I made a new friend last year and marveled at how quickly we bonded, finding common ground through similarity in our life experiences. There was an ease to the unfolding of our friendship that had a child-like wonderment to it. We both seemed to have some depth to us that the other found intriguing. I remember how excited I felt each time we carved out some time to have a long chat — it was a play date! Both of us were on the tail end of our 60’s but the way we laughed, shared and curiously explored life, it felt like we were 7.
A year later, we are now so close that you would think our friendship began at age seven and carried us through six decades. I’ve often thought that having a sibling or friend to share childhood growing up experiences with was such a rich treasure. I am now realizing that having a friend who is growing into her wisdom is equally a rich treasure.
A few days ago, we were having one of our long phone chats and I was so aware of how I felt as I listened to her cheery, effervescent voice. She had a peace about her and a refreshed joy that was so tangible it could have been a hug. I delighted in this awareness and soaked it in. Her beloved mother had passed away recently and my dear friend had lived with her and cared for her for more than 5 months. There were highs and lows, laughter and tears, a tender holding on and letting go all at the same time. Her mother’s celebration of life was rich with inspiration on how to live a good life – each and every day. As we chatted, I could sense that my dear friend had taken the time she needed to process not only the last 5 months, but also a lifetime of her mother’s love. I marveled at how resilient we human beings really are. I marveled at how the thread of life weaves endlessly from mother to child, from earth to heaven.
There was unfinished business in Isabelle’s life, even at age 95. Sally and I talk about that often as we share our current family stories. Paintings that were sketched but never brought to life with watercolor, some relationships that remained at a distance, perhaps a dream or a secret that was not shared. There will always be unfinished business. What I so adore about my friend Sally is how she views this as motivation to keep doing the work. The work of living a wholehearted life, the inner work of being the best versions of ourselves. The lessons we learn from our past and from those who whisper their last goodbye to us are priceless gifts.
Throughout our conversation, we reflected on all the things our adult children are juggling in their busy lives. It made us pause to think about how the personal growth work we are doing now better prepares us in this chapter of parenting. It may have been the first time that I had the realization that parenting will always be unfinished business. Parenting when my children were young seemed so much easier. Parenting in a meaningful way to my adult children has a complexity to it that I now find inspires me to keep learning, to keep evolving.
I felt at ease discussing this insight with Sally. We have covered this very topic often over the past year as we talked about parents and adult children through her mother’s experiences and our own. What have we learned, where did we make mistakes, what would have been helpful in our 30’s and 40′, what can we do better?
Some of the pitfalls we hope to avoid are not feeling overwhelmed or helpless when our adult children are in struggle, or not shutting them down by telling them to “get over it”, or comparing how easy they have it to how hard we had it. None of that is helpful. We know that from our own life experiences and with hard-earned greater awareness. We want to show up for our adult children with compassion, grace and the gift of personal empowerment.
This is where I have found such a big payoff for all the personal growth work I have done over these past six years. I will never have all the right answers and I may not get it right every time, but I am now operating with more awareness than good intentions and that is a huge shift in the right direction.
My friendship with Sally has flourished with deep conversations about the trials and tribulations of relationships between parents and adult children. Together we are exploring ways to improve our interactions and offer support instead of advice.
Sally asked me the other day if I had a 5 year plan when I started my personal growth journey. She asked — “did you know how you wanted to be showing up in life?” I laughed out loud and confessed — “Oh no, I just knew I needed to stop attracting all the stuff I did NOT want in my life anymore.”
Little did she know that this pivotal question would now become another rung on my self-discovery ladder. How can I take what I have learned, and am still learning, and create a pocket guide for my adult children? So many times over the past 6 years I have wished that I would have learned some of these transformational tools much earlier in my adult life.
I am feeling grateful today for unfinished business. It keeps me motivated to keep doing the work.
I am also deeply grateful for Sally and my other friends who are on this journey with me. We can’t find the answers we are striving for on a google search. We rely on each other as we process, explore and navigate the best way to show up as parents for our adult children. Maybe we can create a pocket guide of wisdom for this stage of life. We just might call it “Unfinished Business.”