I had lunch with my mother on Saturday to celebrate her birthday and I found myself scared to go. You see, on our last lunch occasion – to celebrate my birthday – I found myself being criticized and judged for my lifestyle choices. I was blamed for bringing perimenopause upon myself as well as my water line break and troubles with my homeowners association.
I know my mother meant well. That in her way, she was expressing concern over what was happening in my life. But as my counselor said, her delivery sucked. Is it any wonder I dreaded this month's lunch?
Yet, gone was the criticism this time around. Instead, she talked about the fact that her brother had just died and her sister blamed her for it. That she hadn't had a day off in months and was putting in 10-hour days every day, trying to replenish her savings account and get back in her feet financially.
The parallels between her life and mine did not go unnoticed. Her sister blames her for things that aren't her fault just as she blames me for things that are not mine. She is just beginning to pay me back for a loan I gave her last Fall, as I am still paying off my credit card bills for my recent water line break repair.
But it's more than that. Last week, I worked with my peer coach and best friend Kami to discover that in the past, I've defined my worth by what I do rather than who I am because: 1) what I do makes me feel significant, and 2) do-ing allows me to escape from any uncomfortable emotions I might feel while be-ing and helps me avoid conflict and confrontation over my feelings. Yet, that's no way to live life.
What I finally realized today is that I inherited these tendencies from my parents. My mother is my mirror. And as much as I may wish to clean off the reflective surface and not see her looking back at me, I have some work to do. Because right now, it could have been me having a conversation with my daughter when I'm 68 talking about my 10-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. It could have been me blaming someone for something she did not do – or, even worse, blaming myself.
And that frightened me. Because I don't want to be suppressing my feelings, placing blame where it does not belong, and working as a coping mechanism when I'm 68. I don't even want to be doing those things at 41. Yet, here I am.
The difference is that I see these tendencies in myself, I know where they came from, and I am armed with the skills and knowledge to break old patterns and move forward with my life.
So what am I going to do about these lessons?
- Dive back into self-love, self-care, and self-appreciation. I am so much more than what I can do for people. Sometimes I need a reminder – healer heal thyself and all that. J
- Dive into my emotions – even, and most especially, the uncomfortable ones. I plan to start with daily emotional check-ins and nightly journaling about what went on that day that brought up an emotion. Our departmental administrative assistant died over the weekend. She was in her 20s. This saddens me and brings up other thoughts about death and dying as I am nearing the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. You can be sure I will be diving into my sadness and grief tonight. I don’t want to keep carrying it around with me; yet, I know I will if I don’t face it head on. That being said, I don’t plan to get swept away by my grief. I know I have the ability and skill set to pull back into third-party/psychologist mode if I find myself entering pity party land!
What lessons have you learned from your mother? How have these lessons made a positive impact on your life? What changes will you make so that you don’t repeat her old patterns?