I was an angry child. Always.
I was so caught up in my imagination of how my life was supposed to be. I wanted a Mom like the ones in the pre teen books I read. I wanted a Mom who baked cookies, took me shopping, told me about boys and reminded me of how special I was. I didn’t have that. What I had was a Mom who worked her 8 hour day, came home and grabbed a can of beer and relaxed in front of the television while her husband made dinner and served her.
I wanted guidance. I wanted a friend. I wanted someone to explain life to me and my Mother, well, she was silent, gazing at me with scrupulous green eyes, trying to catch me before I did something she deemed unacceptable. At times I said to myself, “I hate my parents,” but in the end I didn’t hate her, but it made me hate myself. I felt as though if my own Mother couldn’t see that I was desperately trying to prove to her that I was a good person, that no one would ever see that.
This yearning for love and affection, the way my mind imagined it, carried on through the rest of my adult romantic relationships. I had two loves who for some reason or another, just couldn’t accept that I was good for them and criticized me until I was a shell of who I really was.
It wasn’t until I was an adult with my own two children that I realized where I had gone wrong. I was having a strained conversation with my Mother, who still lived in our hometown while I was away at college. I wanted her to admit that she had hurt me. I wanted her to admit that she hadn’t protected me. I wanted her to recognize that she wasn’t there for me and all she wanted was for me to stop bringing it up.
I didn’t think that was fair. You have children and you’re supposed to behave in a certain way. Why did the Mothers in my teen books all seem so fair and loving yet, I had a Mother who never even hugged me? Was I that unloveable?
As tears streamed down my face I spoke nervously into the phone, “Mama, you never listened to me. You didn’t take care of me.”
Her reply was simple, “Te-Erika, stop talking about it.” And then she hung up.
Stop talking about it?
But then how could I move on? How could I have closure? How could I reverse the damage that had been done if we don’t hash it out? I needed to hear her admit her fault so that I can know that I was right for being so angry all of those years.
Stop talking about it.
But then what would I have to blame for the bad relationships, the mistakes, the stagnation, the confusion of my life. I realized then that I needed a reason for my lack of progress and unfortunately my Mother was the perfect scapegoat.
what my Mom didn’t give to me, I learned later to give to myself.”
Fast forward nearly 10 years later, I had overcome the guilt of what I perceived as being unloveable and dove head first into my career. I had become a journalist and was involved in the biggest investigative report of my career where I lived with and interviewed dozens of homeless individuals to gauge the personality traits that kept them in that cycle of despair and teach women how to survive an extreme loss.
What I blurted out late one evening as I spoke with a homeless man who had tears in his eyes shocked me and moved me. He was the most disgusting man I had ever met. The hatred in his heart for himself and this world made my eyeballs itch and my stomach turn.
“You don’t know what my Mother did to me when I was 5!” he screamed out.
“But you’re 56 now! Stop using it as an excuse to fail!”
I surprised myself with that one and then it all made sense.
We, the pitiful victims of life, caught up in a lifestyle that in no way resembles our dreams look to the left and the right to place the blame, often landing our radar on our parents. Maybe if they had been around more/been more involved/gave me more money/didn’t have a drinking problem- then maybe I would be in a better lifestyle right now.
The truth is, your life is YOUR life and any reason you give for why it is not what you want it to be is an excuse you use to be less than your most brilliant self.
Just like your parents could not control who you turned out to be, you can’t control who they are. It took me having my own kids and not being the Mom I thought I should be to recognize this. I wanted my son to love writing like I do- he doesn’t. He wants a Mom who likes hanging with other Moms at parties- I don’t.
Your parents are people just like you are. They had the same fears, insecurities and hopes for their lives that you do. No, they didn’t always know what they were doing. No, they didn’t always make the best choices. I am certain that they wish they could have been better- whatever that means.
But it didn’t happen. While you were a child and they were the parent, they were growing up with you. They were discovering their own gifts and limitations. They were in the process of becoming, just like you are. To blame them for your life circumstances, no matter how difficult they are is the same thing as blaming the sky for raining- you can’t control that.
Your issues with your parents are YOUR fault because you want to control the universe. You want to have an excuse for limiting yourself in love, social relationships and your career and they are an easy scapegoat. The only thing is, when it comes to mature adults who understand that the magic of success and happiness lies in accepting your responsibility for the world you create around you and taking personal accountability for your choices, these type of people who play the blame game will never mesh.
Until you can learn to accept what was, look at it with the sadness of a finished book, and walk away to write your own story the way you want it, you will consistently be surrounded by people who are allowing others to write their life story. These are the only people who will listen to your sob stories and hold your hand like a child. Grown ups play with grown ups. Besides, what my Mom didn’t give to me, I learned later to give to myself.
You are the director of your life. No one signs a contract to agree to play a role the way you want them to. You can not direct the other people in your story, you can only learn from them and improve yourself based on what you’ve learned.
Just as you want(ed) your parents to accept you for who you are, you have to do the same for them knowing that if they knew better, they would have done better.
They would have.
No one was out to sabotage your life. No one was out to destroy your future. And, even if they were, don’t sit idly by while they do it as though you are a puppet.
I let go of my anger and resentment toward my Mother when I realized that she is a whole person, independent of my wishes and control. I allowed her to ‘be’ and my memories began to change. I decided to get to know her for who she is instead of what I thought I needed at the time. I decided to stop allowing her to be an excuse for my life’s mistakes. I decided to remember her for what she did instead of what she didn’t do and suddenly–
I remember the time when she bought me my first locket.
I remember the time when she rode the school bus with me on my first day of high school.
I remember the way she was always there everytime I gave a speech or won an award.
I remember how she bragged about me to her sisters for years and years.
It’s your choice which memories you elaborate and which ones you diminish. If you want a sob story to entertain your childish friends then by all means, join their pity party and share the pain for the rest of your lives.
But if you DARE to tell the story of your life as richly and as masterfully as you can taking the CAPTAIN’S seat, you’ll find that you did actually have a remarkable life filled with hurdles, adventures and booby traps and you, my good friend, have overcome them all.