Friday, February 25, 2011

Self-Acceptance and Mother-Acceptance

Sometimes I'm frightfully slow.

I knew my mother has traits I dislike very much. I won't list them, out of deference to her, and maybe also because of last Sunday's sermon on that section in James about the tongue. Even though listing them would lend more power to my words when I say I also knew I could see hints of those exact same traits in myself. Where "hint" sometimes means "big flashing neon sign."

And it terrifies me. I am scared to death of being like my mom.

I didn't even used to like it when people said I looked a little like her. Part of it was that she had me later in life, and I didn't want to look like someone older like that. Shallow. But part of it was simply not wanting to be associated with her, not wanting to be like her at all. Because of the recent scanning of photos for my parents' 50th anniversary I've been looking at photographs of her at my age for the first time in quite a while, and it's a bit eye-opening. The physical resemblance is such a tiny thing compared to other resemblances, but just accepting and being happy about it as seen in those pictures seems like a step forward, to me.

What I never thought of before, somehow, is that of course I have trouble accepting myself, when I'm not accepting her.

I suppose I didn't realize how angry I still am with her until connecting it with how scared I am of being like her. What does it say of what I think of her, if I am so loath to resemble her?

Now, granted, no matter how much I value her intrinsically, as a person, I would still want to avoid some of her... mistakes. I think that's valid. But my reaction is a lot more extreme than that sort of caution justifies.

Sometimes I remind myself that I didn't start having kids at twenty years old, as though that fact on its own can protect me, as though it's a magic hedge that shields my life from hers.

The thing of it is, it gives a whole new meaning to the statement that holding a grudge or holding onto anger is harder on yourself than it is on the person you're angry at. Because it's not just the disadvantage of the anger itself inside me, that it hurts me more than it hurts her, it's that I can't accept the very qualities in her that I have in myself. And if I can't forgive her for those, how can I forgive myself?

I do want to see the image of God in her, I do want to see the beautiful and name it, to name her rightly. For her own sake, but even more now that I realize that if I can't do that, I can't name myself rightly, either. Not in full.

I am my mother's daughter, and I do look like her.


Rachel said...

On a shallow level, we're both writers, and when I read this the first thing that jumped out at me was "wow, this is beautifully written." Bet you could get it published somewhere if you wanted.

On a less shallow level, you should read Anita Diamant's "The Red Tent". I just finished it, and it brought up some of the same stuff for me. Anger, mostly, at what I don't have, but it was a helpful kind of anger, ya know? It was really good, and I'll be mulling it over for a good while. I think you'd appreciate it, especially in light of this post.

Marcy said...

I really like your shallow level. =) Thank you! Between this and the facebook comments on my last post about my mother... I think it‘s funny that apparently my best writing comes when I‘m least focused on the words and the writing for their own sake, and instead using them as a means to an end, to express what I want. I guess it makes sense, as that IS what words are supposed to be for, but still... Of course, no matter what there‘s always a bit of compulsive tweaking and editing. It‘s just not the same as the careful polishing and examination of word choice I would expect from myself before trying to publish a novel -- it‘s more second nature editing, rather than super conscious editing. Anyway.

You know, I‘ve been so focused on working towards publishing novels, I have very little idea of how I‘d go about publishing something like this. But that‘s not a bad idea. At the least, query letters for novels are supposed to have a paragraph on previous publications. I‘m sure they prefer short stories to essays and articles, but it couldn‘t hurt. Thank you again.

On your less shallow level, thank you for the recommendation. I‘ve thought before that it looked intriguing, and I‘ve heard that it‘s good, but only in a more vague and general sense. I will have to pick it up.