As Dr. Robert Ackerman wrote in his extraordinary book, Same House, Different Home, family members do not see addictions in the same light. Over the years, I found myself as an intermediary, mostly with families involved in interventions.
So, when a family member told me where their votes would go, I was gob smacked. I never would have believed it. It was swiftly followed with – “I don’t want to talk about it.” That was a relief as neither did I.
In my work I’ve seen severe family disagreements over religion and politics which have torn them asunder. However, I never thought it would happen to me. So what does the objective observer do when it is no longer that, but subjective instead. It gives me virtually no comfort to know other families are also experiencing this. Each situation is unique.
I am not an evangelist in any way for religion or politics and it was at this point, I stopped and looked at ……………what price love? Heaven knows I have seen disintegration over such issues and other topics. A gay child, intercultural marriages, gay marriages, children or no children. I am a firm believer in MYOB (mind your own business –unless there is abuse and that’s another story). I was once told by a friend when my daughter was married to wear beige and keep your mouth shut. That was her advice to a new mother in law!
So how does this work? Not only three members of my family, but friends I have had for years who are highly intelligent discerning people have taken up with positions they don’t want to discuss. Was pushing my opinion worth losing their love? ABSO-FRIGGIN’-LUTELY NOT.
People have tried to pull me into discussions and I rather like my older son Colin’s response which is, “I do not discuss politics with people I love.” That says it all but I am not as succinct as Colin. Oh no – I have to deliver a little lecture. It goes like this.
I come from a country where the political party is elected and the leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister. It is a secret ballot which means we do not have to register Labour or Conservative and it is over in a few weeks with very little cost. Then I get a lecture about how different it is here. I KNOW – DIDN’T I JUST SAY THAT. Duh! However, my country in all its chaos had chosen to leave a global community and thinks it will be great again. Oops! That sounds familiar, wretched Liberal that I am.
I must admit I am somewhat confused. Some members of a group I attend are somewhat vocal in their opinions, which goes against the philosophy of the organization. I bite my tongue – can you imagine? They are very nationalistic, which is their right. Members of my family are too and then they go and shop in Walmart. I don’t get it. How can one be so American and shop in Walmart? I am a foreigner, an immigrant (oops, better watch my steps here) and I don’t shop in Walmart. Apart from just about everything I have heard about their relationship with China, I don’t like what I have read about the way they treat their staff. So there’s an element of confusion in this – for me. It probably makes sense to others, but my innocence shows up from time to time.
Back to my mentor Dr. Viktor Frankl. I have to make a choice. I have to live up to beliefs made over the years. I am well aware of my boundaries. I know what I can do and what is out of the question. I reared my children virtually on my own and respected their opinions. At times I didn’t agree with their decisions and when they had become adults I had to accept they were on their own journey.
It hasn’t changed. Do I agree with everything they do as parents? No. Most of it is they are really good parents, but there’s that little thingy here and there which isn’t really worth mentioning. Do they defend and protect their children, making excuses for why they don’t contact me more, etc. I don’t bother with that. However, my grandchildren understand that if they have an exchange directly with me and they appear in youthful arrogance, they will hear about it, adult to adult. It has only happened a couple of times but the lesson was clear.
In fact, one of my granddaughters some years ago told her younger sister, “Don’t piss Nana off”. In view of that, how could I possibly preach politics? When I left the New Seminary some years ago I came across a little book entitled Country Wisdom. In it I read a small quotation by which I live.
“I would rather live my sermon than preach it.”
That comes into play in these circumstances. There are situations I will never understand, like why parents of gay children in some cases withdraw their family connection. They are their children for heaven’s sake. So what if they love differently from the conventional? The fact that they love is exquisite as that is what the world needs desperately.
When my children entered into intimate human connections (thank you Edie Weinstein. I was looking for something other than “relationships”), I made rules for myself. Having made them, I have to stick to them. This is how they go.
I will never give advice to my children unless it is requested.
I will never interfere in their lives or their decisions, which includes where they live and what they do for a living.
I like to think my respect for the human spirit has rubbed off on them. I believe it has. Like it or not, as a parent I was a role model. Perfect? Absolutely not. They learned to live life having dealt with my character defects!
This goes to friends too. One of my dearest friends, Jill, lives in Canada now. We have been friends since I was three years old. That’s a lot of years. We are different women and we love each other a lot. We accept one another as we are although there are circumstances in which we agree to disagree. Remember, the word intimate means, to be without fear, so we can discuss certain events within that trust. It merely means that we don’t have to see life in the same way. We are secure in this, which is what authentic friendship is.
I still see friends who are politically opposite to me and quite ferriferous in their outlook. However, the arrangement is we can meet, have dinner and talk about other things. That works for me. I ask myself, would I like to change their outlook? No, that isn’t my right. I have to look at my own lifestyle and remember that even though I am not a mathematician I know I can’t give what I don’t have. If I don’t have self-respect, how can I respect others?
I have learned over these many years that love is crucial to this world. Even if I can’t change the global mess we are in, I can take care of my corner of the world and if everybody did that, it would be a better place. Actually my high school, Mary Datchelor High School for Girls had a motto. AMOR VINCIT OMNIA. Love conquers all so in retrospect, I had it drummed into me many years ago. I like it very much. Dr. Leo Buscaglia wrote a book called Love and ended up teaching it as a course. It’s worth reading as it applies to everyday, simple happenings.
I continue to love those who think differently from me because they have the right to do so and that loving them is important to my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Does it bother me? Of course it does. The hate and rhetoric that emits from those who try to change people’s decisions catapults me back to my violent childhood where this was an everyday occurrence for six years. Do people care about that? No they don’t. I lived what people are screaming about. Is it worth talking about it? Not really as it doesn’t change anything. As mundane as it sounds. I can only change me and my attitudes. I owe my splendid and beloved John who taught me so much about acceptance. I’m not quite there yet but when I get stressed about the world situation I can hear him say in his beautiful voice, “Come here my treasure and let me rub your back.”