Welcome to the Kind Fibers blog page. This blog is the transcript of this week’s podcast episode now available.
My heart sister is a very different person than I am. With seventeen years difference in our age, not only are we from different generations, we are at different stages in our lives. We also have very different personalities and ethical convictions. We have disagreements.
But, before we get into how we handle our disagreements, I want to give you a picture of how we have created a close, healthy, intimate relationship when all the normal “reasons” to be close do not exist.
About four years ago we made the commitment to always be there for each other. There have been late night calls, emergency doctor visits, leaving the house a mess to comfort each other, listening to each other’s issues while working, getting dressed, or even on a date. We have prioritized each other equally. We are secure in that priority. We give each other our undivided attention during our interactions.
We are allowed to be ourselves. Mae Mae can wax poetical about bath bombs for thirty minutes without breathing. She is a bath bomb expert. I enjoy them, but I’m far from an enthusiast. However, every time we are at Walmart I know we’re going on a bath and beauty expedition into the latest and greatest selection of bathing accessories. I could be impatient. But that’s not allowing her to be her. It’s taken some time, but now I actually look forward to hitting up the bath bomb aisle, if only to see her face light up.
In the same way she allows me to be myself. When I get hungry I’m a cranky old woman with a sharp tongue. She never gets snarky back. How, I don’t know. She takes my hand, smiles, looks a little concerned and says, “Momo, I think it’s time to feed you something.” She makes allowances for me. It’s pretty awe inspiring and humbling to be on the receiving end of that kind of allowance.
Here’s the thing – we allow each other to be imperfect. We allow each other to have different hobbies or interests. We allow the other person to be who she is, when she is, where she is, and how she is without demanding change.
That brings me to acceptance. We both accept each other as we are. We love the good in each other and the parts we each would rather hide. Not only do we accept each other, we appreciate each other’s strengths AND weaknesses without judgement. Of course we encourage each other to make better decisions, to think through our individual thought processes and actions. However, we avoid the dreaded “should-ing” that destroys relationship. Frankly, Mae Mae is stronger in that than I am, thankfully. Y’all, if I had this level of relationship ten years ago every other relationship in my life would have been better. This is the basic model of a healthy adult relationship no matter if it’s family, friendship, or romance. Without a healthy foundation there isn’t a relationship as much as two people sharing the same space.
So, how do we handle our disagreements? We talk. This is the most powerful tool for creating a relationship that weathers the storms. We may read each other’s emotions, but we don’t read each other’s minds. Because we took the time to create security and emotional safety we express ourselves often and freely. We ask questions, clarifications, without commenting before understanding. Somehow we figured out how to listen not so we may make a reply, but to understand and empathize with each other. Without this skill deep level communication does not exist.
If we do not agree we say so without anger, resentment, judgment, etc. If we think a decision will cause the other one pain down the road we say so in a compassionate manner. We state concerns, not edicts. And we don’t always come to an agreement. That’s when we do something crazy – we continue to love and support each other without compromise.
Why? Because neither of us are attached to an illusion of control and create healthy boundaries. We are attached deeply to one another. Mae Mae and I disagree on certain points, but the relationship is not the disagreement and the disagreement is not the relationship. The relationship is holding sacred space in each other’s lives and hearts for the other.
Two years ago I bought the book How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by Shambhala. As I was reading it I realized that my dearest relationship had already taught me those lessons. However, if you don’t have access to your own awesome Mae Mae at home, you might want to get it. It lays out how to have wonderful relationships. I’ve read it three times. It’s good. It also makes a great inner work journaling guide that can revolutionize your mindset.
Mae Mae, thank you for being you. You are my teacher without even knowing it. Thank you for challenging me to be the absolute best Mo Mo I can be. Thank you for allowing me the incredible experience of being your friend and family. I love you so much.
*Mae Mae is mandarin for little sister. Mo mo is traditionally translated as “elderly lady”.
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