Sunday evening was a lovely time when I was young. We had our main meal at noon after church–usually pot roast, roasted potatoes, a rich onion gravy, and some type of vegetables. Come evening we had family time. We watched movies on television, had a lot of fried egg sandwiches and popcorn in front of the tv, and played board games.
That was when I was really little. When I was older and we lived in Iowa, my father would often leave Sunday evening so he could have an early start at whatever store he was visiting on Monday morning. Once we moved, it seemed like fun didn’t come naturally anymore.
I have been thinking this past week about life lessons my parents taught me while growing up, and one lesson in particular. I’ve told you previously that in my household we father-worshipped. I don’t mean that sacrilegiously. I just mean that my father was the king of the manner, which was probably the case in most 60’s and 70’s households, and we all hailed the king and his fragile ego. These days–now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, when I think about lessons I was taught growing up, I stop to think about who taught them to me. In the past I always assumed all of the “good” lessons came from my father’s example. I know now I’ve done my mother a huge disservice.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about the lesson of being fair. I always thought that it was my father who taught me to be fair. But looking at it more intently and less superficially, I now realize that was my mother’s lesson. My mother bit back a lot of what she might have wanted to say. My father probably did that more, to be honest, at least to us kids. But I realize that my mother didn’t carry grudges and make judgments the way my father apparently has.
My mother is pretty upfront and honest about wanting our love. Needing it even. I didn’t like that when I was a teenager. But now that I have my own children, I have come to realize that mothers and children need each other equally. And it is a real act of love and fortitude to allow our children to do what they need to do to become themselves. Especially when it costs us so much. I have always known that as a parent, we are given a gift when we are entrusted with children. We are given their guardianship for a number of amazing years and we then relinquish them to fly on their own. There may be days when this might not seem to come soon enough (the teenage years). If we are lucky, our children don’t have the need to stray far, or if they do, they eventually come back to us. Some children stray and stay away their entire lives.
I’ve realized my mom never stopped needing me. My father probably hasn’t stopped either, but he’s okay with the fact that we don’t speak much. My mother loves me and has taught me the meaning of forgiveness. My father loves me, and doesn’t understand forgiveness. He has a long list of wrongdoings he has kept etched in the corners of his mind that I have perpetrated on him. Some are fact, some are fantasy. Maybe it’s a female trait, but my mother seems to erase the slate and doesn’t invent wrongdoings. What I mean is, she doesn’t look back and interpret my actions in a new light, given new information, or attribute misdeeds or fabricate “evidence” of my unworthiness. I always thought that my parents didn’t have faith in us. I suppose that was because my mother was more vocal about her displeasure, and she had “mother guilt” refined to an exact science.
Believe me, it’s not that she didn’t cut like a finely honed knife. She just didn’t pretend to be anything but what she was which was angry. My dad saved us from a lot of her fireworks. But in the end, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. I guess I’d rather face someone authentically angry than find out years later he’d been disappointed in and pissed off at me and seeing everything I did through the veil of his ignorance. But this is all in hindsight, so who knows? What I do know is that my mother is quick to defend someone when another is accusing her unfairly of wrongdoing. Not the case with my dad.
The reason I’ve been thinking about all of this is because of Trey*. After something happens, you try to make sense of it in your mind, and sort of tie it all up with a bow, wrap your mind around the events. And so after much thought, to be honest, I can feel hurt around what he did, but I can’t fault him. Well, I can in the details, but not in the content. You see, Trey is doing what he’s doing, which is not being in a relationship with me, because he is going through a process. He feels he can’t be in a relationship right now because of things going on in his life. And as much as I can’t stand it, and think that we could help each other through it, I can’t judge it. I have to have faith that he knows what he’s doing and that he knows what’s best for himself.
I don’t know if y’all are familiar with Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation? My friend Kathleen gave me her book some time ago. I’ve aspired to understand and live by some of the principles, though they were initially very foreign to me. It really is amazing, and I hope you will find it so as well.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
copyright © 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
If I hold with the tenets of this philosophy about relationships, then I have to believe that Trey believes that in order to be true to himself, he has to be willing to disappoint me. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to accept it. I have to accept that with the challenges he has, he needs his all of his faculties to manage, and I can not judge. It’s never my job to judge. He may not have deported himself in this situation in a way that was fair or caring, he made many comments that were insensitive, but I don’t think he sees that at this point because lacks the necessary distance. And really, does it really matter? What has been said can’t be unsaid, and all there is left is to live with it. I don’t have the willingness or the desire to hold grudges.
What I do have, is the desire to live. I have the desire to grow and love and dance under the moon. I have the desire to dream and work to fulfill those dreams. Alone or accompanied–I will not wait to live.
“No matter where you are right now, contentment is possible. And if you decide to try it, it will open up your eyes to thousands of blessings that are hiding right under your nose.” ~ Lori Smith
I recall some time ago my therapist, the devoted Dr. M., told me, “You are not searching for a normal or ordinary relationship. You are looking for something real and vibrant and alive.” And that is true. Goddess, spirits, gods, and Keebler Elves willing, I will have that some day. I had it for a while with Trey, so it’s understandable that I am hurting so now. But my relationship with him gave me a great deal of pleasure, and I’ll try to be grateful for what we had. And it’s given me some practice for whatever it is that comes next.
And as far as my parents go, well, I have to believe they were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. I do know that they did and do love me. And now, they are elderly and have the problems that elderly people have. My father has COPD and heart problems, my mother probably has COPD and she has some artery blockage. They are old and tired, and they wish things were better. I wish they were better too.
1.) My children, may they fly high and remember who loves them most.
3.) Mom and Dad, I love you guys too.
4.) My friends and cousins for all of their support and love.
5.) Pennie and Lady, the best canines a person could ask for.