“We’re imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and connection.” -Brene Brown
“Transitions” Are you in the middle of one now?
- Are you facing a career or a relationship change?
- Are you working on redefining your “purpose” and what gives meaning in your life?
In the midst of life transitions we learn the value of the connections that provide love and support.
Marc and I had the great privilege this past week to work with an extended family who had gathered together in a family “assembly”. This assembly brought together family members ranging in age from 17 months to 83 years-old, to enjoy each other and to learn, again, the importance of their collective ties. They traveled and took the time to do this because they realized that, despite their differences, they need to actively cultivate their connections.
Dr. Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history, joined the assembly to facilitate a conversation about the role that supportive relationships play in creating health and happiness. He spoke about how we all grapple with the competing evolutionary pulls of collective and individual action. Robert’s TedTalk, “What Makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness”, now has more than 13 million hits!
Family ties, and other enduring relationships, support us as we move through life’s transitions. They provide us with the resilience we need to face the unknown. Critical to maintaining these family connections is the ability to “repair”. Why repair? Because conflicting opinions and expectations make occasional ruptures of connection an inevitable part of family life.
It is important to remember the value of the human collective. My brother, in the last month, stepped in to insist that I make amends for actions that had hurt another family member. He explained, “We are too small a family to endure a rupture”, and he convinced me to apologize and make plans to reconnect. He was right.
“With a change of attitude…past actions can be put into proper perspective, love and respect can become part of family life.” (Courage to Change, Alanon)
One of Marc’s daughters modeled this love and respect recently by clearing up some old resentments that went back decades. Her courage to raise difficult issues opened the door to new and more sustainable ways to communicate.
My intention in writing this is to encourage us all to reflect on what we risk losing if, in the midst of our individual pursuits, we don’t take the time to value the collective importance of family and other enduring connections that many of us have created with close friends.
Modern society can send family members to far corners of the globe. My own family stretches from California to Europe. Thanks to modern forms of communication we are able to share thoughts, jokes, and photos on a regular basis.
As a society we are moving from a “nuclear” to an “atomic” family structure, one in which too many live alone and suffer from loneliness. My mother rued the day I left New York and settled in Boston. She was able to repair that in her old age, when she moved to Boston where my daughter, her husband, and I were able to care for her.
In a life where I did not have one life-long partner, I found that family was a source of support when others had fallen away.
One practice that sustains my family is an annual week together during the summer when several generations gather to play, swim, eat, talk and reconnect. I am grateful that my parents insisted on keeping family in touch, even when we wanted to spin out on our own. We are a family. I am grateful that I have a role in preserving that connection.
To help build a reservoir of connection that will support you through transitions, focus on
- Spending time to maintain the relationships that are most valuable;
- Working through misunderstandings that have gotten in the way of your most important connections;
- Committing to repairing those ties.
My coaching mentor, Katherine Woodward Thomas, recommends that in order to repair you need to, “Become willing to suspend your certainty about what actually happened, seeing your current understanding of what happened as valid, yet possibly incomplete.” She suggests that you, “Recognize that there are other ways to see this story and expand your awareness to include all perspectives as worthy of consideration.”
How can I step into another’s shoes, and repair a vital relationship in my life?
How can I not let my disagreements, or righteous judgements, get in the way of the connections that can help me to face life with resilience?
If you would like to explore these or other challenges that transitions bring, please contact me for a complimentary coaching call to help you to clarify the challenges you are facing.
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