Daughter Summer, SIL Josh, and five of the six grands moved to Oregon from New Jersey last week. They were at my place for a few days before heading “over the hill and through the woods” to the other side of the Cascade Mountains.
There are abundant benefits from having people who know us well yet love us anyway.
Deep connections with family and friends can boost happiness, relieve stress, improve self-confidence, and give us purpose. Having community can help us cope with divorce, serious illness, job loss, or death of a spouse.
But make no mistake, strengthening relationships with the people who are woven tightly into our hearts doesn’t come without effort. And cost.
Here are 4 things you need to know before getting into this messy business:
1. Staying connected will involve sacrifice.
My youngest granddaughter loves shopping. I mean, loves shopping. Her Gram … not so much. But just as Lydia will lace up her walking shoes for me, I’ll endure a slow and
tortuous exhaustive browse through Claire’s for her. It’s the give-and-take dance that keeps our hearts entwined.
2. Relationship-building doesn’t pay very well.
When my 17-year-old (entrepreneurial) grandson learned that they would be relocating to Oregon, he started collecting empty water bottles in New Jersey. The plan was to use them as “packing peanuts” and then recycle them at 10 cents apiece in Oregon. Because Jersey doesn’t pay a plastic bottle redemption.
Guess who helped feed 597 bottles into the machine at the Oregon recycle center? And guess who wasn’t even paid minimum wage?!
But actually, the investment of time pays significant—and I do mean significant—dividends now. And in the years to come.
3. The bonding process takes time and effort. And possibly exertion.
Anytime a grandkid shows up in my hometown, it’s the perfect opportunity for kayaking, or mountain biking, or stand-up paddle boarding. Or hiking small mountains.
Nothing says bonding like spending time together outdoors. With a little exertion thrown in for good measure.
4. Getting close to people is risky business.
The grands know how much I enjoy the simple pleasure of conversation while hugging a cup of steaming Chai tea. And they seem to delight in making fun of my simple pleasure. See if I treat them to a hot beverage. Ever. Again.
But seriously, opening our hearts to people involves deep risk. It’s safer to keep our guard up so we won’t have to experience rejection, abandonment, betrayal. Or being made fun of – the little whippersnappers.
The fictitious main character in Louise Penny’s Detective Gamache book series knew this:
[He] knew no good ever came from putting up walls. What people mistook for safety was in fact captivity. And few things thrived in captivity.
What if sacrificing for the people we love is no sacrifice at all?
And what if spending time with the 17-year-old at the recycle center was actually fun?
As for the time and exertion of outdoor activities with the grandkids — what if the movie reels we create will replay in their heads for years to come?
And how fun is it that my grands have delightful senses of humor … even if it comes at my expense?
This profound quote from Nanea Hoffman:
I would rather have one small weird moment of real connection than hours of polite conversation.
Real connection. No matter the cost. No matter the time or effort. No matter the risk.
It’s what we’re all looking for.