My mother is coming to visit today and I am genuinely excited to see her. She is bringing some gifts for the girls as she always does and my 3 year old is especially excited for this. She loves my mom and knows grandma is her special friend. My mom is very patient with her and plays endless playdoh with her, so what's not to love?
For those of you who live far apart from your families, or maybe even those who live close by, it can be a little jarring when you are thrown back together again. For me, I think its because I am so vastly different from them (in my mind). I have gone on living whatever way I please for so long, that I have forgotten all my childhood defenses and how to curb my lifestyle to fit what my family feels comfortable with. I have found myself so often being completely dishonest with my parents about what I am doing. I still want them to approve. And yet I deign to be resentful for feeling like they don't know who I truly am... I imagine a lot of other people feel this disconnect when coming back to their family of origin. With my mom it isn't so bad. She is so used to us doing strange things that nothing really phases her much. In fact, the last time she was here I was listening to a lot of Eckhart Tolle on YouTube and she ended up sending me The Power of Now and several children's books. Though I already owned The Power of Now I thought it was very sweet. I'll admit, some of me listening to a ton of Eckhart while she was here was to partly influence her toward a more balanced way of thinking, and partly so I was constantly reminded to stay present instead of dipping into my pain-body-teenager-mode and regressing into argument with her. So okay, maybe being manipulative runs in the family a little. But I think we are all making progress so I'll let it go. And really, what is a child's job if not to try to teach their parents all about life?
So what is it really? I mean why am I so dishonest with them? Well, for example I'm gluten free and my father goes around calling people who don't eat gluten "glutards." So for obvious reasons I'm not just going to chime in and say, "actually I am one of these people you find utterly ridiculous," and lead with the chin. We also read Tarot cards, have tattoos (ok, only me), are vegan, don't drink or do drugs, want to live off grid or as lightly on the earth as possible, use composting toilets, and want to un-school our kids. But seriously, these days, this stuff isn't that weird.
I've been trying to focus more on the similarities versus the differences as much as I can with my family. It has not been a smooth ride. I am so compelled to give in to my angst and follow it all the way down into a battle royale with the parental units. I want to cling so badly to the well worn idea that they "did this or that to me! How dare they!" I want to rage and cry and point out all their shortcomings and I want them to not only say "sorry" I want them to be sorry. So where did I get that idea from? From them. They wanted the same thing. And honestly I wish they'd gotten it if it would have helped (would it?). Because I love them and underneath all my trying to change them, is some selfishness on my part because it would be easier for me, but also because I want to take away their pain. I can see it, clear as day, and I want to talk about it. I want to help them. But I stay dishonest with them also because I am afraid. I'm afraid of where confronting my dad's quips about gluten will leave us and our relationship. I want to be honest if my honesty will bring us closer, but I'm afraid it will drive them further from me. I am afraid I will disappoint them with who I have become even though I had to fight like hell to be this version of myself. Just like my High School friends who stopped inviting me to things after I got sober because my not-drinking amplified their over-drinking, I'm afraid my getting healthy will threaten some unexamined part of themselves and they will just avoid me. This already happens to some extent, and I don't like to acknowledge it because my attachment to my love for them and my desire for their approval remains intact and is a source of acute pain if I dwell on it. What child doesn't want to make their parents proud?
But the chasm is there. The distance from one shore to the other is breathtaking. I wonder if all people experience this depth of separation from their parents at one point or another in their life. Does it always hurt this much? Sometimes I wonder if in order to be truly great, you have to sever all attachment or management of a relationship and then you can finally step into your greatness as it is the ultimate act of faith and fate. I do know that all of my life, including my childhood, has shaped exactly who I am today. I know that I have made the family choices in my life as a direct result of the dishonesty and distance I experienced in my immediate family. It'd be one thing if my parents faults were over-the-top terrible. If they were physically abusive, or mean and unloving, then I think just walking away or allowing the connection to just fade away would be easier (I hope). But they are not those things. They love me, they want me to be happy, and I am, but just not in ways they can fully understand.
I didn't always feel this diplomatic about my parents. I am a parent now, and it has definitively softened the angst I once harbored so voraciously. I now understand that as a parent, sometimes you just don't have the energy to read that book for the 5th time and you just need a break and want to watch a show. I understand that you do not want to go to the park and sweat it out when you've been sweating all day at work and want to just have a quiet evening at home. I get that parents are just human, and imperfect, and trying their best most days. I'm grateful for the gift of perspective and know it will continue to shift and change as my kids get older. I know the distance I feel from my parents pains me too because on some level I imagine my girls not wanting to be close to me someday and I'm petrified. I want them to always be my babies and know that their mama is here for them no matter how old or far apart we may end up. Of course I want them to see the world and dare to live big, beautiful lives, so I'm not going to hold them back, but I fear being forgotten. I know this will have to be worked out at some point.
Oh my God, my Love for them is just so big, I cannot imagine not sharing these feelings of love with them. I want to shake my parents and just ask "is that in you!? Do you feel that for me?! The love that burns so hard and is so deep and vast that your chest heaves at the thought of it being taken away?! Do you! feel that? Then tell me please, I still need to hear it... I know I'm older and you think I'm strong but I want to know I'm still your baby and you have my back no matter what. That you remember what it feels like to hold my hand and wipe away my tears. Don't ever let me forget..." I wonder why I feel like an alien when I write that. Like its too much, like I was (am) too much. I've always had such big feelings. I've always understood exactly why someone would write poetry. Because, of course, that's what has been going on inside of me since forever. Who knows, maybe I am part alien. Whatever it's for, I hope it is for good. I hope it helps someone. Ultimately I hope my writing is there for my kids to see someday if they want. So they can know me better, and know that I love them so much and I'll never stop. I'll always be there, in these words, in their hearts, wherever they may wander. Amen