In August of 2012, I posted the blog, Come on! Let’s Play Cards. At the time, I was contemplating forgiveness and how key my siblings (and birth order) were in the way that I learned to forgive.
Recently, my thoughts about forgiveness have forced me to dig deeper. Lately, I have been forced to consider: What happens when forgiveness does not heal a fractured relationship and your only other option is to let it go?
Letting go reaches a greater level of complexity when the relationship with the person you must let go is one that you have known your entire life. The following open letter to my sister is my attempt at unpacking some of the emotions involved with this difficult (but necessary) release.
It has been over a year since you abandoned our sisterhood. After opening my home to you when you moved back to the Midwest, you packed your things and left a mess of my home and my heart. Shortly after you left, I fell into a bit of a depression that no one, including me, could understand. I sought therapy to help me through and to numb the sadness of knowing that our sisterhood could not withstand what I believed was a basic disagreement.
It has taken some time for me to get to this point but I know…it is time! I have to release the need and desire for a bond with you and can no longer seek answers from you. I want to engage in dialogue with you, but instead I will write this letter to say goodbye to what has been a lopsided and largely unhealthy relationship.
A part of me is tempted to say that writing this goodbye letter comes as a surprise: something I never imagined I would want or need to do. I wish I could say that your unwillingness to forgive or talk through a disagreement is new to me. It is not.
Growing up, I remember paying you money (or candy and Doritos) to end your days or week-long silent treatments for reasons that, once they ended, not even you could recall.
When we talked about this as adults, your response was, “Well, you were stupid to pay up. Nobody made you do it!” In fact, to the Come on! Let’s Play Cards post, you commented, “No apologies here…lol.”
That comment spoke volumes. For as long as I can remember, my pain has been a source of amusement for you. And when, in a rare act of courage on my part, I stood up and said, No! Not this time!, your default act of revenge has always been to shut me out and punish me with your silence.
When your children were young, you knew the best way to get me to do exactly what you wanted me to do (when and how you wanted me to do it) was to threaten to keep my nieces from me for weeks or months on end. You knew how much I loved your girls and how badly it hurt me every time you took them away.
Sister, I bring up these examples to make this point: You have never seemed to be able to understand or respect my desire to love or be loved. You have classified my transparency of these human traits as a sign of weakness, while choosing to see your own manipulation of me (and others) as a source of strength and control. Looking back, it dawns on me that perhaps you’ve spent your entire life confusing control with love and acceptance.
Regardless, a part of me has always known that this exact moment would come. When we were in our 30’s and I was still dealing with your occasional episodes of the silent-treatment, something inside me feared that you may never outgrow the need to be right and to be in control. Yet, I was relatively certain that, one day, I would outgrow that pesky little sister desire of mine to gain your approval.
I have to admit that it bothers me to witness you carry yourself in the community with the persona of a big sister and friend to all: A woman who knows and embraces the value of unity in her community. Yet you treat me as your enemy and do not show any willingness to heal whatever has been broken between us. Where is our unity? Where is our sisterhood? Where is the forgiveness when it comes to me?
These are questions to which I can no longer hope to gain answers.
The more I show you that your silence bothers me, the more you persist. No more. From now on, I declare that your silence against me is your loss, not mine. I will be 44 in less than a week, and while I still feel young, I know that life is short. Too short to allow you (or anyone else for that matter) to steal even one more ounce of my energy. I no longer give you the power to rob me of my joy by mistreating and disregarding me or my efforts to communicate and forgive.
So, for that reason, I am not only saying goodbye, but I am saying good riddance!
While these emotions may not have happened in the proper order, I have mourned the loss of you as my big sister and now I will bury the hope of ever rekindling that relationship again!
Instead, I will learn to live with the void of my #3 sister until (and unless) you are willing to embrace a dynamic that will offer enough space for us to be equals.
With more love and respect for myself than ever,