You are who you are and within a millisecond of meeting you, I know who you are. So give me that in our conversation. Give me who you really are. I know you aren’t Mother Teresa; I know you aren’t Martha Stewart; I know you aren’t John Wayne or Clark Gable, and, guess what? I still like you.
Every time my friends talked about how challenging their own mother was, it sparked anger in me. I said “at least you have a mother”. I was angry. How could she leave us so soon and at such an important time?
Over the years (21) the struggle lessened. I became less angry and my pain less acute. There are some days, like today, when randomly the hurt becomes acute again. I don’t know why or wherefore that the hurt just bubbles up within me.
I wish that there was a comforting thought or prayer to make it go away, but there is not. It just is.
He was pushing 50 and she was barely 35, always married with kids. He was in the association that helped addicts access treatment for heroin addiction. His passion for his cause was palpable. He wanted to open a clinic in Ft. Myers and carried around pictures of people suffering because of their addiction. He talked her into going to meetings. They met monthly somewhere in the state and helped to make clear decisions that were empathetic and caring. He didn’t like the for-profit treatment centers (his organization was non-profit) because he thought that they “sucked” money from their patients only to give it to shareholders without concern for “real” treatment.
They had friends in the state legislature and were able to get things done. In 1999, she moved away and that was that.
About a year later, she decided to return to the work of addiction medicine. It was a hard decision, but she realized it was still her purpose, even though she had walked away once. She applied and applied and applied for work. One day over the intercom at her job, she was being paged to the phone. She rushed to pick up the phone and there he was saying, “I have this job, right down the street from your new home.” She could hardly believe it.
For a long time, they were able to get things done. His power (brawn) and her brain, along with his trust in her, made their work unstoppable and progressively successful. He loved systems engineering and so did she. No task was too small to be acknowledged.
Him “You have to own that.”
Her “No I don’t, you put me in an untenable situation with a personality disordered nursing supervisor. No matter what super-human effort I made, it was going to fail under those circumstances.”
Him “I think I made the mistake of my life, I should have asked you to marry me. Is it too late?”
Her “Yes, you’re drunk again, goodbye.”
Him “You made the biggest mistake, you should have gone on that fishing trip with us.”
Him “Go see him, Marc needs you, let him know that you care.”
Him “I’ll promote you later, when there has been more time.”
Him “I have to fire her, look what she did!”
Her “She did nothing wrong, but if you want to fire her, go ahead, you have the power, so use it, but I won’t agree with you, she did nothing wrong.”
Him “I wish I could talk with you before you leave. I want to say good-by and let you know how much you have meant to me.”
Her “Ugh. Liar”
Still, she cries.
All through the “scared years” he was there. Ugly and mean, but he was there.
For Ella Mae, my mother-in-law, it was quite a different matter. When she passed in 2005, I had not prepared in the same way I did my mother. I loved her and told her so, but she never knew how important she was to me and our family. Because she was a formal woman, there just was not the casual love that was available in my family of origin.
I have valued Ella Mae more in retrospect, than I ever did while she was alive. My own mother knew how much I valued her, I wrote cards and letters and expressed my joy and love in many different ways. Ella Mae, not as much. I am very grateful for her contribution to our family and for this reason, I have for the last 12 years been valuing her “things”.
I know better than most that guilt is no replacement for current action and present love, and yet, here I am indulging in guilt because I did not treat her the way that I would want to treat her today. I find myself thinking “I must hang onto to Ella Mae’s china so that I can pass it on to my daughters.” Why would I want to imbue value onto the china if I didn’t feel some measure of guilt? I didn’t value Ella Mae enough while living and so now I must value her china to show the kids how important that she was. It’s just not necessary with my mother’s things because her value was so well established while she lived.
In this case, I think the point of guilt is so that I can convince myself that I loved her enough and that she knew it. If I didn’t love her enough while she lived, I am trying to make up for it. This is a burden for all of us. It is a burden that I do not wish to bear, nor do I believe that there is any way to make up for my behavior once someone has passed away, nor will I make promises about future behavior. I simply must say that Ella Mae gave us much, she taught manners and in this way made us comfortable in any environment. Ella Mae taught me that birthdays are important, my family never celebrated birthdays, it was Ella Mae who brought that tradition to us. She loved step grandchildren and biological grandchildren and tried very hard to be fair. She was not fair; the attempt was there. For this I am grateful.
Ella Mae was a very gracious woman who welcomed everyone into her home. She saw holidays as a means to give me a rest and she would never let me lift a finger or ‘bring’ something. She cooked like a chef and hostessed like a queen, and it was those talents that she passed to me. She had a beautiful silk hanging in the dining room. For some reason both of my sons had to touch it every single time they passed by on the way to the kitchen. She may have grimaced and she may have said something, but she never got mad. Her graciousness extended to everyone.
Maybe now that I understand why I am hanging onto the china, I can actually put it down. No one wants that stuff anymore. I do hope that I can pass on graciousness, that’s a gift worth giving.
Once I knew that there is no better and brighter future here in this relationship, I became devastated.
I should not have hoped in the first place. I wasted irreplaceable hours being anxious and hoping. I could have enjoyed those hours by accepting that you would not change your hurtful behavior.
After all, you are concerned with you, as was I. But no more, now you can be concerned with you and I can be concerned with new.
And what my daughters remember is that I was not there, in my bedroom or gone. How did that happen? I’ve noticed this disconnect before, for example, I didn’t know that I had to explain being a hippy…
I was horrified when my daughters wanted a “boob job”. What happened to bra burning and long hair and being free from “the man”. I tell you what happened, it’s 40 years later and I didn’t explain anything to my girls, I just thought they would understand based on who I am. Geez, I wouldn’t let them eat at MacDonald’s ~ wasn’t that enough proof?
It turns out that kids do not understand anything about their parents’ life unless it is explained. That’s all, you have to explain it, all of it. I knew these kind of misunderstandings happened, I just didn’t think they happened to ME. Are you kidding? I did everything in my own power to ensure that I was talking to all of my kids all of the time.
Then I remembered, my mother often worked two jobs to make sure there was food on the table and a roof over our heads. All I remember is that she was not there. That was me. I was not there. My daughters were wild during that period and often my kids seemed lost. The truth is that we were all lost, all of us were lost.
Here is the thing, just hang in there. No matter what, hang in there. Continue to love the people that you love and know that life does work. All of your love is worth it. Giving is the best gift, never doubt it.
Being loved means that everything that you do and say is different. You walk taller, you talk easier, you give more freely. This change in you, changes what people see in you. When people see your smiles, your confidence, your comfort, they like you more and spend more time around you. This can affect everything: getting a job, getting a client and getting a promotion. This can affect whether people cooperate with you or do not. Cooperation may seem small within an incident, but over time, it can change the way you live your life.
There is no way to earn love, you will be loved or not. Love has a life of its own. Parents fall instantly and ridiculously in love with their offspring. You may meet someone who spontaneously inspires love in you. You will love your parents – like it or not. You will not always love good people. Your love will not always be rewarded or reciprocated. In many instances, love happens to us, we don’t know what happened and suddenly the love is there, engulfing and enfolding us.
Being loved gives us strength when we doubt, gives us confidence when we fear. No matter what happens to us, if we know that we are loved, love gives us strength to endure, to survive, to thrive. How many times did I tell myself while living alone in a far-away city “I must stay safe, my mother would be unhappy if I was hurt”?
You may not be able to earn love, but being loving is the best way to find yourself loved by another. For some reason, loving others, draws love to you. When you decide to love, it flips a switch in your perception of the other. Suddenly, the spoiled behavior becomes understandable; the angry behavior is obviously hurt and not meanness.
This is why being loved is so wonderful, because you know in your soul that whatever you do, no matter how harsh and ugly you may be, the love remains steadfast and clear and true.
The very best gifts that you can give to yourself are love and faith. Do it. It’s important. You can have some of mine if you need it. Take love and faith from me, I will give it to you. In the end though, you must give it to yourself.
It’s not about that, you are personalizing a universally human condition to be right. Let me just get you to the other side of your question: why do people want to have children? Let’s ask the justification question from the other side.
I’ll start with some personal stuff: I’ve never been moved more powerfully by anyone over my children. I think it’s in the DNA, we procreate and we are sincerely in love with our creations. It’s the kind of love that mesmerizes us and follows us and consumes us. For years and years we are romanticized by this love and we will go to the ends of the earth to make our passion worthwhile. We continually work for and teach our offspring. We want them to be brilliant, beautiful ad successful. We will invest millions in our offspring’s life to assure this success.
Parents are, however, very clumsy. Sometimes we do a good job and sometimes we do not. Sometimes the DNA is just not going to work and our child may have handicaps, both seen and unseen, such as mental illness or developmental disabilities.
I think what people are really saying to you when they question your decision to not become a parent, is this; you will never find a greater love, a greater task and a greater challenge. You will be forced to learn all kinds of things that you have no interest in knowing, but you will learn because you have to. You will be motivated in a way that you cannot now imagine, but once you are there you will not know how life was life without your child. It is a giving that has no boundaries and a taking that does not end.
If you do not have a child, you don’t get the experience. It is possible that other experiences will be just as wonderful and just as awe inspiring and just as enduring. Parents just want you to know that you might be missing something.
It is sincere from the standpoint of honesty, at least they do not pretend to want to spend time with you. When they rebuff your invitation, at least you know that they are candid and forthright.
I may wonder why they will always reject me; I may question myself “What did I do to cause this?” No communication will ever come, this fact is well established and does not regain consideration.
Still, I cannot stop feeling disappointed. I love this person; I want this person to love me. The fact that my love is not reciprocated, in no way changes how much I love.
I am stuck here with love disappointment. At least, it is genuine love and genuine disappointment.