So, I failed at participating in NaPoWriMo for all 30 days, as you can see. I got too swept up in everything else I’ve been doing and forgot to do one day. I had come so close and was too frustrated that I couldn’t get myself to jump back in. I plan to finish writing the last three poems I was due to write soon. But right now I am working on wrapping up the work for my first semester of graduate school. Here is something I wrote today in my other class, Intro to Humane Education, that has to do with thirty day challenges and mothers.
The assignment was in response to reading the Third Side by William Ury. He has worked to help resolve conflicts all over the world and is also an anthropologist (anthropology is one of my most favorite subjects, and I have a knack for helping settle other people’s conflicts sometimes…so this is a great blend of subject matter for me to read). The book shares some practical advice on the different roles we can play in helping solve conflict, preventing violence, war, and how we can potentially create peace. He also goes into a great deal of depth about human history and the way we historically have resolved conflicts throughout our evolution. It’s really interesting. Basically, he concludes that conflict has become more prevalent and more violent and destructive in the last 1% of human history, and explains why that is and how we have a choice between peace and war.
Here is my own personal take on a conflict within my life that I really want to change. It is with my mother:
I cannot remember the last time my mother hugged me without me asking for one. There were plenty of times I could have used one. I remember a time where my mother would give hugs freely, whether I was sad or joyous, but those days are in the past. In fact, I do not even remember my mother hugging me when I graduated with my undergraduate degree, something that at one point, I never thought would be possible. I know she had sometimes given up on the idea that I would achieve it as well. She seemed to care more about my achieving that goal than I did at times. So why would she not hug me then?
Our relationship has been strained since I became an adult. It has felt conflicted for the past thirteen years. Sometimes things calm down for a bit and we get along for a while, but then seemingly out of nowhere tensions will escalate and we will be fighting frequently. It is never physically violent, but voices are raised and the things we say are not indicative of a healthy mother-daughter relationship. It is not good for either of us. I want to be able to heal our relationship.
I started out writing this with every intention to explain to you what the nature of our conflict is, and describing the problems we face and how I think we can resolve them based on the book The Third Side by William Ury. However, I know that would have been hard for me, because my intention was to still place blame on my mom, make myself feel like I was the one who suffered the most and was right, etc., which is not very third side of me anyways. Then I realized how I just wanted a hug from her and it made me think that could be part of the solution towards resolving the conflict in the first place.
The only thing I can remember about the last time she hugged me, was that she criticized the way I hugged her. It did feel awkward for me, but that was because it had been so long since a hug had occurred between us. I barely knew what to do anymore! I had such a need for the hug, and such high expectations for it, that I could not properly fulfill my role of being an equal in the act of hugging. I had this idea from my childhood that my mom’s hugs could cure anything I was suffering from. I did not have to give anything back to her. She just had to hug me. She was the mom with the healing hug powers, not I.
I took her criticism of the hug really personally, as I always do. My mind had accepted that she was going to criticize me no matter what I did on any occasion a while ago. So I just quit hugging her altogether, to avoid the discomfort of potential criticism.
It is reassuring to hear from Ury that when people are in closer proximity to each other and cannot easily run away, that more conflict arising is to be expected (page 65). I have tried to remove myself from the situation, but like he said, usually the fight follows me around.
What are we fighting about? The nature of our conflict seems to be about me trying to get my mom (and dad) to see me as an equal and not as a helpless child. I am an adult and still rely on my parents for some basic needs. Usually there is not much conflict around those though. To me it seems like we fight about deeper relational problems. I want to be able to make other choices in my life without fear of harsh judgment, her meddling in my affairs, or punishment. At the same time, I do not always live my life demonstrating the kind of behavior and skills I need to display in order to be considered an independent adult in their eyes. With my mom, I have the tendency to say I need to constantly go with her to complete errands and am very demanding with her time and energy when it is not necessary.
My mother is stressed. She is stressed by her work (although she loves it), where she cares for other families with special needs. She is busy meeting the demands piled on her by my father and the business he runs from the home. She deals with her own mother, who is ailing and whom she is also trying very hard to heal their own relationship. Aside from all that, she is the only one who is tasked to do the grocery shopping, go to the bank, take my brother to appointments (he does not drive), go to the pharmacy for everyone but myself, and the list goes on when it comes to basic, everyday living type tasks. This leaves very little time for her to take care of herself, have fun, or work on healing other relationships.
My mom has expressed that wants to come home from and not have to deal with me needing her so much. I want to lay off her and let her have more freedom (just like I also want freedom and independence), but I have worried that if I stop, I won’t have any kind of relationship with her anymore. I still need her to show that she cares about me. I guess when I think about it, my attempts to get her to care through constantly talking to her and being with her while looking for her advice, concern, or joy in my achievements are not working either.
Which brings me to the solution I want to propose to my mom. While writing and editing this piece, I suddenly came to an epiphany. We both have frustrated needs. The reason she criticized my hug in the past was not to simply criticize me or because she a cold, heartless woman. It was because she probably needed the hug as much as I did. In that way, we ARE equals. We both desire the feeling of love and affection from our family.
My lackluster hug demonstrated that I was not comfortable or ready to be her equal. My hugging ability represented my need to grow and actually do the work to be considered an equal to her in other ways.
It may sound non-dairy cheesy (I am a vegan, my mom is lactose intolerant, which leads to bonding sometimes over that mere fact), but the lack of hugging itself may be both the problem and the solution to our conflicts. In which case, today, on Mother’s Day, I plan to share this writing with my mother, and talk about these issues, and see if she will agree to try out my idea that I think will help us resolve our conflicts.
I have been on a quest to do something new and unfamiliar for thirty days straight lately. Most of the time I have failed or given up by accident. I want to be able to stick to doing something every day for a month’s time though, as I often feel I am not able to be consistent (part of the skills I need to improve to be a better functioning adult, I believe). I want to see if my mom will be willing to let me hug her for thirty days straight. In addition to that proposal, we can also negotiate other rules in exchange for the hugging. It is my hope, that a hug a day will leave me satisfied with a smaller amount of time with my mom. This will lead to me agreeing to limit the amount of time I need to spend with her otherwise. It might be hard for me to get used to at first, but being reminded of the agreement should suffice.
My only rule I personally need to be strict on, which I feel will help keep us accountable to each other in various ways, is that if we refuse or skip a hug a day by accident, that we start the thirty day count over again. It will most definitely prove to be a challenge.
Once we start to heal, meet each other’s needs, and practice negotiating, I feel our relationship will be more peaceful and reconciled. I do feel we will need to continually practice listening to each other and eventually work towards forgiveness of each other, which I know will be difficult work for both of us. Right now, though, I feel hugging is the first step towards the bigger goals. A hug can be both the equalizer and the healer in this case.