I previously wrote a blogpost in regard to reaching out to my sister, with whom I had lost touch with for about 8 or 9 years. I had a difficult experience in contacting her, and this is an update to that situation. It ended up being 12 days of waiting before I heard back from her, a response that began with an apology for the delay. Turns out that she receives hundreds of spam mail a day, so her filter is set very high. This may have affected my initial e-mails not getting through to her. She mentioned being really busy between work, taking dance classes on evenings and weekends, and spending time with her husband. There was an acknowledgement of her not being very good at keeping in touch with people.
In my response, I was glad to hear from her. I was also honest in letting her know that I experienced sadness during those 12 days of silence, when it was certain that she had received my messages. In a paragraph or so, I summarized the last several years of my life. I mentioned that I understood the difficulty in keeping in touch with people over distance, which has become even more apparent to me after living abroad. I shared my belief in people making time for things that they care about. I was clear in saying that both parties need to put forth effort, and that it can be a disappointing experience when one person is doing all the lifting and the communication becomes lop-sided. I broke the news of my son’s upcoming birth and her being an aunt soon. I offered that information with the hopes that she would understand where I was coming from with my recent reflections on ‘family’. I literally wrote that I was ‘opening my life’ to her. I let her know that we would be in Montana all summer if she wanted to meet her sister-in-law and nephew.
She responded the next day! She was happy for all the news of my life, wife, and baby boy on the way. It is not likely she will come to visit us this summer, as she has a show opening for work in June, her 10-year wedding anniversary this summer, and our dad and her mother are moving to Seattle this month. Basically, she is extremely busy and went on to mention that I should not read into it too much or take it personally if I do not receive a prompt response. She would like me to have “realistic expectations” of her and that she’s “human”. Apparently, she does not keep contact with people very regularly, including the community of people she left behind when relocating a year ago. She appeared to take issue with my previous comment on people making time for things they care about by reminding me that I don’t know of her “life, commitments, or capabilities.”
I was taken aback by from what I interpreted as a defensive tone in her response. I had to remind myself that written communication can be easily misunderstood. I took my time when writing back to her, attempting to keep it brief and thoughtful. I shared my point of view and reason for feeling sad. Those preceding years of silence gave me no idea what to make of a 12-day delay. I asked her to consider the effort I put into trying to reach her in the first place. I stood my ground on the whole ‘making time for things we care about’ statement. I attempted to clarify this point by stating that my expectations were not along the lines of daily, weekly, or monthly e-mails but simply establishing a relationship, period, in whatever form it takes. I assured her with a promise that we would still have all the time we wanted for our personal lives. I congratulated her upcoming 10th anniversary and purchasing of a home in Seattle. I praised her parents moving to be close to her, and made note of the difficulty that posed for me in terms of being able to reach out to them. I closed by asking if she would share their e-mail addresses with me so that I may inform them of their upcoming grandparenthood.
That was over seven weeks ago. No response. Now that the summary of events are over, I am going to lay it out here. I have thoughts on this matter and desire to express them as clearly as possible. I don’t even know where to begin, so let’s just get on with it.
I am a firm believer in the concept of when we really care, we will make time for anything. If we are not making it happen, then we probably don’t care enough. There is not much of a gray area here, it’s pretty much black or white. For my sister, how does she manage to keep her life so busy and filled with activities and commitments? Because they are important to her: work, dance, husband, etc. They are important because she cares. She cares enough to make time for all of those things no matter what. I think that’s great! I get it, her life is full of things she cares about. It’s truly a wonderful thing. Save the excuses and reasons for not being able to respond to me, though. I don’t believe for a second that she would not have time (even 2-5 minutes) to respond, however brief a message it is. No matter how we look at it, we are either in contact or not, period.
I opened up my heart to her, and I feel like somehow she felt threatened by it. Perhaps I came on too strong, too serious, and my reaching out in someway jeopardizes her current lifestyle. If there is any truth to this, I would understand the concept. Yes, I do offer her the reasonable doubt option. At this point, though, I have very little information to work with and actions are what I’m looking for. From the moment we were reconnected, we immediately failed in creating change for our relationship. I am over it. I was clear as I could be, and I know that I put myself out there. I wonder if she can say the same for herself. We all make decisions in how we spend our time and energy, and I will hold nothing negative toward her choices. She lives her life how she wants. I want nothing more for her than that. I am just disappointed to be left out. So it goes.
I am not interested in catching up by constantly summarizing months or years of our lives in a paragraph or two. If that’s what she wants, then she can make the effort into finding this site and reading about my life. I have always been the one reaching out. It would be stupid for me to continue investing with little to no return. I have other people who are truly interested in being a part of my life. Let’s just keep it real. I suppose no one really wants to say “No, I don’t want to be a part of your life.” It can sound harsh or make you out to be a bad person. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Honesty is powerful and can save both parties a lot of grief.
To be crystal clear: I am no angel. Of all the things I complain about, I have done most of them myself. I, too, am guilty of not responding to people who have reached out to me in the past. I can be brutally honest and say that I didn’t respond because I didn’t care at the time. Looking back, those were poor decisions on my part. I live with the consequences of those actions. I constantly struggle with making excuses for all the things I don’t do and know I probably should. I would like my sister to know that I am far from perfect and hold myself to the same principles that I preach. I understand that my efforts are placed towards things that are most important to me at any given time. I feel like she and I are living in different worlds, and those worlds are far apart.
She and I come from single-child backgrounds, so I understand the independent point-of-view. For myself, the lack of siblings is the reason why I cherish the thought of having a relationship with someone who shares the same blood. It blows me away that both she and my father appear to be okay with having our Wong lineage severed. As far as I know, my son will be the first grandchild on that side of the family. I will have to start the Wong family tree from scratch.
I have felt like my reaching out has created more stress than anything else. Not the desired outcome, as I was hoping to establish a stronger connection this time around. I am a dreamer, what can I say. I was willing to put myself out there, be vulnerable, all for the possibility of change. I want the good stuff. It lies behind all the excuses and defense mechanisms we put up to protect ourselves. I want to feel something from my sister’s heart, from her spirit. That is precisely why I made the effort to reach out and be as clear, open, and thoughtful as I could be. I wanted to demonstrate the behavior that I was expecting, in hope that if I opened up, I could get the same in return.
I feel silly. I have delayed writing this post in fear that as soon as I published it, I would hear from my sister. Perhaps I was thinking that I’d feel guilty somehow. Well, I am going to publish this and just own it. This is where I’m at right now. For my sister, I sincerely wish her all the best that life can offer. She has a life that sounds wonderful and filled with things that bring her joy. I have decided to leave her be and move on. Same for my father. I will assume that he hears of his grandchild through my sister, who did not respond to my request for his contact information. I am tired of thinking through this and feeling like I’m alone in wanting something different. I am closing the door. If they come knocking, I may answer.
3 thoughts on “Closing The Door”
I also had a sister, who had been my best friend for my whole life, tell me this year that she didnt want me to be part of her life any longer. Shocked beyond belief, I asked for an explanation to help me understand why, counselling, whatever it took. Nothing. I feel your pain. Try to hold on to those people who love you, and have the maturity and openness to discuss problems. They are what counts. Much love to you and your new family.
Hi, Juanita. Sorry to hear about the situation with your sister. I imagine it can be especially difficult when you have no information to help in understanding her decision. Thanks for your support, and hopefully we’ll both have positive updates to share in the future. If only your sister would join you on a trek, all would be good again. 🙂
I believe you did the best you could, and you are wise in closing the door. We often realize that we have friends who are most interested in us, than our own family members are. Also, I know people who can have relationships only WHEN they are in the physical company of their friends/family. When they are away, the relationship is put on hold.