Do Not Judge What You Do Not Understand

Do Not Judge What You Do Not Understand

As most of you know, Christmas this year looked a little different for everyone. My husband and I decided to take our children to visit their grandparents who live nearly an hour away for a short visit. Prepped with double masks and hand sanitizer, away we went. Once we arrived, pleasantries were exchanged and gifts were unwrapped. Shortly after, my father decides to bring me his retirement/pension paperwork to help him fill it out. Of course, the HR employee inside of me jumped up and said “of course!” while the daughter inside of me thought “UH OH, I have left my husband all alone with his outspoken, sharp-tongued mother-in-law.” Not in the best health herself, I decided to roll with it and move forward.

As I walk in and out of the house completing the paperwork, I mindlessly drift into a conversation between my husband and my mother. As in, when I am focused on something, I am REALLY focused as to not become distracted. However, their conversation was on me so of course, I listened. As I stand there looking over the paperwork I hear my husband gushing over me. “Ma’am, your daughter is so talented and smart. She is a wonderful writer and one day you will be reading her books.” My mother, with her usual quick and snide remarks, said and I quote, “oh really? And what will she write about? Most times, authors are those who have lived an extraordinary life and have something interesting to write about.” MIND YOU, this is MY OWN MOTHER. My poor husband sat there stunned. He looked over at me and asked what I planned to write about. I responded with “well, nothing I guess. It seems as though I am rather boring to some.”

What she and many may not know is that I in fact have lived a rather difficult yet adventurous life for only having been on this Earth for thirty-five years. You see, I am a very quiet and private person. I keep to myself for many reasons but mostly due to a lack of trust in those around me. For years, my husband has known how much I love to write. He knows how big my dreams really one day travel the world and become an author/editor for a largely respected publishing company. You see, he and I have spent twenty-one years together. He is in fact my best friend. On the other hand, I left my mother’s home at the young age of seventeen and never looked back. Unfortunately, she and I haven’t always had the best relationship. In her eyes, I am the black sheep of our family, having driven her CRAZY as a child with my strong and argumentative spirit. Despite being grown and having accomplished so much, (I.E. drama free, happily married with three wonderful kids, college-educated with a rewarding career) to this day I am still deemed as inferior or not good enough.

“I can’t help but parents, who are we to judge our children?”

Just because we created them does not mean we get to judge their talents, strengths, weaknesses, etc. As a daughter, I admit my mother’s comment did sting a little. However, our family runs in circles and because of this, I have grown accustomed to these kinds of comments. This is why I choose to stay away. Her mother, my grandmother, did the exact same thing when she was alive. Always blurting out the first thing that came to mind, never worrying if it came out wrong or what anyone else thought. While both she and my grandmother think/thought this made them strong, opinionated women, in reality, it is very much a character flaw.

“We as human beings possess a unique ability to hold a conversation and respond rationally without the need to criticize that person to make ourselves feel better.”

Often, I find myself feeling internally conflicted. Do I stay in an unhealthy relationship simply because we are connected by blood? Or is it enough to love and respect someone from a distance in order to maintain that same love and respect? I suppose only time will tell.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Woodsy says:

    My dad died early this year. The funeral was just before lockdown, the echoes of our relationship, deep and difficult, other people’s self-righteousness about the importance of family, no help at all…

    As those close to me knew, my relationship with dad left me with some emotional wounds.

    Most who spoke to me in the aftermath of his death, spoke of the storyteller, the genial host, the joker. It was a weird time, with much to process.

    I started to realisie, however, that it was something of a privilege to have seen some of the darkness in him. It came from a difficult life, marked by a couple of early tragedies from which his soul struggled to recover.

    I guess we all carry our share of darkness on the way, and we all seek out places of hope to hold us together when it appears.

    Dad found the Scottish mountains… photography… the companionship of dogs… the love of my mother, which he held on to for over 60 years of marriage.

    In these difficult times, when the world feels harsh and scary and distant to so many, I reckon there is a real value in being able to stand with people in their darkness.

    Maybe there’s a precious measure of a redemption in that. I’m hoping so.

    Redemption comes in odd ways. As close as I was to my mother, as deeply as I needed her soul around mine, there were times when the sheer unfiltered depth of our connection looked nothing like love.

    I remember the argument we had not long before she died. I was home caring for her, the situation in the house was fraught with frustrations and difficult dynamics, and one day I just lost it.

    A while afterwards, I remember saying how desperately sorry I was. She knew my situation was frustrating –

    and she often said as much –

    but the way I had spoken to her went so far beyond frustration. I’d been mean and spiteful… and not for the first time.

    “I think,” I said, “I am becoming a very nasty person.”

    I knew she would try to disillusion me of this. I knew she’d be kind. But I didn’t expect her to reply how she did.

    She looked at me for a moment, took in the thought, and simply said: “You are one of the gentlest men on the planet.”

    Nah. No way. Not me. I was way too jagged inside. I couldn’t see the person she saw. There are still plenty of times when I find it difficult, to say the least.

    Within about a week of saying these words, mum had a stroke, and she was in hospital for a month before she died. The visits were incredibly dispiriting. Watching the nursing staff on the stroke ward clean around her, accustomed as they were to dealing with people who’d lost the ability to talk… to eat…

    well, hell…

    I wanted somehow to let them know who this woman really was, to give them a glimpse of the person I saw. So I brought in a piece I had written about her and left it by her bedside:

    I saw a miracle tonight,
    shining out through tired eyes
    and a smile
    that could still discover distant stars.

    I saw a miracle tonight,
    spellbound by own her fragile magic
    into a world
    that starts and ends in an armchair.

    Every now and then,
    she’d squeeze my fingers,
    just to remind me
    that holding my hand
    would always be the fastest way to freedom.

    I watched waves
    and stars
    and thunderclouds
    roll in
    across her shoreline…

    but the miracles always land on her fingertips.

    When I went to my first open mike night, six months after she died, this was the piece I performed, and it remains a favourite. It’s evolved a little on the journey, but not much – and though I love the extra resonances in the new version, it’s still the original that I know by heart.

    Lasr February, ten years after mum, it was dad’s turn.

    There are so many things I could say, little stories I could tell, to explain things I did or did not do, to explain why things with dad went so differently. But none of those stories would explain anything. They’d just be the echoes of symptoms of things that I can’t just sweep into a dustpan and tidy up.

    They’d be the echoes of things that simply are what they are. I owe no explanations for my jagged places – certainly not to people who have just found a self-righteous homily on social media, or who think they can see my situation from the other side of the abyss.

    What I do owe, is a walk – a walk I am still taking, still exploring. I owe it to the person standing at the end of this story to walk myself back to that place I lost in myself.

    This is proving to be my best way of honouring dad, too, however fudged and incomplete it feels. Most of our rituals are – just like our lives.

    I remember a lovely little women’s road trip movie (Boys on the side) with Whoopi Goldberg. One of the scenes I remember in it was when one of the main characters is trying to makes sense of her mother and father’s relationship, and the way her memory of it affected her relationship with her mother.

    The mother says that, when it comes down to it, family is: “the people who stick by you, and it ain’t always who you expect.”

    That’s certainly been true of my life.

    You’ll find your way to your own way of dealing, and you’ll make the walk, wherever it leads, because of who you are.

    Liked by 1 person

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