It’s going to be another one of those musical journeys through my mind. I’ve been mulling over it a lot, for reasons that escape me at the moment. But, perhaps in the writing of it, it will give me some insight into why it’s been bothering me.
I was not the easiest child to live with, nor have I necessarily been the easiest woman to live with. For the longest time, I would say probably starting around age 20-21, a lot of my life choices and reactions were very similar to Shiloh in Repo! The Genetic Opera:
Thankfully, unlike with Shiloh, I was not ever forced to deal with a parent committing Munchausen by proxy. Based on discussions with a number of different people, there may have been some emotional or mental abuse perpetrated by my parents, but never that particular form. And even with that, I can’t help but believe that my parents – both of them – were doing the absolute best for me that they could at that given time.
Parents are human beings. This often means that, despite desires and intent to the contrary, sometimes their choices lead to the very opposite. In other words, parents fuck up – sometimes for quite a long time.
My emotional state went from rebellious, as in the above song, to more wistful and desiring to open my life up to far more experiences than I had had previously. That wistfulness was often mixed with a sense of frustration that blamed myself for many of the choices that were made. That if I was a better daughter, less rebellious, perhaps I would gain not just approval, but respect.
It took a few years, but eventually, I passed beyond the need for my parents’ approval. I came to the understanding that from my parents’ point of view, most of my innate psychological traits were going to be at odds with my parents own traits – some, simply because I was far too much like my grandmother for either of my parents to be comfortable with a daughter with those same traits.
We all, as children, want some form of approval from our parents. And as we become adults, there are some of us who have to realize that the kind of approval we want will never happen.
But, the desire for respect? That I’ve never really lost or got over.
There was a point in that process during my 20s and my 30s, whether during therapy or not, where I became quite angry with my parents, and resentful of many of their choices.
My relationship with my father has always been fairly tumultuous. Again, like Shiloh, there have been times when I’ve had thoughts quite similar to her in this song:
My father, of course, was never the kind of monster that her father is in the movie. Nor has my father ever blamed anyone else for his own poor choices. Blamed them for other things, but not for choices he actually made.
Plus, during that same time, I had thoughts and accusations laid at my mother’s feet that are similar to Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.”
I even emailed her with a link to this song, at the time of my accusations and anger.
But, again, as I got older and especially now as I am looking back over everything in my life, again I can only see that my parents tried their best, but well….messed up in many ways with me.
I don’t know why. I don’t even know if they know why. I can have insights, like the ones about my grandmother and her interactions with them both. But as much as I would love to figure out the “why” of it all (because I never really grew out of that “why” stage), that’s not as important as me understanding that they were and are human.
Because they also taught me the concept of unconditional love. They taught me that someone can be loved openly and completely, yet that person’s behavior doesn’t need to be loved. Behavior changes, the core of you never does. No matter what I did, no matter how I felt – I always knew I was loved, even when my behaviors actually hurt them. They taught me love wasn’t a matter of “exchange” or of “payback.”
This really got drilled home to me when one of my wives had issues with her mother. Her mother actually had the balls to tell her that because she (as the mother) cared for her daughter from birth to adulthood, that she (as the daughter) OWED it to her mother to take care of her mother since she was getting older.
I’m not saying that children don’t have an responsibility to their parents when their parents get old. But a 1-for-1 equality? You have to pay for your mom in every way possible until she dies because SHE paid for you in every way possible from birth to adulthood? Um, no.
I care about my parents, deeply. And yes, I have some responsibility for them. But, it is a responsibility to see that they get the kind of care they need – not that I necessarily give it to them. I have enough on my own health plate. If I had to give up my energy for my own healing to care for their every need, it would be just as unhealthy as giving up all of me for my ex-husband was. My parents are in a place where their needs can be taken care of, and neither my sister nor I have to limit our own needs in order to make sure theirs are dealt with.
We have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to our family. And, I think at times that may have been part of the problem. That perhaps, my parents needed most of their lives to come to the understanding that their daughters have only in the last 5 years come to understand: that we have as much responsibility to ourselves as we do to others.
I don’t know, maybe we’re learning that as a family.