Thursday, April 3, 2014
Gravity pulls us back
My mother and I had a sticky relationship. Two people could not have been more different in many ways, our political beliefs unbending, our ways of arguing about things loud and confrontational. This was years in the making, journeying through high school and college and beyond up until the weeks preceding her death when the soft reality of a short time gave us the space to not so much talk things through, but just to be attentive to the love that we had for each other, the love that underwrote all these things.
People that know about my hard relationship with my mom always wonder, sometimes aloud, sometimes with their eyes, about how we wrapped things up. I shuffle my feet a bit, uncomfortable with the question that implies what it does, that we wasted many years in disharmony only to be robbed of a future together.
But in these past few years that my mother has been gone, I have realized that our relationship was what it was and would have continued to be so until something catastrophic happened that would have changed everything. And then likely changed nothing.
Because behavior in relationships is incredibly difficult to change. The gravity of the well-worn path pulls us back to what we know and are accustomed to, even if it's not what we want in our heart of hearts. That pattern may be the inability to admit that we are wrong or the hurt at another freezing us out. It may be the lack of courage to have hard conversations, to say that we are sorry, operate on a different level and in a different behavior pattern than we had before. But it's just really hard. And it may not mean that we don't love the other person, it may mean that we just don't have the capacity to make that change. Changing behavior in relationships takes time and near constant attention. It takes intention and tending. False starts and failures chip away at the surface. Sometimes it feels safer not to even start. Sometimes the disappointment feels like more than we can bear.
And you can live the rest of your life sick to your stomach that this never happened, riddled with guilt that you squandered your time with something so precious as your mother's time in your life. You can let that eat away at you, blame yourself, wonder what you could have done. Or you can realize, as so many relationships in life, that it was what it was, mine the time that you had for the good, push past the regrets and move forward. You can take this realization into your relationships that are alive today, have expectations for people and for yourself, live according to what you need and how you need to be loved and to recognize your own role in how that all works out. Because that is what she would have wanted, honestly. I think she'd appreciate that most.