This is how it is.

I have certain ideas of what I want relationships to look like, how I think people should act, what a family is. All of us do that to some extent – we all bring expectations to relationships and situations around us. There have been some times in my life when those expectations weren’t matching up with what I thought they should look like, and I have had to reevaluate and either try harder or adjust to a different reality. I’ll be honest – that’s hard for me. I don’t think that my expectations are necessarily wrong or unrealistic, but it’s hard when there’s nothing I can do to make my reality line up with what it is that I want.

The past few weeks have been about realigning – my dad passed away on September 10, and the reality of family that I have known and cherished now has to change. My dad won’t be there to taunt me before the Carolina/Duke game or to shake all the presents on Christmas morning. He won’t be there when Mike graduates from college or we have kids or when Joseph gets married. My new reality is one that hasn’t hit yet, and I don’t think it’s going to be something that hits all at once. It’ll be scattershot over the years to come, a bittersweet feeling at times of great joy, a sense that he should have been here for certain things, that there were things he would have loved to see. Things we still need him for.

There are other ways that my reality has changed as well – expectations about how people would respond in this difficult time that were, in some cases, frankly not met. Of course there were dozens and dozens of thoughtful individuals for each hurtful or insensitive thing that was done. The truth is that no matter how much I think I might have a handle on a person, he or she can still surprise me in all kinds of ways, both good and bad. I should emphasize that the surprises have been mostly good, but where they haven’t, the pain has been sharp. In some cases, I have seen myself deliberately choosing to let the other person off the hook. In other cases, I haven’t quite managed that. And when I have the time and emotional energy, I’ll have to renegotiate my way through some of those relationships as well. Not publicly, not necessarily even with the other person. But I’m going to have to think through my expectations and readjust.

In Sunday’s bulletin, I saw the following quote: “Nothing separates us more from God and our fellow human beings than our grievances. If you want to avoid God, concentrate on money, status, health, but most of all on your grievances.” There have been times in my life that I have focused too much on my grievances against people, and I think that I’ve gotten better about that. Now, as I adjust to my new reality, I don’t have time to focus on grievances. All I have time for is grief. In a strange way, I’m thankful about that, because I don’t want to hold on to the ways that I have been hurt and let down. That was something my dad always encouraged me to work on, so, in a small way, it feels honoring to him to choose forgiveness over bitterness. I just wish it didn’t make me feel so lonely.

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