Thursday, August 2, 2007

My mother's daughter.

So I've entered the part of my life where I've officially become my mother. Not so much in the obvious ways - she was married with two kids by the time she was my age. But in the tiny little details and in deeper, more disconcerting ways. Today at the store I made a sound and a gesture that came channeling through me directly from my mother. I swear it wasn't me. It was her. It was unreal. That kind of thing happens more and more the older I get. I used to hear myself repeating her trademark comments. But now it's showing up everywhere, all kinds of little behaviors. Which is just flat-out bizarre, because I haven't been in close contact with my family for the past 14 years! Weirder still is that I see where her little behaviors come from - it's like I'm getting a window into my mom's emotions through my own, in a way entirely different from the experience of watching her do/say those same things (and feeling mortified, judgemental, annoyed, whatever - as only a teenager can). I can't even describe it properly. Surreal I tell you.

Becoming my mother isn't an entirely bad thing. My mother is a Good Woman, and it would not be the worst person in the world to become. She's quite good at taking care of people. Especially small people, seeing her with my little niece & nephew is great, she's the quintessential grandma. Sewing clothes, baking cookies, playing games with them (my neice cheats at Chutes & Ladders btw). Now that my other nephew - her oldest grandson is in bootcamp, she writes to him every other day. Devoted.

She's raised me with very clear instructions (consciously and unconsciously) on what one *should* do in the world, I know right from wrong, nice from ugly. My mom always uses the word "ugly" to describe behavior. I don't think I ever once heard her say "ugly" in reference to how something looked. She'd be more likely to say "Well... isn't that... interesting." with an eyebrow raise that expressed her true opinion. But if she heard of someone being dishonest or immoral - that was "ugly" and being ugly was probably her worst criticism of a person. Ugly as sin. My mother is a beautiful woman.

So like I said, turning into my mother is far from the worst thing in the world. The problem is, she's not especially happy. She takes her responsibilities and her commitments seriously. So seriously that no matter how unhappy she is in a given situation, she'll stick it out. She cleans up other peoples messes. I have inherited, absorbed these traits, it scares me. I'll get into a rut and just stay there. It doesn't even always occur to me that something's wrong with the situation. My boredom or unhappiness is just something I need to tough out. Obviously I know how to have fun, and I do things I enjoy. It's just, I don't know, it's not a central part of my personality. Being good was always more important than being happy.

I've never been especially skilled at generating my own hapiness. But I'm working on it. I'm trying to temper her committment, devotion, her morals, with a little more balance, a lot more joy, and a degree of selfishness I have never seen her display. And... more openness. My mom stuffs a lot of her emotions, most of her unhappiness. She complains (a lot! I come by that honestly I tell you!), but it's rare for her to really express disappointment or sadness or anything like that - especially to the person causing her sadness or disappointment. And it's even rarer for her to do anything about it. I don't want to be like that.

I don't know really what made me post all this. I guess part of it is reading The Poisonwood Bible - I haven't finished it yet, but there's a lot about the complex relationship between a mother & her daughters.... that combined with channeling my mother at the Fred Meyer fish counter just kinda all came together.


Jo said...

I'm becoming my mother in some ways, too - and she used some of the same words. I like your attitude toward generating your own happiness and taking a proactive approach to life. You're inspiring, in more than just your creative talent.

Bezzie said...

Yup. Me too. Having kids speeds up the process too it would seem.

I finished the Poisonwood Bible last month. I won't tell you that _____ dies and they resurrect them as a zombie. ;-)

I feel like I'm living in the damn Congo right now. The heat!

Batty said...

I'm also turning into my mother, except I don't have any kids yet and I'm not a dentist. There are lots of little ways, though.

Part of me is channeling my dad, and that's really weird because it's in behaviors I never knew he had until I noticed by accident. We both let our cereal soak until it's soggy before eating it, and we both shake out our wet hands before drying them with a towel!

Magatha said...

I grok, completely. I am so 'not' my mother in many ways, but the devil is in the details and there are so many deeply ingrained thigns about me that are so Mom and so Dad. The sad thing here is that these are not my good attributes. Mom and Dad show up in all my dark corners. The strange thing is that my grandparents show up in some of my better personality traits. My Mom would even scold me that I was exactly like her mother. I never lived with my grandparents and hardly ever saw them. Hah.

Michael5000 said...

Sometimes I feel exactly like my mom and sometimes I feel exactly like my dad.

Sometimes that seems kind of amazing, and sometimes it seems entirely unremarkable.

This is a sweet essay... and we can assume that's an old picture of you and your mom? Cute....


Rebel said...

Yeah - I guess everyone turns into their parents eventually. It's unavoidable.

That picture is from January 1976, I was "14 & 1/2 months" and My mom would have just turned 36 I think.

jenn said...

I miss that picture of you and your mom...I used to like to look at it when we lived together.

One thing that's happened to me as I've gotten older is that I *look* much more like my mom than I used to (I always looked like my dad). I also seem to have developed her incessant worrying streak and her intense desire to keep others happy and not cause conflict (but then bitch about them later behind their back).