Some years ago, when my mother flew alone across Canada to visit with me, I was desperate to find a way to rekindle our former deep emotional connection.
Since she had remarried several years earlier, I felt that I had lost some of our precious bond. Her opinions and personality often took a backseat to her new husband’s much stronger presence. I very much wanted to reconnect with her in some meaningful way that did not rehash old wounds or bring up negative connotations. Thus, no “why?” and “when will you…?” conversations.
I thought about the times we had been happiest together in earlier years. I made a list of some of those powerful points of sharing as: nature, songs, books, travel, and – in our case, since I am a singer – singing.
Over the course of the 10 days that she was with me on her own, I made a point of bringing each of those themes into our lives in a variety of ways that I hoped would seem unforced. In the end, it was a wonderfully memorable 10-day visit partly because of those points of connection.
I realized then, as I do now, that sometimes we can reawaken a relationship through sharing positive, deep feelings without falling into recrimination or the need to look back. Sometimes we can decide to “start now” and create new points of connection.
Here are a few ideas based on my five universal themes. I hope they will help you in your journey to reconnect with a loved one:
If you are looking to create a bond with a young person, a grandchild perhaps, I suggest you read Rachel Carson’s brief, yet remarkable book called, The Sense of Wonder. Carson, who is considered the “mother of environmentalism,” was inspired to write the book after a visit from her grandnephew to her seaside home in Maine.
They explored the natural wonders that were in her backyard: the ocean, the tide pools and the forests. In the book, she wrote: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
Few of us have water-side homes to explore. But perhaps you can find a park in your area and go for an early morning or a sunset walk – times that are quieter and more conversation-inducing. Take a trip through your senses. Share what you see, hear, smell and feel as you walk.
Or, barring that, start and grow a plant or two together in your home. Take photos. Share its stages of growth with your young (or older) companion. Watching plants grow is captivating for most people – no matter their age.
My mother loved music. One morning, we sat together on her bed and played some of our favourite songs. She started with, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” She told me why that song was so meaningful to her. But I knew the story and the song well because when I was very young, she often sang it to me when she woke me up for school in the morning. In a way, it was “our” song.
I responded with a song that had captivated me for years, Joni Mitchell’s, “Both Sides Now.” If I were to share that song with her these days (she passed on a few years ago), I would also show her the heart-breaking scene from the filmLove Actually where Mitchell’s recording of “Both Sides Now” underscores the deep sense of betrayal that the character feels in the moment. This kind of song-sharing can lead to conversations that are both deep-ranging and joyously rich.
We all have favourite songs. Most of us have background stories about those songs that can reveal qualities about ourselves that are hard to articulate in any other way. Try this with someone you care about. Music can rekindle love.
Many of us have read at least one book that we could call “life-changing.” These consequential books reveal a lot about who we are and where we came from. One book that grabbed me by the heart and did not let go for years was Alan Watts’ tome, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
I would not have told many people about how powerful this book became for me. But I did talk about it with my mother. And we learned a lot about one another during the ensuing discussion.
Do you have a book that has unsettled you, changed or delighted you in some memorable way? Share that experience as a way to broaden your conversation. Books, like eyes, can be doorways to the soul.
I am not suggesting that you get on a plane and fly to an exotic place in order to reconnect. Of course, you could do that, and what a blast! But there is a simpler, less costly way to share travel by simply talking about a place you dream of visiting. And by looking at travel videos on the internet.
My dream place was Bali, Indonesia. And my mom, whose Celtic last name was Deane, wanted to return to Ireland. She never got there. But our conversations, full of laughter and hope about places we loved from afar, certainly brought us closer together.
There are few shared diversions as enjoyable, touching and poignant as singing together. My mom and I went one step further; first, we had a singing lesson! I had been a singer and vocal coach for many years at the time of her visit. So I warmed us both up with some zany vocal exercises and a little bit of deep breathing, which brought us to tears of laughter.
Then we sang through a book of enchanting old Irish songs. It was heartbreakingly wonderful. I encourage you to sing with your loved ones as often as you can. It is near impossible to stay distant from the people with whom you sing.
Music, nature, books, and travel… any of these areas, when shared in a simple, authentic way, can create big magic in a relationship and a strong sense of reconnection.
Have you found other points of re-connection or other ways to reignite a bond with loved ones? If so, please share them with us!