Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I just can't change my parents

They aren't bad people. Actually, they're really nice. Respectable people. And they love me and I love them.
That said--they drive me absolutely nuts.

Sometimes, well, most of the time, we just don't seem to mesh. Like when they invite me to dinner, and I get there, and there's pork on the table, and potatoes that were cooked with the pork, and bread. Then, when I go to make myself another dish, and my mother asks me, "Isn't this food good enough for you?" I refuse to answer because she knows I'm a vegetarian.
Or when my dad showed me his office, which is an office, in a building. And he was so proud of it because he worked 21 years in a windowless office to get this job so he can have these windows. Whereas working in an office at all is not on my agenda! (I HATE offices!!!!)

To boot, I've been having problems at work. I'm pretty sure my boss has an alcohol problem. She's nasty, and capricious, and rude. And their refrain has been: what can you do to make it work?
They shrug and roll their eyes when I answer truthfully to the question, "How has work been?"

My parents are so busy encouraging me to work hard in life for the "things that matter," that they forget to have a little fun and forgiveness in the meantime*. I worry about them a little bit, and hope they're making the right choices for them.

(*My dad spends about 4 hours at his computer every day of vacation so far, emerging, thrilled and saying "I got some good work done today!")

I asked a friend before I went away for two weeks with my folks what my mantra should be, as they were already getting under my skin.

And he said, "You know, it took me years to figure this out, but you really can't change who your parents are." And he would know; he still has to deal with his parents shenanigans, despite living in a different state, having a life & family of his own, and having achieved a great deal of success in his career. From all I hear, they were/are pretty messed up. Alcohol, abuse, adultery. The works. He went on to say, "For a while I thought I could, like get my mom to stop drinking. I thought that if I was really on top of it she would have to come around, but she never did."

While I saw his point, I felt pretty sad about this. I was first sad because of what he had to go through, which I can't ever fully comprehend, nor wish to. Pang--it hit me like a cold wind when your hair's wet. I wish that he'd had a better time of it; but I think he turned out wonderfully.

I was also sad because of the subsequent wisdom his experience provided me. He was right. (Fshhewww, follow up cold wind...)

So. I probably can't really expect to see my parents, like, loosen up a bit on my terms. Nope. They'll either be who they are going to be, or they'll change for the better or worse, but I can't feel like I have the power to do anything with them. It's like your freshman year roommate. Sometimes you get a perfect match, and sometimes it ain't perfect. I just can't change my parents. I. just. can't. change.
my parents.

This got me happily through the next couple days of family vacation.

But you know what? I'm not zen yet. [Note: If you aren't ready for an utterly frivolous, nitty-gritty vent session, complete with dialogue, go back to failblog where you will find more one-to-one satisfaction...]


Yesterday at dinner, my dad was trying to convince my 11 year old sister, that it might be more important to take up a rare sport for the "scholarship potential" in college. And I was like I can't change my parents, but in the battle over the sister, I'd like to reserve a small sphere of influence! That's bogus, I blurted, because then she'll have to do a sport all the way through that she might not like! Annie, do what you love, this will lead you do great things!
And the battle drums sound, a theatrical dance ensues:

Dad: I don't think so. Sometimes you have to work hard in life. Sometimes you have to make a sacrifice.
L: But she won't be happy. She will be depressed because she has to wake up and keep her scholarship! Annie, only do it if you want to!
Dad: No, I disagree. You can't always just do what you want. I worked hard to get where I am today.
L: Yeah? In an office with big windows? [L rolls eyes and twiddles pointer finger in the air] Well maybe some of us don't want that.
Dad: I worked hard for that office, 21 years. [Puts a mouthful of salmon into his mouth)
[Beat, L: This is, L realizes, not at all about Annie, but about Dad and L again...crud. Is it too late to back out now?]
Dad (continues): Your Mom had to take out loans in college and it has CRIPPLED us.
[Beat, L: Yep, in too deep.]
L: WHAT?! I think that's a bit strong!
Dad: How many two physician families do you know who live like we do?
[Set note: Gentle Martha's Vineyard sea breeze rustles the leaves of the 100-year old tree growing on the porch of my grandmother's condo, salty sea intermingles with the gentle perfume of lilies. Helloooo it's beautiful, we're on vacation on Martha's Vineyard, half the country is jobless!!!!]
L: How do we live?? I think we live FINE. VERY FINE. EXTREMELY COMFORTABLY! Are you KIDDING?!
Dad: It's crippled us. Think of where we could be.
[At this point L remembers the matra told to her by a wise man ~ I just can't change my parents ~ she turns dramatically to her 11 year old sister, who has now probably stopped thinking about college scholarships, and started wondering about when the s'more making will commence...]
L: Annie: If you are unhappy in what you do it's not worth anything. My best friend in college took out a ton of loans, and majored in Creative Writing! And she's fine! You should go for what you want in life. And if you have to wake up at 5 am to do lacrosse will that make you happy?
Annie: What's lacrosse?

End Scene.

Well, L's done it again! Gone and ignored very useful, sensible, even wise advice in favor of making the same damned mistake over and over until it's been beaten into her own non-fictional head. I feel, however, like I'm getting better each time. I'm not so emotionally bogged down by this kind of "discussion." And I'm starting to let go a little more each time, and be ok with their decisions, while I try harder to make decisions that are true to who I am.


Elizabeth said...

1. "What's Lacrosse?" just cracked me up!

2. A certain wise man who gave you that very wise and true advice can be zen about it because he NEVER sees his parents. It's way easier not to get annoyed at people you never see.

3. Knowing you can't change them doesn't mean you can't call them on their shit. But it does mean that you'd better not be attached to the idea of them listening to you!

4. I swear your parents kept their eyes and ears shut tight during the 60s and 70s! This is the classic hippie-kid rebellion (the Establishment, with it's ethic of hard work, nose to the grindstone, so we can get ahead, vs. the hippies who wanted to pursue their dreams and never punch a time clock). The weird thing is that everyone your parents went to school with, in high school and college, was doing exactly what you're doing. Sheesh! It is really really weird.....

5. Hmmm... nice house, many cars, four good kids. Yeah, they're pretty severely crippled!

So, happy vacation! We miss you.

Anonymous said...

From wise man who never sees his parents:
In the future, if a conversation like this comes up about someone else's future, i.e. your sister's, you could keep quiet about it and then talk to the sister later one on one. Probably more effective with the sister, and keeps you out of conflict with the parents and back into zen mode...
I agree that you need to be able to call your parents on stuff, but you can also pick your battles, and this one strikes me as a battle that could be sidestepped.

L said...

Wise man: Yeah, half way into the argument I realized it could've been avoided. I was just too in it emotionally before I even knew what was happening! (it's like mr. hyde...) But I totally agree & i'll keep my eyes open in ze future...

Live, laugh, love: Yep, yep, yep, yep and yep. But as zen master has said, it's best to choose battles & this may not have been the best one. I should also try to keep calm because I get so wrapped up in things, I end up flinging myself into an emotional turbine ride, without even knowing it (guess it's me artsy side, which happens to be the fatter one...). And then I end up getting all bent out of shape--no good.

I miss you guys! xoxoxxL

L said...

And it was true, she didn't know what Lacrosse was which, above anything else, revealed the true nature of the situation :P