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I recently heard that a former one-time client of mine passed away, someone who had come to my office with a relative for mediation. Halfway into our time together, it was clear we were not making progress, and we ended the meeting early. Both parties went back to how things were before—ruptured—and now there is not another chance at repair.
I certainly can’t speak for them, or how it feels to be the survivor right now, and maybe more healing came out of that process than I know about. I admire both of them for being willing to try, and there are certainly some relationships in our lives that truly can’t be repaired. Or to try and do so would be violating other values like safety.
But I’m very motivated by what Elizabeth Lesser said in her book Marrow about her relationship with her sister: Most relationships can be made a little bit better if we try. The death of my client prompts me to do an audit of my own relationships:
  • Who are the important people in my life? Do they know this?
  • Who am I avoiding right now? Why?
  • If I were to throw off any cares about saving face or being right, what relationships would I repair?
  • How am I causing more suffering for myself by holding onto bitterness or anger?
  • What unhealed trauma am I bringing into my relationships with others?
  • How can I send the energy of lovingkindness even to people I have set necessary boundaries with?
I know that’s a lot. But what are we really here for anyway? To be in relationship with one another. To love and be loved, and to remove any barriers that keep us from that.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development (read here or listen here), the longest running study of human happiness, is in the news again lately. And the two big factors are unsurprising. If you want to have a happy life, 1) Take care of your body like you’ll own it for 100 years and 2) Practice social fitness. Value the relationships you have, repair the ones that are broken, and make new connections. Simple, but hard.
Wonderfully, miraculously, I had another story unfold in my office this week that had a happier outcome. Two co-workers with a lot of bitter buildup between them decided to be curious, open, and rewrite their story. The relief, love, and lightness in the room was palpable. Will they have a conflict-free relationship from here on out? I doubt it, and I actually hope not. We have conflict with the people most important to us, so we’d better learn how to navigate it. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the payoff couldn’t be bigger. 
Bitterness, hate, and unforgiveness actually harm us more than it harms those we harbor it against. We know this! Take that brain and heart space back. Take it back for love, creativity, humor, connection, dreaming, fun. You won’t get to the end of your life and think, “I wish I hadn’t repaired that relationship.” You got this—or if you don’t, reach out to me. One of the most rewarding things I ever do is help people reconcile with one another. Sending you love this last week of January, friends.
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