I came to Tulsa with a definite agenda that had very little to do with amassing blog fodder or finding good stories to tell (and it’s a good thing, because the good stories to tell are few and far between) but I did think I’d have more time to write blog posts. For the legion (read as four people) of fans who read my blog with any regularity, I apologize for the sporacity (?) with which I’ve posted.
Tonight though, I’ve been thinking about things and felt as though maybe I should write about it.
You see, I came here with a great deal of apprehension. The last time I was in the same physical space with my mother, she mistreated me greatly, culminating in her threatening to hit me just for standing up for myself. When I went home after that visit, I was not at all sure that I’d ever come see her again, and our relationship and communications have been strained to say the least. When I found out my mother was having triple bypass surgery and was going to need help, I didn’t hesitate to do what I had to, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from her in our interactions.
I won’t rehash the whole thing. If you’re not one of the four, and you don’t know what’s been going on, peruse my last few posts and you’ll understand.
It’s been a week now, and I’m happy to report that she really is making great progress in her physical recovery. She tires out easily, though her stamina increases every day. But she has not been resistant to making the effort to keep moving. She’s not resistant to taking the medication she’s supposed to be taking and she’s not resistant to changing her diet… exactly. She refuses to change her diet to what they prescribe but is determined to do what she must to take off the 100 extra pounds she’s carrying around with her and for her, that means a low/no Carb diet. I think (and hope) that this time, she’ll actually see it through to the end. This heart situation has been an awakening for her, in that respect. She means business this time around. I just hope she continues with this level of determination and finishes what she’s started and maintains what she accomplishes.
Our relationship has held up under the circumstances. She has not been unkind to me. As I mentioned in my last post, the real test will come when and if I’m ever around her at the same time as my sister, or my sister’s children. Historically, she’s not very good at loving more than one person at a time and, well, the males are always the ones to get the short end of the stick. I don’t know what she would do if one of her children were to have a boy child!
No, she has been kind and non-judgmental and even somewhat complimentary of me. I expected a big to-do over my tattoos and she barely said anything and didn’t drag it out. She might even be used to them by now and not even notice them. She hasn’t said a word about my ear rings. As I mentioned previously, she may not remember that I haven’t had two all along, but if she does, she hasn’t felt it worthwhile to comment. This is a good thing.
I have learned some things, gained some perspectives from this visit though.
I’ve realized that my mother’s incessant, never ending discussion of Faith and God and Christianity, all of which are things that are important to me too, are, for one thing her way of coping with her own hardships. She needs to talk about it, to reiterate it over and over for her own sake. It is her coping mechanism. Yes, it makes me uncomfortable, and yes I wish it wasn’t so constant, but it’s not actually hurting me and it helps her, so why not let her have that.
It also occurred to me this week that my mother works for a minister, in an office building full of ministries. This is not a conventional work place. These peoples’ lives revolve around ministry. These peoples’ lives are all about telling other people about God and his teachings. It stands to reason that they would be in that mindset even when they aren’t “at work”.
So maybe, I understand why they (she) feel the need to talk about it ALL THE TIME.
Maybe it’s not such a big deal for me to listen to it when I’m around them, which is not really all that often.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if I don’t agree 100% with everything they say.
And maybe I should take some of my own advice and just listen to what is actually being said, and not read so much into it. Because maybe, just maybe, no one is actually condemning me for not believing or feeling exactly what they are saying at that moment.
Once again, there will likely be a post, after I return home, about my mother’s perspective on Faith and where I fall on the Faith Continuum, but for now, suffice it to say, that I am a Christian and I do believe in God and faith and healing. I just believe there’s a lot more to life than just that and I don’t feel the need to make everything I say and do about that.
My mother is strongly, strongly opinionated about pretty much everything. She feels like the world is a horrible place where the majority of the population is in the wrong about one thing or another. She doesn’t hesitate to express that opinion and she’s remarkably emphatic about these beliefs. She’s staunchly republican and ultra conservative to boot. She believes that George W Bush was a good president and that Barack Obama is insane, but she’s not open to any discussion on the subject. There is no other acceptable alternative.
Her mind is made up on just about everything. She’s certain of her rightness in all things and the fact that most of the world doesn’t live up to her rightness, just gives her that much more piety instead of giving her pause to reconsider her position. Everything is an opportunity to pontificate about the evils of whatever situation is at hand. And God forbid I should have and express an alternative point of view.
Seven days I’ve been here, sacrificing my time and my desires to care for her while she needs it. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m happy to do it. I’m glad I was able to and I know it’s the right thing to do. But seven day’s I’ve been here just for her, just for her needs. And seven days I’ve listened to her rail about one thing or another from one minute to the next. She thinks she’s merely expressing her views, and she thinks surely I agree with everything she thinks and that what she’s saying isn’t the least bit controversial. Seven days I’ve held my tongue, not said a word while she preaches about her belief structure and seven days I’ve tried to steer clear of any topic of conversation that might set her off.
I’m getting tired. I’m getting completely fatigued from biting my tongue, from listening to the ridiculous rhetoric she dispenses without responding because in order to respond to her, she’s got to be able to carry on a mature, bi-directional conversation in which she actually listens to what I have to say, and even if she doesn’t agree with my point of view, still honor it and respect me for it.
She constantly interrupts me to refute what she thinks I’m going to say, even before I’ve said it, and doesn’t allow me to finish my line of thinking to see if it might actually make sense.
After seven days of this, I really have to fight the urge to roll my eyes, laugh at her and say, “Gosh, it must just be exhausting being so emphatic all the time!” I just don’t think she even realizes how frequently she judges what goes on around her, and how disgusted and angry she sounds so much of the time.
My track record with a statement like this one is not too great, so if I retract it later, don’t hold it against me, but I think I may have achieved some sort of a break through…
Most of my life, my estimation of my own self-worth and the worth of just about everyone and everything else around me hinged so much on her opinion of it. I knew that my belief system and opinions about things weren’t the same as hers and yet, for some reason, I needed her to accept me and my perspectives. For the first time, I really see that she’s a flawed, damaged being that doesn’t have the ability to do that… and that really is OK. I don’t need her approval and acceptance to be complete and whole. It’s a really good feeling to know that.
I regret that conversations cannot be had. I regret that true openness and honestly can’t exist. But I see it now and accept that it’s just how it is.
I can’t change her. I can’t make her more understanding and accepting of society. I can’t make her see that she is judgmental and demeaning of most everything. And I realize that in a way, if I tried, I’d be just as bad. So from now on, I’ll focus on accepting that she is the flawed, damaged person that she is, that she will go on being that way as long as she sees fit and nothing I can do or say will change that.
At the same time I will honor myself and no longer hang my value on her approval and no longer be afraid or ashamed to feel what I feel when I feel it. I may continue to hold my tongue, because no one is served by starting an argument and I do believe that my silence speaks volumes.
And I’ll continue to recognize and honor the strides she has made:
She is not picking fights with me.
She did not truly judge and condemn me for my tattoos and earrings.
She has not directed any of her political or moral venom at me specifically, even though she must know that I don’t agree with her.
She has not reacted to the fact that I refuse to react to or engage her and her tirades.
Oh and she’s complimented my cooking non-stop to everyone she’s spoken too since I’ve been here.