For the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, the things that happen in our lives and how we respond to them. This has really been ramped up in the past few weeks due to heated discussions with my mom and the subsequent letters she decided to write my sister and I. I have spent a lot of time wondering why my mom is the way she is and why I am not like that. We both had difficult childhoods. We both spent years living with her second husband. I had a lot of anger as a teenager and young adult. And, like anyone else who has reached a certain point in life, we have each experienced both amazing and horrific things. It’s all part of being alive, part of being human. But I wonder why I am not like her. I don’t remember a conscious decision to emotionally go in a different direction. I have tried to find that defining moment when I took a step off the path she laid out for me and I don’t know when it happened.
Maybe it never did. Maybe I was always on a different path. One thing I have noticed, is that when “good” or “bad” things happen, people tend to respond in two different ways. They either let those things define them, or they let those things guide them. I think that is where my mom and I are polemic extremes. My mom has cloaked herself in the “bad” things that have happened in her life and she keeps record of every “bad” thing anyone has ever done to her. If my sister or I told a lie, talked back, got a bad grade or anything else negative when we were children, she remembers it and she brings it up again and again. Every bad working experience, argument, questionable look from a stranger is taken as a judgment as well as confirmation that the world is against her. She is a modern day Job, with misery and despair being her chosen destiny.
I have always tried to approach things differently. I don’t always succeed, but I always try to see things for what they are and what I might learn. I try not to let the things that happen define me. I have made mistakes. I have been hurt. I’ve done the hurting. I’ve dealt and am dealing with two strokes, battled depression, had relationships that didn’t work, financial issues and more. But those things are not who I am, they are just things that have crossed my path. Or, like a friend of mine wrote me several months ago, they are the path I was meant to take. A lot of my life has been amazing. I am very aware of how lucky I have been; the people I have met, the love, the travel, and the experiences. But those too, do not define who I am.
Somehow, my mom and I approach life differently, and yet, there is a fear. A fear that one day I will be as she is. My mom used to be fun. She used to laugh and enjoy life. She was a major practical joker. My friends loved her, thought she was cool. I don’t know where that person went or why she left. I sometimes fear I will become that person as well. I wish I wasn’t able to say it, but I look at my mom as everything I do not want to be. And I know that many times, we become the very thing we dislike the most. I’ve caught glimpses of her in my actions. When I was going through the depression, that is what scared me the most. When I hear myself being negative, I fear I am stepping onto her path and I don’t want that.
Maybe it is the upcoming holidays, but I find myself thinking about it a lot. I don’t understand how someone that has such easy access to some wonderful things in life, would choose to keep herself chained to misery and almost wear it with pride. I never want to be that person.