Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'll have the humble pie.

Liam and I just got back from the airport and I am hoping my body will soon acclimate to the gift from God known as air-conditioning. I understand that sweat is nature's way of cooling us off on a sweltering day but all it seems to do for me is make me look as bad as I feel. I think those mud-covered piglets might be onto something. I doubt they bother taking a shower or trying to look decent before sloshing into a big puddle of muck.

Then again, that could be the heat talking.

Where was I? Ah yes, my mom's visit.

The week went by surprisingly fast and overall I would say it went really well. I actually enjoyed our time together. I know! I didn't see it coming either.

We went to the park and the zoo and the pool and the library and anywhere else that Liam wanted to go. When he was sleeping (which, bless his heart, is most of the time), my mom and I played Scrabble and watched movies and spent time outside and sat and talked. To each other! We went bowling and hosted a grill out and walked to the park for fireworks. We even went shopping! I admit, making cookies from scratch may have been a little much. I mean, how many mother/daughter clich├ęs can be comfortably squeezed into one week? This wasn't supposed to be a re-make of a Lifetime Original Movie you know.

Throughout it all I never once had to send myself to my room for deep cleansing breaths or mutter calming mantras under my breath at the dinner table. I was calm and compassionate and myself.

Can you say EVOLUTION?

I didn't know I had it in me. I actually feel lighter.

A couple gals out on the town. Talk about mother's day out!

Although I'm very happy about this big step forward, I must admit I'm also a little embarrassed. See, my mom still does the things that used to drive me crazy. She's easily distracted and forgetful and says things like, "You sure?" while watching over your shoulder to see how you make a cup of coffee. If you don't forcibly tie her to a shopping cart, you will lose her in the Super WalMart. No matter if you just ate dinner or are allergic to fruit or have told her point-blank you DO NOT LIKE THEM, she will continue to offer you a smoothie every time she sees the blender. She's a little ADD and OCD (and quite possibly even M-A-D). She hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is my reaction to the things she does that used to drive me crazy. As it turns out, it wasn't her, it was me!

Her obsession with walnuts stained her palms completely brown.
We tried everything - not even gasoline would remove the stain.

My mom wasn't crazy. She was herself. (Sure, she can resemble crazy at times but that's not the point.) I was the one wishing she would be like the "perfect" mothers I had seen on TV. That's crazy. No wonder I was so disappointed and she was so uncomfortable. Changing people isn't just impossible, it's also kind of ugly.

I finally figured out that it's not the annoying habit but the reaction to it that is a problem. We all do annoying things. If Liam's chest tightened or he started to clench his teeth every time I pulled a Maggie-ism, I'd be in big trouble. Yet, that's basically what I was doing to my mom.

Taken at face value, none of the stuff she does is really that bad. It's that I had built it up in my head so much. She never listens. I hate when she does this. Here we go again. It was like everything she did was a personal attack on me.

This time, when she'd do something that used to really push my buttons, I would still recognize it but before it could take a hold of me, I'd accept it and move on. When I stopped taking things personally, I found space for compassion and unconditional love.

The best thing about this (besides the health benefits of lower blood pressure) was the effect it had on the rest of my family. Without me getting all screwed up over my mom being herself, the energy in the house remained calm and pleasant. With no negativity to feed off of, everyone was comfortable and happy. My mom wasn't as nervous as I remembered her to be and now I know it's because I was the one who made her feel that way. That's not easy to swallow.

So relaxed, so happy. Better late than never!

Finally accepting that I can't change others has taught me something unexpected: I can change others. By giving my mom a more authentic version of myself, she gave me the same. I took down a wall, she took down a wall. I accepted her, she accepted me. We train people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves and others. The better we give, the better we get. Without resistance, the whole world opens up.


erin said...

WOW! Can you be my zen master? I need to learn your ways.

Also, welcome to Southerner-hood! You used "bless his heart" in a casual conversation!

LClaire said...

You're an AMAZING writer and just full of wit and wisdom. I know it when we chat in person, but your blog says you're that way in writing to! What a gift! Celebrate your bold steps with your mom and how much you ROCK at writing!
HUGS! - Linnet

Katie said...

I am so proud of both of you! We all go through that, my situation is just with my dad, not my mom. But I will re-read your blog and keep taking deep breaths and give it a shot, instead of avoiding being around him for more than 4 minutes:)