Playing Alone


When I was a little girl I liked to play alone. In my mind, elaborate story lines and characters swirled. The only way they would go exactly as I’d imagined was for me to act it all out on my own with invisible friends.

My little sister didn’t like this arrangement. So, the only way I allowed her to play with me was if she said and did what I told her to. Every word out of her mouth was what I wanted her to say. Whether we were playing with dolls in our room, or running around outdoors playing pirates, she was my puppet.

One day we were sitting on my bed playing with our cabbage patch dolls. My doll said something to her doll and I waited for a reply. My poor sister looked at me helplessly and asked what I wanted her doll to answer. In that moment I realized I didn’t want my perfect stories anymore. I wanted the play to be spontaneous and unpredictable!

I think of this day often. I think of it every time I realize I’m let down, angry or frustrated at another human response (or lack of response) to something I’ve said or done.

Lately I see it all around me unfolding in the story lines of lives intertwined with mine. I see family relationships torn apart, siblings not speaking, children pushing away parents. I see friends pulling away from each other.

Maybe it’s simplistic of me to think it all starts with the common thread of expectation. Maybe it really is that simple.

We expect a very specific response to an email or a text. We have an idea of how a father should always react. We are sure a sister only says certain things. We hold fast to our picture of what real love is and when our love doesn’t match, we rip it apart.  We get so wrapped up in our own pre thought out ideas of how everyone else should be acting, that we lose the entire plot.

The plot is, there is no plot.

Without the freedom to be their very own human selves, we actually wouldn’t like our loved ones very much. We would miss the spontaneity it brings to our lives.

So what I’m wondering is if we can try to let go of our expectations? Can we allow our people to be flawed and love them anyway?

Nobody likes to play alone. Not even me.






  1. Ah what perfect timing! I have been working (off and on) for years on issues with my siblings, and especially over the last year, I have been trying to release my expectations of what should be between us. Problem is, what we really have is no connection at all, and the only contact I’ve had with any of my brothers since our mom died 8+ years ago has been initiated by me, or came about because we were in the same place at the same time.

    I know the main crux of the problem is my inability to accept what is. I have had an expectation that I should be connected to at least 2 of my brothers, and I don’t like that we have nothing. Yet there is another issue at play – they haven’t been stellar brothers, and they’ve been downright bad in key ways. So why have I stubbornly clung to this expectation? I have gone beyond allowing their flaws to completely dismissing them because I was so unconsciously insistent that I have sibling relationships. But the more I see my expectations, and the more conscious I become, the more I realize these good, decent people haven’t been good for me. If we weren’t connected by blood, I would have walked out of their lives years ago. Ha! No! I would have seen that they walked out of my life years ago, and I would have been ok with it.

    For the past week, I have been praying for them several times a day – praying for all of us to be blessed and released. I am actively trying to see what we really have and accept that. It means loss, though, so I feel resistance. I lost my parents far too early, and now I must accept that I must let go of my brothers – who I actually lost years ago.

    I appreciate your openness and how it was exactly what I needed today. Thanks for letting me babble and process and take another step toward freedom.

    • Oh Kelly, I feel like I know what you’re dealing with. When I was writing this post I wanted to add on an extra little bit about how there’s a difference between our unmet expectations and being treated badly. I too have lost a sibling relationship. It took me years to be okay with letting it go. I don’t want toxic people in my life anymore and I’m glad you don’t either. Life is too short and we get to choose our family. Along the way I’ve met a few friends that have become like family to me. When I start to feel really sad about the state of my blood relations…I take a good look at the people I DO have in my life.

      I applaud you for taking this difficult step. We can’t keep carrying the burden of “relationships-out-of-guilt”. We can’t keep carrying dead weight.

      Be well.

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