Many of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I have just gone through an all too common experience last month – sitting at the bedside of my mother watching her slowly drift away as she died from cancer. It has been a hard month for me, but even harder on my sister who has never known a time in which my mother was not a part of her daily life. You see, when I was young I became estranged from my family. In some regards I was following in my mother’s footsteps since she had been estranged from her family most of her life. My mother and I made up long ago, but things were never quite the same. Time and again we fell out only to come back together. What saved everyone in family from the endless arguments was that I lived in a different city. In the end, my mother and I quietly agreed to disagree for the sake of the rest of the family who didn’t have to listen to our arguments.
I’ve done a lot of thinking during the past month about the roles we each adopt for ourselves – and I truly believe that, we create our place/role in the family. Others place you when you are young, but as we mature and grow, we create the world in which we live. We have only ourselves to blame for our responses to life. If not ourself, whom? It was a hard thing to accept when I was young and even harder now that I am older – but it is the only way we have to get on with our life.
I created my spot in our family when I was in my late teens. Angry, bitter, and too smart for my own good, I created a living hell for the people around me. I thought I was getting back at people for some very real and some perceived problems during my childhood. In reality though, I was creating a lasting memory of a thoughtless petulant young man. I became a pariah. I left home, only to return and cause more problems. Eventually I grew up and understood life a little more. But the damage was done.People don’t forget, in fact, the place and memories you have created for yourself becomes a caricature of your what you were. In my case, I became the proverbial black sheep.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not lamenting some lost part of my life. I don’t think I could change anything I did. I would not be the person I am today without having been so stupid in my past. I am sorry for the hurt I caused but I am proud of who the person I became and of the life I have created. Do I have regrets? Sure! But that’s what they are – regrets. I have to live with them and hope they make me choose more wisely the next time.
But I digress. I wanted to talk about sleeping in the bed I made for myself. During the past month, everyone in my family fell into the same roles we always do – including me. People expect it because it is comfortable shoe to wear. They don’t have to think much beyond it. In my case, my pariah role was even mentioned during the funeral ceremonies. Not much I could say or do about it or there was no reason to get angry since it was an accurate description of the past. The only thing to do was to sit back, suck it up, and hope that eventually these same people could see that they were dwelling on the past. Things have changed. Time has moved on. All those silly clichés. I am not the same person I was all those years ago. Neither are the family and friends that I have left
I don’t seem to be able to shrug off the coat I wore thirty years ago. It is my coat. I made it. It fit nicely at the time. But I outgrew it and threw it away a long time ago. But people keep insisting I wear it. And I must allow them to see me in that coat until they choose to see that I have changed.
People have said to me several times these past few weeks that a person has to live with his or her choices.
I agree with them.
But probably not in the way they meant it.