Mom! She’s copying me!
At Thanksgiving my older sister announced that she is pregnant. I am pregnant, too, and had planned to tell everyone, but after my sister’s news, I said nothing because she would be livid. She’s 35 and I’m 30, but she still accuses me of copying her. There are coincidences in our lives, but none are intentional: my engagement, our new home and my husband’s promotion came shortly after hers. Through it all she behaved like I was insulting her. My parents feel like they’re caught in the middle. I am hurt and angry that I cannot share news without being accused of taking away her spotlight. How can I celebrate my pregnancy without taking away my sister’s thunder?
By admitting that your sister has tattled on your ego and you don’t like it. Oops! You don’t think your ego is involved? If you didn’t believe that her accusations included some elements of truth, you might be hurt, but you would brush it off. Ultimately, you would think of her behavior as sweet and silly in a Kindergarten kind of way. Instead, you’re taking her seriously. Why?
My guess: because of your parents. Believing that this situation is about your sister distracts you from the true drama: you crave the focused attention of your parents. That level of relationship was necessary when you were a child. Now it’s just needy. There is someone who is responsible for fulfilling your need for attention: you. Your job is to make yourself the center of attention in your own life until you are so secure, spiritually and emotionally, that other people’s bids for the spotlight mean nothing. From that perspective, you could respond to your sister’s announcements with: “Me, too! How wonderful that we can share this experience with each other!” and retain that joy regardless of her response.
To mature, accept yourself as equal to your parents by learning how to parent yourself. For example, if you want attention, focus a loving lens on yourself by maintaining a positive inner dialogue about what you have accomplished. Relish your rites of passage (like birthing a baby) and share those experiences with people who will share your excitement. Learn this now so that your child does not have to repeat the script that you have written with your parents.
This is my last year of college. I am increasingly withdrawn and critical of my friends. I have more questions than answers and I feel a general unease with myself. I lack the energy I used to have and feel discouraged. I can’t even motivate myself to do homework. What do you suggest? And how do you manage? I met you once, when you lectured in Davis, and you had a radiance about you, like you were truly at peace with yourself and the world.
I am at peace in my relationship with God. That grants me a certain acceptance of myself and my place on the planet. At times, I am also lonely for a romantic relationship or hard on myself about my work or worried about money or sad about the level of deceit and violence in the world. Remember, the only perfect people are the ones you don’t know very well. I simply labor to understand my pain until it becomes wisdom. Then I can integrate it into my life and offer it to the world. You can do the same. For example, you see what is wrong. Can you also, now, begin to see what is good and holy about you and your life?
You face the crossroad in which you are invited to leave your identity as a student and embark on your life purpose. Is that an ending or a beginning? Let your answer select your emotion, not the other way around. A spiritual director or Jungian therapist can help.