Before I left for Italy my sister told me that she did not want to be my friend anymore. She explained that although she loved me very much, she needed to change our relationship due to many deep and personal reasons having to do with her childhood. My sister and I had always been very, very close. We supported each other through the roughest of times (and believe me there were some very rough times growing up in my family) and the happiest times of our lives.
Hearing my sister say she did not want to be my friend anymore was crushing. Truly it was like someone sucked all of the air out of the room and my lungs were struggling to function. Anytime I thought about what she said I would cry.
Why didn’t she like me anymore? Was I so terrible of a person or a friend? What had I done? How could I change to make her like me again? All of these questions cycled through my head as I tried to figure out why she felt the way she did. I cried for weeks and weeks until I could get my head around what she said and why she said it.
The fact is her decision had little to do with me. It was a decision my sister made to ensure that she followed the path she needed to follow so that she could live the life she wanted to live. Justified or not, I reminded her of her painful childhood and nothing I could do or change about myself would make her feel any differently. She needed to separate me from her life so that she could move away from her past and continue to mold herself into the person she wanted to be, not the person her family had determined she was when she was growing up. Again, it took me a few months to look at this with some perspective as I was hurt, angry, and confused.
Now I understand how much strength it took for my sister to do this; to look out for her well being above another’s well being. To ensure she was making the right decisions for her even if these decisions caused pain for someone else. This is not such an easy thing to do. As women, I believe we have a natural tendency toward nurturing and putting other’s needs before our own. In the religion in which we were raised we were taught to do for others before doing for ourselves. Of course one cannot be so self-centered as to be oblivious to others and their feelings, but she was not doing that. She was taking care of her own needs so that she could be a happy and complete person which would allow her to be giving and kind to others in a more balanced way.
Recently I needed to make some decisions that were not as serious but in the same vein; best for me but most likely would hurt or confuse others. This was not easy to do. I struggled with putting my needs first and then being honest and upfront rather than making excuses or telling little white lies. In the end I hope these people also realize my decision to put myself first had very little to do with them and almost everything to do with me. I hope they can forgive my selfishness. I hope they understand that a large part of this trip has been about finding balance, understanding and loving who I am, and making the most of the time I have on this planet.