A Christmas Wish
My sister is a woman now beginning her thirties. She has had few friends and her boyfriends have never been good for her. Now she has finally found a man who adores her.
They had an affair nine years back, when he was twice her age and still married. My sister ended the affair, and he separated from his wife. When my sister contacted him this spring, he finalized the divorce and they became a couple. His marriage, which was arranged by his church, was never happy.
His parents and his children are upset he divorced. His children don't want to meet his new girlfriend, and he hasn't dared to tell his parents about her. The other issue is children. She wants; he doesn't. I tell my sister they both know each other's stand on this and neither has the right to impose on the other, but neither of them wants to leave.
My whole family visited them on my sister's last birthday. It felt so nice to see them together and to see my sister get love and warmth at last. But to know at some point they will have a crash landing feels awful. She has a man who loves her, but he is entangled in a constricting family and church. Besides, there is a conflict of dreams between them.
What should I say to my sister? We try to get an equal relationship, but we are in such different circumstances. I am married with two children, a professional with friends and all things that she wants. I cannot possibly tell her, after seeing their cozy home and how they care for each other, that this is another no-go.
Who am I to know? Maybe he will come around, or maybe she will think he is more important than fulfilling her dream of children. Maybe I should just keep my "superior knowledge" to myself.
Noel, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is one of our favorite stories, but this tale is so familiar most of us forget the moral. Even in our old age it is not too late to change. Even in our old age it is not too late to live the life which is our birthright. But we must want to change and then follow through.
In Dickens' tale Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge where the patterns of his life are taking him, and even though Marley wants Scrooge to change, he is powerless to make him change. Scrooge must go through a journey of discovery before he is ready.
You would like to play Jacob Marley for your sister, but even Marley couldn't change Scrooge. Three spirits had to show Scrooge his past, his present, and if he did not change, his dismal future. Until Scrooge made this journey he was not ready.
That is the wisdom of the story. We must examine the past for its lessons, search the present for its patterns, and project where those patterns will lead us in the future. If those patterns lead to sadness, they must be altered to lead us to fulfillment. As Scrooge says, "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change."
Whether our life is a sad life, an abused life, or simply a flat life, we can use this simple story as a guide to breaking the patterns which lead to bad ends. You may possess the life you wish for your sister, but you do not have the power to give it to her. She will not change until she is ready. Keep your superior knowledge to yourself. If you wish to do something, give your sister a copy of "A Christmas Carol" and make a silent wish for her happiness.
Direct Answers - Column for the week of December 22, 2003
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