Freedom of Choice. That is one of the few laws in which God and Congress agree on. That we all are free to chose. However, in most cases this freedom comes with a price and that is if you disagree with what someone else’s beliefs or wants…there will be consequences. So are we really as free as we think we are? Or are we only deluding ourselves.
One of the biggest issues with any relationship, be it intercultural or not, is the issue with family.
Definition of Family: parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.
It is somehow ingrained in us, whether it is a learned behavior or a genetic one that we must feel a sense of obligation to the people who bore and raised us. The people, who clothed us, fed us, comforted us and cared for us.
Somewhere along the line though, we loose the understanding that we are also obligated to ourselves. As individuals, we have a tendency of feeling guilt or selfishness if we set aside the needs of another in order to better fulfill our own needs. And then when the time comes that we start asking “What about me???” we suffer through the feeling of being ill-used, taken for granted and misunderstood. We continue to feel that way until someone is in need of us and the cycle begins all over again. Perhaps before that last cycle, we even start doing little things for ourselves…but then the consciousness that sounds so much like our mother or father…speaking to us in our own thoughts…pipes up and tells you how ashamed of yourself you should be. Aren’t there starving children in China? And yet you are buying some elaborate food that you know you don’t need. There are children with no clothes and you are spending money on a jacket you don’t need? There are children with nothing and you are getting a pedicure? Or perhaps, you overhear a “well-meaning” friend who says (just barely out of earshot) how selfish you have become…you didn’t even invite her to go with you for the pedicure!
Either way, we almost always find our way back to the cycle and begin it all over again.
And there seems to be a master manipulator in every family. You know the type I’m talking about…that one person in the family who seems to have gotten their Masters and PhD in Manipulation and Guilt Trips. Every family has them. Some have more than one. In my family, it is my Mother. My parents stayed together until I was out of the house leaving just my much younger brother to fend for himself until my father finally decided to leave and my brother went with him. But to be quite honest, I started asking my father at the age of 8 or 9 whether or not we could divorce mommy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother very much. But I swear that if, when I “grow up”, I am in any way, shape or form like her in her bad moments, I will commit myself immediately and take whatever mood enhancing drug they put in front of my face.
My mother would make her life seem far worse, the people that she knew were far more ill, her life was far harder, whatever it took so that when she “competed” against other people in the pity party department…she could be assured of winning. And also, she would look like either a Saint or a Martyr living her life as she did. Nothing was ever…EVER her fault. It was my fault. Or my father’s fault. Or Grandma’s or Grandpa’s or the neighbor’s or the dogs….ANYBODY’S fault but HER’S.
But her personality was a beautiful one and when she was in a good mood, she could be great fun. She always came up with the best games or the best ideas for places to go. She was always willing to try something new with us kids. She wasn’t afraid of a little dirt or a big mess. Then again…getting her to clean up that mess afterwards was sometimes a bit of a chore.
Over the years, my mother also learned to become the greatest manipulator this world has ever seen or will ever know.
Note: this is obviously the opinion of someone who had to live with her…I’m sure everyone feels the same way about their own family manipulator
Being that I did not, have not and will never, do well with authoritative behavior, with demanding and controlling personalities, my mother and I did not get along very well. So I spent more time with my dad. With my dad, I learned about football, spark plugs, fixing cars and building things with wood, mowing the grass, changing oil or playing golf. I would much rather throw my hair back in sloppy pig tail and take off on my trusty blue silver steel monster ‘Traveler’ (my trusty metal horse…which was actually a boys dirt bike which my dad had put a girls seat on for me), than to sit around in the house learning how to put on makeup or curl my hair.
My mother couldn’t seem to find a balance between teaching me things and letting me be ME and because of this, she had a hard time finding reasons for us to spend time together and bond. However, my father did…which made an even deeper wedge between my mother and me. I know, eventually, she didn’t feel she understood me at all. When I finally started becoming interested in ‘girl stuff’, I didn’t ask for her help. I asked my dad. The poor man would stand in the makeup aisle at Woolworths’ or Roses and stare at blue sparkly eye shadow or pink rose lip gloss and wonder what planet he had landed on. I remember one time; he brought me home green eye shadow, green eyeliner and green mascara. When I asked him why…he said that he knew green was my favorite color and this way I could match. I wore that stuff three days out of the week…and yes, all at once.
My mother on the other hand, would try to make me a fashion plate, but HER version of fashion. She read that colored jeans and cowboy boots were ‘IN’, so she ran right out and bought me a teal and yellow stripped Izod shirt, banana yellow jeans and a pair of suede, teal colored cowboy boots. She proudly showed this outfit to me and was actually mad at me when I said that I liked all the pieces…but SEPERATELY. I could never wear them together for God’s sake. Oh, I forgot to mention that she also got a two for one deal on the boots, so I got a pair of puffy iridescent purple high tops. Those things glimmered ok? Picture a purple shimmery version of the shoes Mork from Ork wore and you get the idea. Can we say Shazbot??? I knew you could.
Note: HELLO???!!!!! We are talking about the 80’s…these things were at least semi-cool back then. Today they would have gotten me killed. But I also had bangs that were two feet higher than my head. I could go to bed for three nights running and not have to do more than give a quick re-tease to my hair to have it back in 80’s high fashion. Plus, I invested in Lacquer Hair Spray…which only hairdresser’s could get and my mom is a hairdresser. I know you’re jealous! 😛
When I lived at home, it was easy for my mother to control me, as I didn’t have any other place to go and she knew it. I couldn’t move out and I could only appeal to Dad so much for intervention.
But even at a very young age, I began learning that while being respectful to my mother and her wishes was important, I still needed to be true to myself. I began arguing with her. I began disagreeing with her. I began openly going against her if I felt that what she was asking or requesting of me went against who I was as a person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about chores or things of that nature…sure, I was a teenager and I didn’t like doing that stuff…but I still did it even if I grumbled some too.
But my mouth would get me into trouble, and my balking at her absolute and authoritative rule did not go far in winning me over with her. We had some tremendous fights. I learned to start defending myself and saying NO to certain behavior. I started protecting my brother in the same way. I began taking my grievances to the higher authority (Dad) and then paying for it later when he wasn’t around. When I finally left my parents home, I told my mother that she would never again have that much control over my life and that the sooner she accepted that, the happier she would be. It would take her three more years to finally come to terms with that and in some ways she still never has.
So, while my Dad totally understood me, or at least tried to, my Mom was busy trying to make into a mini-version of her. Reliving her misspent youth through a daughter that was nothing like her. I feel sorry for her actually, I was never as beautiful or girly as she was, I tripped at fashion contests, I sang beautifully but refused to wear makeup or foo foo dresses at talent contests. I thought boys were for beating up; anything else gave you a serious and possibly fatal case of the cooties. My mother started dating when she was 14. I waited another 4 years beyond that until my first date. My mother is blonde and blue eyed. I am green eyed with reddish brown hair. My mother is fair. I have olive skin tone. About the only thing we have in common is that my mother is short and I am short. But I still love her and I still respect her and now that I’m older I do have more in common with her than I ever did growing up.
And there lies the problem. Now that I am older and more interesting to her because we finally do connect in some ways…she is trying harder than ever to hold on to me. Keep me in reach of her, within visiting distance. She sends me job opportunities for my home town and state. She talks to people about me to see if they have something anything that I could fit into. And she’s been doing this since before the economy tanked. She’s been trying to get me to move back home for the past three years. I’ve explained to her over and over again that the job market back home was never in my field of expertise and it hasn’t changed much since I left. Did she really want me working in a position that was beneath my skill level? In a job that bored me? She would always respond “Of course not Aurora” (she uses my name in order to add emphasis to the tone that she uses which IMPLIES STRONGLY that I am misbehaving and disrespecting her by even asking such a question).
She’s gotten a little less manic about it over the past year, actually ever since I told her that I had finally met “the one” and after years and yeaaaaaars of thinking that I would wind up an old spinster, I was finally engaged.
The trouble started when she learned that this might also lead to me moving to India. And that is when the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. Accusations, Guilt Trips, Threats and Demands…OH MY! They started up right away and to be quite honest, I finally started to get sick and tired (I can hear Bill Cosby saying this in my head as I type it) of being treated like I was a teenager still living in her house.
So, I laid down the law and explained to her, in no uncertain terms, that she needed to treat me with the same respect I give to her, and to knock off the condescending tone of voice that she was using. To which she hung up on me.
Note: This is classical and text book, when you become a mother, you will get the revered text book that tells you these things…if daughter/son does this then you do that, it is guaranteed of 90% return on guilt and depression in which the child will back down and 75% do what you say.
Anyway, I called her back and asked her if she liked being hung up on and when she responded no, that is was disrespectful, I told her I felt the same way and that is why I’ve NEVER done this to her. She hung up on me again.
So I called her back and asked her if she was going to continue this behavior because if so, please just let it go to the answering machine so I can finally say something without hearing the dial tone. She hung up on me.
So, I called her back and left her a message. And in it I did something that ate at me like acid through metal. I told her that until she could show me respect, until she could recognize that I was an adult, until she could accept that I was going to make my own decisions in life and she no longer could control me with either threats or emotional black mail, until these things happened, to not contact me again. And if that meant that she wasn’t a part of my wedding, that’s what it meant. And then I hung up.
I also sent her a five page email explaining all the same things in more detail that I had said in the voicemail. I explained that I had been raised by two amazing people who had instilled in me a level head and the ability to rationalize and research any issue before making a decision. Did she not trust her own upbringing of me so much that she felt she had to go to these extremes? To alienate me? To hurt me? Or was this not about me at all? Was this about her and what she wanted?
Who knows, I haven’t heard from her in over a week.
Sure, she started this fight over her concern for my moving to and living in India. But she brought up old reasons that I had already explained away for her (misconceptions about India, her own prejudices due to ignorance, etc). She brought those up like I had never even talked with her about them. I asked her if I was going to have to explain this to her each and every time, if I was going to have to ‘win’ her over each and every time, to PLEASE let me know now so that I can start saving up my energy. And it wasn’t just that she had concerns, come on….my father and step-mother have them as well (heck…I do, I would be crazy not to). It’s the WAY in which she expresses them. When she starts with what my brother and I used to call “THE TONE”, we knew hell was on the way. She is a master with tone and inflection…but mainly it’s the combination of the words that she uses and the tone of voice that goes with each statement that can drive one mad.
As an example:
…but if you are so far away I’ll never see you again, I’ll die an old woman without seeing her one and only daughter ever again. And what if something happens to you over there? How are we supposed to be able to afford to get you back home? And you know that you are going to be a servant over there…they aren’t going to let you work. And what about the terrorism? Did you think about that? That you could die in a bomb blast while shopping for groceries? I hope you aren’t planning on letting him take out a life insurance policy on you Aurora Coda, because then anything is possible. I just don’t UNDERSTAND why you two can’t move here, he could get a job, you could get a job, you could both live with me until you found a home…I just don’t UNDERSTAND.
Even though I’ve explained a million times WHY we couldn’t do that and that we HAD looked into the possibility, I was still getting the same thing from her four months after telling her the first time.
So, what am I to do? I could sit here all sad and depressed and missing my mommy. Feeling like I am the most horrid and disrespectful daughter in the whole wide world.
I can understand that this is not my problem…it’s hers. This isn’t about me moving to another country. This is about how it will affect her. This isn’t about my happiness. It’s about hers.
And why on earth am I going to sit here and allow myself to be affected by someone else’s issues and problems? I’ve already done everything that I could do to help her feel easier on this situation.
NOTE: in all actuality, she will see me more once I’m married and in India, than she ever did with me living right here in the US…I’ll be able to come home at least once every two years and for more than a month each time…now I’m lucky if I can afford to take off 1 week and fly home every three years.
So, there you go, I just dumped all my dirty laundry right out here in front of you.
Because maybe it might help you. Maybe it won’t.
What my goal here was to show you that you have to live YOUR life. Not someone else’s. If they choose to disown you or stop talking to you because of your life choices (I’m talking marriage or moving and the such…not deciding to do drugs or any other illegal activity), then that is THEIR issue…not yours. It is their decision, not yours.
You are no more ”making” them do something than they are “making” you feel a certain way. You are feeling a certain way because you are allowing that to happen.
Isn’t time we stop that vicious cycle? Isn’t it time that we stop allowing other’s to live or rule our lives out of what we think of as obligation to that person? Isn’t it time that we stop making ourselves and our loved ones miserable? Isn’t it time that we started living our lives?
I know it’s time for me. That’s why I’m letting my mother sit in her little stew of negativity and throw her big bad “Ohhh poor me” pity party. I love her, I’m open to talking to her, but the ball is in her court now. She has to make the next step. And if she tries the same old games again, I’ll do the same thing all over again.
Because, this is my life. I am free to live it as I wish. I will live it. And by golly, I won’t feel bad for it either!
PS: I’m testing AlphaInventions by putting this link at the bottom of the post just to see if what they say is true…that you get more readers by linking to their site. Let’s test this theory. http://alphainventions.com/life.xml