Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You can't take it back - family and other hazzards of life

As a therapist, I often have to live life looking at it from several perspectives. There is the one perspective that wants to be like most people and just react to life. Then there is the other one that says "you have to have empathy, compassion, understanding" when all I really want to do is shake the people in front of me so hard that their eyeballs pop out. The latter persona (calm, empathic and compassionate) is usually the one that wins out in the end, so you can feel free to visit me at the office and I won't shake you too hard.
Recently I had such an experience in my own family. My niece got engaged. There was just one tiny little problem. She had neglected to tell her parents about it. A tiny little problem which loomed much larger as the engagement party, hastily put together, was to take place. (A mere three days after the announcement) Well, you can imagine the mayhem that ensued as it turned out that her parents were not too keen on the engagement, given the length of the dating period (less than two months) and the daughter, determined to marry said young man, did not intend to seek her parents' endorsement. Enter the uncle....... which would be me. I was asked to support the young bride and her intended (emotionally) which I said I would gladly do. That was until I found out that the parents were a negative request at the upcoming party. My lovely niece decided that it was best for all if her parents did not attend given their marked reticence. She was concerned that there might be "a scene" despite the fact that is was not at all their style. And so began a flurry of last minute negotiations between uncle, fiancee, siblings, parents. Everyone who was going to go originally had now opted out, turning what was to be a joyous occasion into something that was going to leave many of us with hurt feelings, and irreparable rifts. I am not exactly sure how, but in the end, my niece changed her mind, and we all went and had a wonderful time celebrating what we hope will be a long, terrific life together for these two young people.
One of my wife's mantras to anyone who will listen is that "you can't take it back", one of the things of which she reminds me regularly, that I have come to experience again and again. (luckily not between us.... yet!) What she means by this is that there are things in life, once uttered, or performed, that are indelible, unchangeable and damaging beyond repair. No matter how much we didn't mean it when we said ____ (fill in the blank) we can never take it back. We may forgive, we may overlook, we may say we will forget, but more often than not, we can't. And this is why we have to be so careful in the first place. I told my niece "this is one of those things you can never take back." I don't know if she heard me, listened to others, or listened to her inner voice, but in the end she did what was right. Even if it didn't feel right at the time. And this is what we all need to do a bit more. Don't do or say things that we can not take back. There are no (or at least very few) do overs in life. Why chance it?

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