My brother and I had an eventful childhood, to say the least. We argued a lot, pulled each-other’s hair on a regular basis, and never seemed to be on the same page really. Still, he always loved me, since he was born, and I always loved him. I first started to daydream about running away from home when I was five and he was two, and despite always scrapping with him, I always, always imagined taking him with me – just the two of us. I was allowed to yell at him when my parents weren’t around, but if anyone ever said anything about him, I would defend him and protect him, and feel outraged. 🙂 It made no sense I guess, but all it was was that we didn’t know how to get along, we took responsibilities we were too young to take, we just got used to treating each-other a certain way. We didn’t know better. I resented him because I was put in charge of him and ended up paying for his mistakes, and he was so kind and pure, he had no idea why I pushed him away. When we grew older it got better, but it wasn’t until I was sixteen and he was thirteen, that I truly saw my brother for the amazing person he really is. We became really really close, and all I felt for him was love. We stayed close our whole lives (I’m now 43 and he just turned 40) and I respect him so much for who he is.
One day, a few years ago, we were making fun of each-other mainly to make the family laugh – he was already married, so was I, we had kids already – and I remember telling everyone how annoying he was when he was little, and how he made my life a lot harder than it had to be. I was thinking of what I had gone through: he would fall and I would get punished, he would cry and I would get beat up. Obviously my response was to avoid him so I could avoid what was coming to me the minute he cried. To me, as much as I loved him, he was persona non grata. But that day, as I was saying he was unbearable and he was saying I was mean to him, I saw a whole side of the story I had never seen:
He was little, he looked up to me, he wanted to be with me, and I wasn’t there for him. Sure I was a child, but so was he, and it hurt me so much that day to realize that as much as I had a miserable childhood, so had he, and I had a big role to play in that. I avoided him, I was annoyed at him, I didn’t want him to bother me, I just resented him. He brought me trouble, but I had never seen him from his end, and it breaks my heart that I was that person – someone capable of hurting someone else. I felt so much regret that day.
I remember clearly being sixteen and one day feeling completely different about him: he was so pure, so kind, so funny, and such an incredible human being. That day, our relationship changed forever, and it never turned back. I felt so fortunate to have a brother. I also remember how painful it was to realize, in my thirties, that I had not been there for him.
I have two sons, and never have I ever tolerated that one be unkind to the other. It hurt me, I couldn’t let it happen. I wanted for them to love each-other and care for each-other, and they did, and still do. They never pulled each-other’s hair for hours saying “I’ll let go if you let go”, and they never told on each-other. I couldn’t bare the thought of one of them feeling emotionally hurt in their own family. When I realized that while my whole life I felt like I had to endure my brother when he was little, and pay dearly for his mistakes, all that time, I had been the one who shut him down and didn’t give him love. I remember feeling so sad that day, I never made fun of our childhood mishaps again.
I was thinking about this today because he came over, after working all day, just to see how I was doing. My husband is away but my sons were home, and my brother is one of the only adult people they enthusiastically stay around and chat to, because they love him.
He makes me laugh so much, and he is so wise, I am in awe of the person that he is. I just can’t believe how lucky I am to know him and to have him in my family. I feel so proud to say he is my brother, and so grateful to have him in our lives. On top of that, I love his wife who is like a sister to me, and they have three incredible daughters that I love as much as my own.
Today my brother came over and brought way too many doughnuts (I almost never eat doughnuts), and we just talked about life, relationships, kids, experiences, work, everything. He is always there for me, and I will always be there for him.
So it got me thinking about two things:
- how incredible it is that a relationship can change from one day to another, how easy it can be to just start over emotionally, start fresh, even as a teenager, and never look back – leave old stories behind. Yet, how hard (read: impossible) we think it is, even after having experienced it firsthand; and
- how our own stories about our lives can be so real in our minds that we think we understand the other person, but we really didn’t see it from their point of view, and I mean truly from their point of view. I consider myself to be an intelligent, intuitive, sensitive person and yet, it took me more than thirty years to see things from my brother’s point of view. I still can’t believe how real our “stories” about our own lives feel. How far they can be from another’s experience of the same time, the same event.
This is incredibly humbling. I catch myself re-evaluating my own feelings and opinions, my own relationships. Can I be so sure that I am being fair, that I am truly understanding things from everyone’s point of view?
I’ve had a few moments in the past year where I was just there, listening to someone talk, and all of a sudden completely seeing things from their own perspective. It almost feels surreal, where I am thinking of the many times they shared the same things with me in the past and they just didn’t register, they didn’t have the meaning they had at that moment.
It amazes me how difficult it is to truly quiet our minds and listen to another, without feelings, without judgement, without analyzing before it had a chance to just be. Often I feel that our feelings about another person, or a situation, have already been tainted by our own interpretation of things, and as hard as we try to listen, truly listen, we still decided what to make of the information, and missed what the other was trying to say.
Life truly is an amazing and beautiful experience.