I visited my mother at the end of August.
At one point, unprompted by me, and in a moment when my husband was alone with her, he told her how proud he is of me, how successful he thinks I am, how he sees that I help so many people. He really bragged on me.
He had asked me ahead of time if it would be okay if he did this (my response was to quote his father: Good luck with that). Because as a father, he finds it…curious? Strange? That my mother seems to show no interest in who I am on anything other than a surface level.
Many years ago her lack of interest in me offended me (and he remembers this). And then I discovered a lot of freedom for myself in it. For many reasons – including because I know I am far from alone and in this regard – I no longer take it personally.
When he told me about his conversation with my mother, he indicated that she seemed to be in disbelief, that she seemed to want to contradict what he was saying about me.
I replied, “It’s hard for her to have her opinion of me challenged. And one of her opinions of me is that I am a weak and ineffectual person.”
Later she told the story of how, when I was an infant with a fever of a 106, the doctor told her to put me in a cold bath so I wouldn’t get brain damage.
“I guess it didn’t work,” she said with what I know to be her “teasing” face.
I didn’t respond. No one did.
“Just kidding,” she said. Ha ha ha.
She went on to tell more stories about how I am just like my father, whom, she has made it clear many times over the years, she didn’t like or respect.
It was almost as if she had to restore her story about me and knock me down a few pegs in the face of conflicting evidence.
(“The way you see any individual in your mind is the best they can ever be in your presence.” ~ John Overdurf)
The whole thing reminded me of the way her father, my grandfather, used to recount the story of how she “flunked out of college after her freshman year because she majored in bridge and boys.” Ha ha ha.
One of my mentors, Simone Seol, calls this leaning on someone’s bruise.
I actually remember the last time I heard my grandfather say that to her. About 20-ish years ago in a room full of family, including her new husband and his son.
I also remember, later, finding her upstairs in her bedroom crying about it.
I remember her saying how much she wanted her father’s attention and approval.
I remember trying to make her feel better.
I remember times in my life when I leaned on the bruises of people I love.
You might be expecting me to tell you that her words meant nothing to me….that I was completely unaffected. Because I am a life coach who knows how to manage her mind and emotions.
No. I was affected. I was hurt and angry because I am a human who is sensitive to cruelty. My anger was healthy and righteous because I no longer allow myself to be shamed.
In that quiet moment after her “ha ha ha,” I leaned into Dignity (one of the three pillars that upholds my self concept) by remembering:
#1 I do not deserve to be spoken to that way .
#2 I don’t engage with, or give my energy to, people who speak to me like that.
#3 I don’t internalize what she believes or says about me.
For the rest of our visit, I shifted my energy away from her. I didn’t look at her much. I kept my body slightly turned away. I was cool.
Later I cried.
I grieved for my loss of a mother who might see me as I am and I grieved her loss of a father (and mother) who might see her as she is.
Here’s what I know for sure: taking care of yourself in the relationship you have with your mother isn’t about never being hurt or angry.
It’s not about not taking a cruel “joke” personally.
It’s about holding yourself in such high regard that you remove yourself from cruel and abusive situations in a way that serves YOU.
I respect the way I handled myself. It served me to respond the way I did. I am so proud of myself.
Sometimes we take things personally.
Being sensitive isn’t a problem.
“The pain of taking things personally, of being highly sensitive, comes from believing that you shouldn’t be. We overreact when we think we have to DEFEND who we are.” ~ Rachel Coll
Much, much love,
Your self concept is one of the most powerful allies you can have in the relationship you have with your mother. If you’d like my help in creating or shifting your self concept, click here, answer a few questions and I’ll be in touch