Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dear Mom,

For some reason I hear your voice and my perception of your messages more in the summer than other times of the year. This year is no different. Whenever August moves in with brother David’s birthday on the first and your death date on the eighth, I get uncomfortable, frequently depressed and always more anxious. This year was worse than usual, complicated by loving visits from many friends and plans for renovation of our home.

I perceived your message to me to be that I was not worthy of anything better than the crumbs under the table. In fact, you asked me when I began dating my partner if I were “selling” myself. I figured you thought I was unlovable and unable to attract someone for anything more or less than sex. And, that was an anathema to. Certainly, this relationship is not about just sex although that was exceedingly fun in the beginning. Intimacy is perhaps the most important thing that holds our relationship together. Intimacy formed by touching and being near one another and enjoying many of the same things in life and having similar values and working together and talking about what’s important to us.

And, Mom, you were wrong. I am humble, not least not full of the kind of pride that you attributed to me because I was hard-headed and strong-willed. Neither of those attributes are hindrances to being humble. Humility is loving God more than anything else. It’s not that I have to give up loving good food or good times or good vacations or being happy or being assertive; humility is putting God’s work first in my life. And, I’ve always done that by loving others.

These past few months you’ve tried to tell me that these people were coming to use me and what I have now. Truly, I am blessed and grateful for all the things and joys of my life. But, the visitors were coming to see me and meet my partner. They love me/us. You may have been the only person to consider me unlovable. And, you were wrong. I have friends all over the country who travel great distances to be in my company, and whom I travel great distances to visit. We are friends; we are chosen family. I am loved and I love.

As for worthiness, I am not worthy. No one is. But, I have been blessed with God’s grace in having good things in my life. And, I/we use our assets well – to benefit those who have less – both corporately and individually – as well as to provide ourselves with some of the things of life that we have never had before. We have toys, some expensive toys, that other folk like to play with and we share happily. That’s one of the reasons that we have them – to share them with others – to make life a little better for someone who doesn’t have all the material things that we do. But, I do not need to be worthy. God has made me worthy of whatever comes my way – good or bad...and I/we have our share of the bad as well as the good. Life is not easy, not even when you have the material things of life. Life is still hard.

I know you loved me as best you could, but I am not the person you believed me to be. And, some of the things about me that you disliked were caused by your own messages to me. Messages like, “You’d better get a teaching license because you’ll never make a living as a journalist.” “You’ll never be successful in that job because you think you’re too good.” “You change jobs too often; no one is going to want you.” “You don’t have a degree and you don’t stay in one place long enough to be successful.”

You always said that I could be anything I wanted to be, but when I wanted to be someone outside your comprehension, I was wrong and was not going to succeed. I don’t know how you measure success now that you’re dead, but I remember your telling me that success of a woman should be measured by how good a wife she was, how good a mother she was and how good an employee she was. You always felt you didn’t measure up in any of those areas because Dad was an alcoholic, I was a free spirit, and you didn’t get the business perks you though you should have. And, I certainly didn’t measure up because I married someone who became a drug addict and seller and divorced him. I had no children, and I changed jobs often enough that success, indeed, was always just out of reach. Perhaps I did that so that I wouldn’t disappoint you in what I thought were your expectations of me.

Now about how my partner and I use our material resources. No, I don’t deserve a new kitchen. That’s not how life works. Few of us deserve what we get, thanks be to God. But, we have the resources to renovate this house and make it a delightful place, a refreshing place, a place that will provide space for happy gathering, peaceful times and the surrounding beauty that helps make those possible. So, get off my back about wasting money. In the first place, it’s just money. I know that you’ve had to bail me out of financial scrapes often during parts of my life, and I know that only a week or so before you died, you recounted to me the amount of money you had spent on me throughout my life. This renovation is not an irresponsible thing as your messages to me indicate. It will increase the value of this house when we sell it someday. The house will be more convenient and more beautiful. We and our guests will enjoy the reconfigured space. So shut up about wasting money. Anyway, it’s not your money that would be wasted; so bag it.

You always wanted me to make decisions for you, and I (having an opinion about almost everything except where to eat) was glad to do that. But, you considered whatever went wrong in any project or decision to be my fault. Not so. And, if things go wrong with this project, they won’t be my fault now. I don’t begat problems as you seemed to think.

Life is good. God is with us. You’ve always proclaimed that, but I don’t sense that you ever believed it. Well, I have news for you. Life for me is good. God is with me/us. Even in my deepest depression, I know that tomorrow will be different and that God is with me, whoever, wherever and however I am. I am a beloved child of God. I’d be a beloved child of God regardless of what I did or did not do, regardless of who I am or who I am not. I am me. God loves me. That’s it. So, will you please shut up.


Anonymous said...

I am glad you shared this.

klady said...

Yes, thank you, yet again.

Bless you for speaking up, so clearly and plainly to Mom's voice, and may you find peace and joy hereafter.

June Butler said...

Sharecropper, having had many things in common with you in my early life, the alcoholic father, the mother who would not get us out of the hell we lived in, somehow, through all of that, I came through with my core ego miraculously intact.

Not that I'm not screwed up in my own way, because I am. Ask my family. My early life left deep and permanent scars which manifest themselves even today.

Actually, I always thought that once I was grown, I could make my own choices, no matter what anyone else thought or said. Of course, once I married and had children, then I had to consider my family.

Possibly it's the depression that causes you to continue to defend your very selfhood to your mother, even now.

God bless you, my friend, and may s/he give you help to get off that train. It's the train to nowhere.

There. I've sneaked in something that looks a little like advice, and I did not mean to do that.

Enough of people telling you what to do. You will figure it out.