I don't know whether I've mentioned before, but my parents separated a few months ago. It's a strange thing to suddenly find myself from a broken family at the age of 38.
One of my sisters, known for being a mild drama queen, reacted to the news by bursting into hysterical tears for 5 minutes and then saying, 'I feel like I'm in Kramer vs Kramer!'
'Have you even read that book?' I asked. (I was the one breaking the news to her).
'No,' she admitted. 'But I've seen the DVD cover and I feel like, well...I feel like I'm in it.'
I think she was hoping my parents would end up in the Australian High Court in a landmark court case - sueing each other for custody of their 36 year old daughter. (I have 4 siblings, but in my sister's 'Kramer vs Kramer' fantasy I'm sure my parents were only concerned with custody of her...)
I'm sad to say that when I was told about the separation all I felt was relief. I thought I might feel something else, like sadness or loss. But, all I felt was relief and a bit of happiness that I'd never have to be in the same room as my parents again.
I won't go into the ins and outs of their relationship, becuase that's not really my business. But, since the separation I've spent 4 months living with my mother in the family home. (My father moved out). And, here's where I get to the main point of this post - dealing with difficult people.
At the best of times I experience my mother as a difficult person, and this has certainly not been the best of times. We have some similar traits; we can both be bossy and controlling and perfectionistic, so living together isn't easy. My mother also has some kind of anxiety and hyperactivity disorder, which has never been treated.
Over the past months I've been very judgemental towards her. And then, because I'm into meditation and have this idea that if you are a good meditator you will always be peaceful and kind and compassionate towards other people, I then judge myself for being so judgemental towards her.
Here's how the inner conversation goes after something happens between us. I'll give you a little example...I put some rice to cook on the stove, and come into the kitchen 5 minutes later to find my mother has moved it to the microwave, becuase that's how she thinks it should be cooked. This is what I might say inside my head:
"Oh my GOD. I feel like I am going to %^&* KILL her!...Can't I even put on a %^& saucepan of rice without her trying to control me...What am I? Five years old? I'm so angry...Oh no, I shouldn't be angry, she's really just a suffering person. She's just causing me pain and being controlling because she's in so much pain...I really should just be feeling compassion for her...resentment, resentment...I actually don't feel any compassion for her...she's a pain in the arse...but I should feel compassion..."
So, you get the general idea. I feel angry, and then I try to 'should' myself into feeling compassion, when I actually don't feel any. All I feel is that I want this person out of my life, and would not bat an eyelid if I never saw her again. (Which may or may not be true.)
So, this week I've really been focussing on allowing whatever feelings I have to rise up in me, and just to be aware of when I'm 'shoulding' myself into feeling something different. I've noticed that when I 'should' myself I have this accompanying body sensation that feels like a kind of crunch in my stomach - it's like a block of concrete is sitting there.
I've been practicing noting the 'shoulds': "oh...I'm feeling like I should be feeling compassionate towards my mother, and I don't...oh...now I feel blame...now I feel a tightness in my stomach." I try to do this noting in a kind, understanding voice, just allowing the swirl of sensations and thoughts as I feel my anger and frustration.
I find that it helps me a lot. I still don't feel much compassion towards my mother, but I feel a bit more compassion towards myself, and I think that might be an important first step. I feel like it's a good thing to just lower the expectations I have towards myself. I'm no Mother Theresa or Kwan Yin, and expecting that I will feel incredibly caring and compassionate towards my mother is probably just expecting way too much of myself at the moment.
So, it's been an interesting journey over the past few months and I feel like I'm learning a lot about being kind and understanding towards myself. Seeing the amount of self-judgement I have towards myself has made me reflect on who is the most difficult person in my life at the moment - my mother, or myself?
|Poor little headless Buddha. Taken in Luang Prabang, Laos.|