I envy my older brother because he is fortunate to live within a five minute drive from my parents home. They share the day to day happenings without stopping to think when they'll see one another again or counting the days until they must say good-bye.
I live 891 miles from my mom & dad. The time I have with them is limited and special.
It never fails that at some point during every visit my mom and I find ourselves deeply engaged in conversation. At times these talks center around helping one another understand and accept those things about us that are foreign to the other. Experiences, desires, addictions, struggles, conflict, love, religion, memories, attraction, hopes, regret, shame, strength, passion and the essence of who we are is brought to light. She helps me understand myself because I am certainly my mother's son.
Last week the family got together to celebrate my niece Heather's HS graduation. In the midst of all the hubbub I found time to talk with Ma about her innate (or learned) need to try to please everyone. Her tendency to not rock the boat, to be the one who takes the world upon her shoulders, to make life easier for everyone around her, to be accepting and quiet, to give and give even when she has nothing left and how as the years have passed she has found the strength of spirit to stand up for herself.
It is ironic that I have been a force in helping her find her voice. Just as she has at times been shown the joy that comes from being true to yourself through my example, I have been plagued with the same dilemma of wanting to please everyone, to make those I love happy, to be liked and to keep the peace.
But, mom has shown me that it is impossible to be all things to all people without paying a price. Eventually the stress of striving for perfection takes it toll and comes back to bite you in the ass.
In the book Eat, Love, Pray (I only read the Eat section) author Elizabeth Gilbert writes about wanting to get out of her marriage even though it was not particularly unhappy, it was simply not the life she wanted. And how continuing to proceed along the path of marriage, children, play dates, etc would eventually result in cancer or other malady. Our bodies, our minds, know when we are living an unauthentic existence and resist. The rebellion causes disease.
The bright example of my mom in my life is to be true to yourself. To find a happiness that is balanced between giving and holding onto what you most treasure at your core. It is a struggle to remember. It is a struggle to forgive yourself when you hurt others unintentionally. She has found this balance, this healing, this strength, this truth.
I'm working on it.