My mom and I, like most mother-daughter people, have a complicated relationship. My mom is the first person I run to with a problem or to complain and also the first person whose advice I really don’t want to hear. This is not fair to my mom, but someday, my daughter will be not wanting to hear what I have to say right after she tells me something. It’s the circle of life.
There have been times when we have not spoken for weeks on end. There have been times when we couldn’t be in the same room without fighting. One time, my dad burst into the middle of one of those fights and sent us both to our rooms. As a marriage counselor, he has very little patience for brutal sniping in his own home.
But my mom and I are growing up. We have found the space where we can not only love each other, but like each other as well. There is a lot more forgiveness of imagined slights; we are also able for the first time to laugh at our mutual weaknesses. And last night, after a not super great day, I think we crossed our last major point of conflict off the list.
I called my mom to complain. All I wanted was to hear that I am smart and beautiful; I’m having a succession of challenging days at work and I am frustrated. I believe a brief period of whining, followed by a brief period of compliments from the person who just listened to you whine is the best way to exorcise life’s small frustrations. Obviously, your exorcist has to love you. Neediness is wasted on acquaintances.
My mom, being the drama tree from which this little histrionic apple fell, immediately starts freaking out about my quitting my job. At first, I was annoyed. I have not ever in my life left a job without something else lined up. I am a compulsive planner when it comes to my own income. Also, I didn’t saying anything about quitting my job, which I am not planning to do.
As I felt the familiar frustration well up inside of me, I checked myself (before wrecking myself, obviously). My mom is compelled to throw her body over whatever bombs she thinks are waiting to go off in my life, even if they just turn out to be backpacks accidentally left under someone’s seat. It’s how she shows love. So instead of being a total bitch and freaking out about my mom trying to protect me from a non-threat, I calmly told her there was no danger and explained that it was time instead for her to give me compliments. Having had a brush or two with neediness herself and assured that I wasn’t about to ruin my life, she happily complied.