, but they aren’t in this planetary sphere any longer. We do talk about them during the reunion weekends, however. We remember sweet moments and funny stories and talk about how much we all miss them.
And there’s still my beautiful aunt. She doesn’t drink with us (she’s never liked alcohol) or go for the cheap reflexology massages (her back is too tender), but she is enthusiastic about our stories and our time in the pool and our silliness and our meals together. And shopping. She’s an Olympic-level champion shopper and always wants us to put that on the weekend agenda.
It felt really good to be with them–relaxed, amusing, and easy. My anxiety before the trip, which had made me feel sick and caused a charming cold sore to bloom on my upper lip, slowly quieted down over several days of doing nothing much but chatting, laughing, swimming, eating and drinking. By the time I came home, I felt re-centered and able to face my work and home responsibilities.
I have continued to think about the question my sister’s therapist posed, but as a question about our current lives “Who loves you unconditionally?” I realize that my father can’t and my mother doesn’t. But my aunt still does, and my sisters do, too (and I love them unconditionally as well–I also told them so). And then there’s my husband. It’s hard to believe, but I feel he loves me unconditionally too.
I mean, it’s hard to say what “unconditional” means. I suppose if I had an affair or did something horrible to someone, his feelings might change. But these aren’t things I’m likely to do. I am likely to get depressed again, to fail to keep the house clean, to work at unpredictable rates, to make mistakes, to lose some keys, to break something. And I feel absolutely confident that these things will not affect his love for me in the least. That’s not something I had in my childhood, not nearly. I wonder what I would have been like if I had? At any rate, I’m so grateful to have it from at least four people now.
It’ another six days until my next session with E, but I expect I’ll continue coping. I’ll remind myself, if necessary, to lean into the unconditional love that I find so healing.
May you all find places where you experience unconditional love.