My older brother’s birthday was last week and I have talked with him a few times during that period and have been thinking about him and our relationship, how it has evolved and how much integrity this man now has in his life. In my life, having an older brother has been quite a mixed blessing.
For a fair portion of my life, my perception of him was that he was generally an ass. The other portion, however, he has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter. When I was little, he was my safety and he and I often took hits from the parents for one another, when in reality neither of us did anything wrong, but we knew someone had to take it just the same.
When I was scared at night, my brother never denied me a spot in his floor beside his bed or in the other bunk when the bunk beds were still together. When the parents’ fights would get out of hand, our closets joined from the inside of our rooms, so I could always get to him if I needed to.
I remember keeping walkie-talkies too during some of those years. I always thought he was ok, even though he could be an ass, but now I think he is more than just ok.
Growing up, I never really doubted that he had my back. As we grew up, we didn’t so much grow apart as we sort of had to grow in different ways to survive past our teen years. He became successful in the area of business and finance and I seem to stumble a bit finding my way.
Our parents divorced when I was 15, he went to college shortly after that and dad remarried, so I moved to a new school in a new place for the rest of high school. It was the first time that my big brother didn’t set the stage for me to enter a new school.
That is noticeably different, or at least it certainly was for me. I always thought entering new situations was easier for him and I always felt a bit insecure about such things. It helped to know he paved the way.
In the past few years, he and I have gotten closer and seem to have a stronger connection than we have had in those middle years between teenagers and now 40-somethings. He and I share a similar perspective on what is most important in this life and fortunately, we include each other in this list of priorities.
Our view on politics and such is drastically different, although last week, we had an entire conversation where we agreed. This is still rare for him and me. We even decided to get off the phone because we weren’t sure we could talk about anything else after realizing we were in full agreement.
Today, we shared a conversation about “posers”. We are too old to have come up with this term, but it is my 15 year old niece’s term for people who are trying to be something that they are not.
This is, of course, something that is seen most often in junior high and high school when young ones are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit. To fit in and to belong, they will “pose” as anyone. It is not exclusive to this age group, but it is likely that the developmental stage just hasn’t moved past that as they have aged.
We spent a good deal of time discussing how people compare themselves to others with regard to status or social acceptability without any regard for integrity or authenticity. We were agreeing again, but this time chose not to point it out to one another.
He said that he considered himself to be average, but the very notion of considering it was meaningless because to be average meant there had to be a comparison to others. He then said that he didn’t care to be compared, nor did he care what others thought because he was who he was, living how he is living and is happy in doing just that.
If you know me, you know that I need not really point out the fact that I do not live a conventional nor otherwise comparable lifestyle to the rest of the general population. I did point this out during my talk with my brother today because it seemed relevant.
I may not live the most conventional life, but I do live to the best of my ability within my integrity and within the priorities, I have deemed most important in my life. I do not live an unconventional lifestyle because of rebellion or because it is different. I live it because it feels the closest to my truth, as I know it.
My goal in this life is not to accumulate things or stuff. It never has been, really. It has never been my goal to get married or to follow the traditional timelines for families, kids, etc. Losing everything several years ago certainly made me realize what was really important and how living simply seems to fit with who I am.
I do not mind if everyone else chooses to accumulate stuff and things—I get to enjoy their stuff and things now and again as a result! I do not want for anything in this life and have everything I need, plus some.
There are others who do not see this as the case, but that is their truth, not really mine. I do not mind if they have their truth and follow it and I actually will support it all the way. I probably do mind if it becomes necessary to try to make their truth become mine.
We then discussed the importance of respecting and regarding everyone regardless of their beliefs or differences—perhaps even the posers.
My brother did spend some time accumulating things in this life and when the market crashed, he nearly lost everything. It was at that point that he knew he needed to simplify and make decisions based on what was important.
Even though this meant moving back to WV and giving up his million dollar home, because he made his choices with integrity and in the best interests of his entire family, it has turned out to be a great decision for everyone involved. My brother is someone who takes action in his life because it makes good common sense to do so.
He says to me all of the time when I ask him questions, “It’s just the right thing to do.” He doesn’t wait for the approval of others, although he considers the impact his decisions will have on the others important to him in his world.
At this point in his life, he is living the four agreements that Ruiz writes about in his book by the same title. I am proud of my brother today and wish we lived closer. He is impeccable with his word (although he can still be an ass) and always does what he says he will do.
He doesn’t take things personally (although there are times when he wonders if he should). He doesn’t make assumptions. In fact, he is quite quick to ask clarification to avoid wasting energy making assumptions. Finally, the forth agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz is to always do your best.
My brother has always put in 110% effort in whatever he decided to pursue. He may have some failures along the way, but he puts his whole heart into whatever it is just the same. He understands that you can only fail if you do not try and he shares this with me often (I actually have a letter he wrote me a few years ago on my birthday and this is part of it).
From this perspective, my big brother is a solid human who is likely making a difference by example to those around him (besides me).
It is no surprise, when looking at it from this perspective, that my niece is one of the coolest and wisest kids I know. I could give you many examples of why I think he can be an ass, and they are good ones, but honestly, I think that the other things that he has become may hold far more weight these days!
I am happy to have to opportunity to see beyond that to see these other wonderful qualities.