For much of my adult life, I remembered Mom as a tyrant. I remembered her as always angry. Always upset. Always demanding. Never forgiving. Never budging. Always over-bearing. Far too strict. Overly mean. And I was convinced she had it out for her kids.
As I aged, I eventually zoomed out enough to realize that all of that was me and her and it certainly wasn’t all the time, or even most of the time. My siblings have nowhere close to the same memory of my parents that I do. They generally remember her as supportive. And kind. And fun. And silly. And strong. And encouraging. And yes, strict, but not unreasonably.
At first, it hurt when I realized this. Sure, I had always thought myself the black sheep of the family, but I never had thought I was the only one who was loathed or despised or (was it possible?) even hated by my parents.
But over time I learned something and I eventually replaced that hurt with the truth.
Sometimes two people’s personalities just clash.
I am a kind, loving, silly, fun, awesome person. To almost everyone. But there are a few people in this world who have never really wronged me, and I have never really wronged them, yet we cannot stomach being around one another. Just being in the same room is difficult for everyone as the tension becomes so thick and ugly that a professional lumberjack couldn’t chop through it.
I hate the person that I become when these people are around. I hate that I can’t seem to control it, and I hate that I seem to become a different person any time they are near. I hate that I loathe them as much as I do.
I’d love to change all of that, but for some reason I can’t. Our clashing personalities simply won’t allow it, so the best we can find to do is pretend the other doesn’t exist, even when we’re standing right next to one another.
And this is what I’ve learned when it comes to these people, and more importantly to my mother.
I’ve learned that sometimes every one of us simply won’t mesh with another person, but that doesn’t mean that our perception of that person is a fair one or an accurate one.
Who I saw my mother as is not who my mother actually is. It’s just who she was with me, and I was half to blame for that. Who my mother saw me as, and who I actually am, also differed completely.
Our personalities just crashed together in horrible ways. It’s as simple and as difficult an idea as that.
Where I got lucky was that we both eventually learned how to zoom out and see who the other was without our own ugly filters blinding us to the truth. We’ve both learned that we aren’t who we always thought we were when we ourselves are not in the picture. Our respect for each other has become sincere. Our friendship has grown. Our hugs have become genuine. It just took some growing-up to get to that point.
Indeed, this was the greatest lesson of all. I have learned from my relationship with Mom now, and our relationship then, that I cannot judge anyone fairly unless I am able to extract myself from the equation completely and actually see who they are when they are with everyone else.
After doing that, I have to admit. Mom is a pretty damn awesome lady, who has far more goodness in her than she has demons, and it has become nearly impossible to see her as anything other than a love-filled, passionate, embracing, and selfless woman.
Dan Pearce, from my book: The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man
Last Chapter: The Potato Cannon Incident
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