Oh, Brother!

Storytime, folks.

I just re-read a journal entry of mine from August 5th. "Today and last night brought forth a lot of emotions."

The week my brother Brian visited me in San Francisco started incredibly. And it was staying that way until one random night we got into a – tiff, for lack of a better word. The night started fine and dandy with the wine reception at Hotel Drisco. I mean how could that not be dandy?

It's worth noting that I am painfully conflict adverse. Non-confrontational to an obvious fault. In fact, when this summer started, one of my most important goals was to be more direct and bolder. I wanted to hold my ground more, stop being overly people-pleasing, and stand stronger in my choices. I've been practicing not backing down. Confronting people and issues head-on. All of the things that don't come naturally to me – that's what I intended to improve. 

This was my chance to be the woman warrior that I had been trying to imitate for so long now.  Instead, I got into a verbal brawl with my brother.

This was my chance to be the woman warrior that I had been trying to imitate for so long now.  Instead, I got into a verbal brawl with my brother. This was your classic, dramatic, cinematic fight, with screaming at each other in an elevator included. An elevator full of people, mind you. No elevator silence at least? 

I'll spare you the details of this fight, and honestly, they're completely irrelevant. The basis of this silly fight is as follows: as the youngest of two older brothers, I'm usually the one visiting one of their cities or tagging along as they show me the ropes. This visit from Brian was my chance to be in charge. But for a variety of reasons, I didn't feel like I was able to show him my place. I kind of felt like I didn't need to be there at all. So, in hopes of standing my ground, l let him do his own thing. And from Brian’s perspective, my behavior indicated that I didn’t want him there.  Talk about circular reasoning.

After we had went our separate ways at the end of the elevator ride catastrophe, it only took a few minutes for Brian to call me.

"This is bizarre and I think we should talk." 

Note: This was a mature way to resolve this. Rather than rely on my trusted approach of “forgiving” & “forgetting” (or not bringing up my concerns in the first place, which doesn’t resolve anything), I agreed to address this head-on.

Both of us shared our perspectives. It took a little while to get to the breaking point:

"I just love you so much and my heart hurts that you felt I didn't want you here," I sobbed to a full coffee shop who definitely thought my brother and I were in the midst of a rough breakup. 

"And I feel so sad that you felt I didn't want to consider your ideas. And that you'd think I'd want to visit for any other reason than to see you." 

I sobbed to a full coffee shop who definitely thought my brother and I were in the midst of a rough breakup. 

We both cried and hugged tightly and agreed that although this was stupid, it illustrated just how strong our love for one another is. I mean we got mad at each other because we love each other so much.

In spite of this silly fight, I gained a lot of unexpected perspective.

  • Listening, listening, listening
    • The beginning of our conversation was mature & effective – "I want to hear your side. And then I'll share my side with you.”
    • Listening involves empathy. When I gave Brian the chance to explain his side, I totally understood why he felt the way he did (though I was insistent on holding my ground at first).
    • If you care about a relationship, you want to listen. You want to understand. You want to reach a resolution.
  • Addressing feelings, avoiding blame
    • “I feel ______ because ______.” Who can argue with what you’re feeling?
    • Non-accusatory approach resists people getting defensive.
    • This helped me understand what I was feeling too. At first I was very fuzzy about what I was actually upset over.
  • Allowing myself to be vulnerable, letting go of ego
    • The breaking point – when I let my guard down (and started sobbing), was when all of the deep-rooted, honest feelings flowed out.
    • When I pushed aside my ego and expressed my feelings honestly, identifying the problem was much easier.  Turns out the problem wasn’t even a problem. It was poor communication between us.
  • All in the details (and that’s often a problem)
    • It was important to use the details of our argument to help lead us towards the concrete problem, but not to get caught up in them because they were irrelevant.
    • There's usually an underlying theme, one main issue at the core of a fight. And many times, it's a build-up of feelings that hasn't been addressed.
  • Heated because we care
    • I was trying to be mad at Brian, but there was an even stronger, overwhelming feeling of sadness + guilt that destroyed my heart!
    • While I was mad at Brian because I thought he was brushing me off, I was more sad and guilty when he told me that he felt I was doing the same to him.
  • Balance, of course (libra life!)
    • While I am moving in the right direction in being more direct, standing up for myself, voicing what I'm feeling, it will throw people off at first since it is uncharacteristic for me. Brian was all, "The way you reacted to all of this was so unlike you. And that was the most concerning part of it all."
    • There was an appropriate way to hold my ground but also be sensitive to the fact that since I didn't say anything, how would I expect Brian to know I was upset?
  • Altercation is natural. And solves a lot.
    • It allowed us to reflect on how we could move forward with these new-found discoveries.
    • Our relationship is stronger because of it. We know where we were each coming from and can avoid a similar situation in the future.
  • Being vocal
    • I told Brian, "I'm working on being direct with people and holding my ground and that's why I’m reacting this way." This cleared a lot up for him.
    • We worked through what we both could have done better, together. When one of us admitted where we went wrong, the other person wanted to join in.

This fight was so out of the blue for Brian and me that it took both of us a few days to come to terms with it. It honestly makes me sick to replay it in my head. So I took note of some of my favorite parts of his visit because aside from this one night and one conversation, we had an absolutely killer time, and I didn’t want a dumb fight to overpower that.

To name a few highlights:

  • Buying new crystals at The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. & bonding with them. I’m interested in learning more about crystals! The process of picking one that resonated with me was so meaningful.
  • Hiking at Big Basin. The mountainous drive along windy roads was beautiful. We passed farms and fruit stands and cliffs with the ocean below. The hike was a challenge. Straight up. The PB&J’s at the top were saviors. Post-hike we ended up at a gorgeous, rocky beach after walking through fields of wild flowers. It was one of those awe moments. A moment I’ll forever be grateful for.
  • Brian, Maclaine and I getting the best burritos of our lives at Taqueria El Buen Sabor in the Mission. We walked over to Dolores Park and enjoyed a sunny afternoon of laughing & eating burritos in the park. Truly unbeatable.
  • Going to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was great too, although honestly we expected a little more from the museum.
  • Laughing and laughing and laughing some more.
  • Talking about living the best lives we possibly can.
  • Getting to run together again.

Clearly, the fight was just a little bump in the road. But despite it, we had such a magical time. Actually, it was one of the most enlightening weeks. What Brian and I learned from this little argument was far more important than the details of how it went down. And we’re already laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Stay peachy,
Mariah 🍑