I don’t know if it’s all the chocolate I ate today (it’s Easter Sunday), or it’s the myriad thoughts that run around ceaselessly in my brain. My mom is visiting. She’s a lovely woman, quiet, dignified, appeasing. She has a very peculiar way of showing her disapproval. Those of us who know her well always take it with a grain of salt, because we know she means well, that her disappointment is no indication of her love for us, or lack thereof. But people who aren’t accustomed to her abruptness might be taken aback by her harsh criticisms, especially in light of her otherwise very kind and gentle demeanor.
I used to allow this misunderstanding to hurt me, I’d use this hurt to forewarn people around me, and to attack my mother, warning her repeatedly that she needs to be more subtle in her judgements, more effusive in her positive affirmations, and generally more honest about her inner feelings. But this only caused tremendous frustration in me, and a general feeling of discomfort in my aging mother, who finds it really difficult to change her ways. I’ve come to the realization that instead of trying to tell her how what she says and how she acts hurts people, whether that’s her intention or not, I am much more useful in channeling this negativity and transforming it into what I think she would like to say if she had the tools to do so. So for example, instead of letting her obsessive need to clean and organize my things bother me and make me wonder if I’ll ever be perfect enough for her, I jokingly acknowledge her desire for orderliness, and affirm my appreciation for her small caring gesture. I don’t justify my lack of perfection, because that would confirm her fear that I might be inadequate, and I don’t tell her that her cleaning up makes me feel like I’ll never be good enough, I simply assume that she’s trying to help rectify things that she notices that I might need some help in, and reassure her that although quirky, I don’t think of her behavior as a blemish on her character.
I know we still have a long way to go, but this simple act of letting go of my own frustration and hurt, my taking of my own reactions to her actions and words with a positive twist is adding positive energy to both our outlooks, and it’s having a positive overall impact on the rest of the household, diminishing the stress levels, and quieting down the entire atmosphere, which would sometimes overcharge with negativity.
Granted, it takes a lot of presence to be able to catch myself and my thoughts before they spiral downwards into negativity, but I must admit that the immediate positive response I get when I succeed in turning my reaction right side up, is quite refreshing, and encouraging! This mindfulness isn’t just repairing my relationship with my mother, but I think it might be helping her deal with her own issues with pain and emotional detachment. As an added bonus, it’s teaching my own children how to be kind and considerate even in the face of adversity. This is one of the ways in which I am learning to break this unhealthy cycle, one little moment at a time.