My mother called yesterday afternoon asked me to bring her back the book that she loaned me a few weeks ago (the book that she said she didn’t want back). I said, “Mom, I loaned that book to someone. You said that you didn’t want it back.” She replied, “Oh, I never said that! Never mind if you gave it away, but I didn’t say to, and I don’t want to discuss it. ”
I used to argue with her…found it infuriating to be “dismissed”, especially when she was wrong! I can’t remember ever hearing my mother say, “Really? Did I really say that?” No. It has been; I am right and you (whoever disagrees with her) are wrong. Period. My mother grew up in a rough household…in rough times. She was not protected and nurtured. She became suspicious of the world and grew a little shell around her heart…I guess to protect her. This “shell of being right“ kept her safe, separate and lonely.
Over the past few years, she has really tried to open up, but it is a huge amount of work for her at 83. She has been guarded and critical, so to trust; to be OK with being wrong, to see another person’s side of a story, is frightening. She does not want to be made a fool of. There is a great Rumi quote that says something like, “Trade your knowledge for bewilderment.” What it means to me is, you don’t have to know everything…the world can surprise you with goodness, if you don’t expect the bad. Don’t think you have it all figured out because if you do, you’ve got something way too small compared to what life could really offer. Be wrong. Be surprised that being wrong can feel good. Be blown away by goodness!
A question that I like to ask myself is, “What have you been wrong about recently that turned out really well?” It helps me to not be so afraid of being wrong myself.
I think we too often make choices based on the safety of cynicism, and what we’re lead to is a life not fully lived. Cynicism is fear, and it’s worse than fear – it’s active disengagement. Ken Burns