Emotional Intimacy and the Real Deal:
Everything Else is a Cheap Substitute
My oldest son is a born liberal who is passionate about his political beliefs. When he was barely three years old, one Christmas when we were reading the children’s version of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” to him and his brothers during story-time, at the part about Tiny Tim needing an operation or else he would die, my oldest stopped the story to ask, “Why can’t he go to the doctor for free?” This sparked a long conversation about social issues before we finished the story.
Recently after our national elections, my son was upset over the outcome and fired off an angry and inflammatory Facebook message to a cousin from Mississippi who he considered to be of a more conservative persuasion. The first thing I heard about it was when this cousin’s mother, my sister-in-law called to inform us of the situation and to help patch up angry and hurt feelings. We apologized to my sister in law and when we approached my son, he was initially defensive, but pretty quickly he understood our concerns of creating a rift in family relationships. Overall, our oldest is pretty emotionally intelligent and when he had time to bank the fires of his political passion, he was chagrinned and concerned that he had caused harm to family relationships which in the big picture he values greatly. Our families have been friends for years even before I married into that family and these same cousins have been there for our family through many ups and down in our lives. For example, when my parents died recently a few years apart, these same cousins went out of their way to support and encourage and love me and all my siblings and my children at those difficult times. While we have had our differences, the bond of love and trust has grown as strong and true over the years as a huge Mississippi oak tree.
My son called my sister-in-law soon after, apologized and had a great conversation with his aunt and just recently gave a sincere and heartfelt apology to his cousin whom he actually admires and respects immensely. The whole situation has been an opportunity for healing and has drawn us closer. This story also illustrates a fundamental principal of healthy living which is this: The bonds of love and trust you have with your family, friends and loved ones and your community is one of the most important things in life. It’s more important than fame, power, sex, money or anything else that most of us strive for in this life. Don’t get me wrong, I think money, fame, sex and all those things are great, however ultimately all that is just a cheap substitute for the real thing which is the connections of unconditional love with the people in your life. When you are on your deathbed, you probably won’t be thinking about who you slept with, how much money you made or what kind of fame or recognition you got in this life. My guess is that when your time comes, your relationships with your family, friends and cherished ones and the bonds of unconditional love that you have forged along the way is what you will turn to in your times of need. Not only in your times of need, but in the good times, these bonds of love and respect are what make life worth living.
Like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars preaching to Luke Skywalker about the Force, the truth is that we are all connected to each other in a unified whole even though our fears and our emotional baggage may highlight our differences and blind us to the love that binds us together and may block the awareness of our ultimate connection.
You have a choice in your life. Your choices can lead you to becoming more isolated, bitter and resentful when you realize that others in your life are just not going to be exactly who you want them to be, or you can learn to release your grudges and resentment and love them for who they are. You can forgive yourself for all your character defects and choose to love yourself exactly as you are and as you are not, or you can wear your emotional pain like a badge of honor. No power in the universe can or will make this decision for you: It’s your choice.
May the Force be with you.