Today is my baby sister’s 21st birthday.
But I didn’t send a gift.
Or even a card.
Most of my posts are far more planned out. However, this one is different, as the inspiration behind it comes from a text message that I received just a few hours ago.
In fact, I had totally forgotten that I even sent my little sister, Gretchen, a text message last night, before I went to bed. I wanted her to have either a message from me in her inbox at the stroke of midnight or as soon as she woke up in the morning. I wanted her to know how incredibly special and loved she is.
This was the first exchange we’ve had in months. Not because we’re mad at each other – or at least not because I’m mad at her. Our fallout ultimately stems from the decision I made June 3, 2014, to sever the ties with a few toxic family members, with which she obviously disagrees.
After months of missing her from my life but feeling oddly at peace, that’s when it hit me:
This is what unconditional love feels like.
I’ve always struggled with the concept of unconditional love, because I wasn’t shown this starting at a young age. It’s hard to feel or behave a certain way when you haven’t watched something first. As becoming a mother someday is something that is in the distance but on the horizon, this has always been a troubling feeling.
“Will I love my children unconditionally?”
And then I remember the sacrifices I happily made for Gretchen, when our parents separated and we lived with our mother.
I’m the one who dropped out of the after-school activities I enjoyed so there would be someone to pick her up and walk her home from the bus stop after school…who fed her an after-school snack…who helped her with her homework when I had homework of my own (I had just started high school)…who made her dinner…bathed her…read to her…and tucked her in – all while our mother was out having her mid-life crisis.
And I enjoyed every minute and would do that all over again for her – not if I had to…but if I could. It was this experience that brought us closer, because we suffered through some very difficult times together.
Gretchen and I have been inseparable since she was born. Through the shuffling around of our two other siblings, her and me as a result of our parents’ nasty divorce, we stayed together. We always found a way to do that.
That’s why I’m patient and believe that we’ll be reunited again someday.
Unconditional love is having faith and hope that people will come around.
Unconditional love is being disappointed, sad and even angry but allowing love to overcome those feelings.
But unconditional love is not allowing people to hurt and walk all over you. If there’s one thing that therapy has taught me, it’s that you can feel all of the things above while keeping your boundaries. And that’s what I plan to do.