One of the things that I’ve found most challenging about my mother is our conversations…which have almost always felt like parallel monologues; she talked about other people and what they were doing (which to me felt like she was avoiding any “real” conversation) and I would in turn would try to introduce “meaningful” subjects (things that I found interesting).
I tried for a number of years just to listen to her, thinking that eventually she would ask me a question or inquire about my life in some meaningful way, but found that she would simply talk herself out and then, if I did begin to speak, that would somehow add fuel to her thoughts and she’d be off and running again, or she’d become uncomfortable and start looking around the room, get up and clean something (or once she got an ipad, she would turn to that).
I am 61 years old and had never found peace with this dynamic. I have always felt as though there was something wrong with me when it came to my mother and our relationship. Then last week in couple’s therapy, I told our therapist that I had stopped by my mother’s house and as she immediately began to talk about other people, I said, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about anyone else….” Our therapist replied to me by saying, “You are still trying to change your mother.” I knew that he was right…after all of these years, I still was trying to get my mother to be interested in me.
Then he looked at me with the most compassionate eyes and said, “Your mother doesn’t like you.” I knew it was the truth.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that my mother loves me, she just doesn’t like the woman that I am. I like to swear and have a particular affection for a word beginning with the letter F. I am direct. I like to ask questions. I am, at times, loud. I am curious about religion and spirituality and have always questioned ideas and beliefs which, in my upbringing, were the “unquestionable”. If someone told me that I couldn’t do something, this often felt like a challenge to me to do it. I am smart, and although I didn’t know this for a long time, my mother told me many times that this aspect of me intimidated her.
Over the past week, I’ve found a new sense of freedom when I’ve thought about my mother and I’ve had the interesting revelation that I don’t like her either. Just admitting this about myself, and acknowledging her feelings about me, has brought inner peace. I am free not to like her. She is free not to like me. She doesn’t need to change one bit for me to love her, but I don’t need to change to get her love either…as a mater of fact, I can’t.
I would go to the ends of the earth to help my mother if she needed me and I know that she’d do the same for me…this feels like real love….so good to know.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers