Tyranny of the Weak
sunriseeast — 02–07–2011 03:15 PM
I was reminded today why it was such a good decision not to tell my mother about my condition. With all that is going on with me now, it’s been several days since I talked to her last time — perhaps a couple of days overdue.
Not having gotten the usual dose of the shot in the arm from me buoying her, propping her up, filling her with confidence and general good cheer, she panicked and got unhinged. So, my brother called me to tell me to call her. My father called me to tell me to call her. Her anxiety and worry is sending the whole family into a tailspin of a mini crisis.
As much as I love my mother, and have accepted ever since I was barely out of the teenage years that for all practical purposes, I am her mother and she my child when it comes to dependent-adult relationship, there is a stifled rage I feel toward her at times, rare enough, but it happens. This is one of those occasions.
There is such a thing as a tyranny of the weak. Their wretched needs and helplessness are a more potent weapon than the expressed aggression of the empowered, because it shames you into feeling like a worst piece of a scum in the world for not having the sympathy and compassion for the pain borne by such a weak and powerless creature who only wants to be comforted.
As much as I am upbeat and positive, and I am doing better than anybody can be expected to under the circumstance, my resources are stretched thin these days.
“Mother, can I please get a break from the full time job of being your cheerleader? Better yet, can I, just once, cry on your shoulder and be genuinely comforted by you? Can I be your daughter for a change, not your mother?”
Yes, I sometimes fantasize about blurting this out. But, the bottomless pit of her needs and dependency will never allow me to say it.
This is precisely why I could not ever tell her what I am facing these days. Her fear, desperation and helplessness upon hearing about my condition will be such that the task of comforting her, reassuring her that I will be fine and consoling her sorrow over the possibility of losing me, the emotional bedrock of her life, will consume all the energy I have and leave me desiccated.
It’s better that I let her stay in a cocoon of artificial sunshine. Not just for her sake, but also for me: it’s a far easier task to cheer her up and keep her happy when she is feeling reasonably safe and secure.
My feelings toward her at this point are very complicated. I do genuinely love her. All this is because of her weakness, not ill intention, I know that too. At a core, she is a kind, well meaning woman, I have no doubt of that. She had the wisdom of letting me be who I am when I needed it most, more than anything else, from a parent. I am always grateful for that. I want to make her happy and loved, as she wants and deserves. Yet, in a moment of my own crisis, I realize that I am also dealing with insatiable emotional hunger of my mother for my assurance, loyalty, and love that I must satisfy all the time on schedule. I feel like I am staring into the eyes of a beast that I can never tame.
It is a stark image. I feel like a such a insensitive and unkind lout just expressing my feeling about this whole thing …..
Instead I would like to able to say that I am such an evolved person that in an effort to meet her demand I end up lifting myself to a higher level of my own comfort zone. That I learned to completely embrace her weakness and love her for who she is with genuine understanding and compassion. That in the end I am a better person for having her as a mother with all her weakness. I even succeed in believing most of this most times. But not all the time.
We are the product of our parents foils and triumphs. I have learned along the way that life gives you an opportunity to balance a lot of things, if not all. That, there is always something positive to salvage even in a wrack. My mother’s dependency and how it became a suffocating reality for me made me vow early on in my marriage, and again when I had my own children that I will never rule their life through my weakness. That I will grant them the perfect freedom to fly away from me in search of bigger and better things than what I have to offer. That I will give them an opportunity to experience the self affirming generosity of being kind to me out of joy, not out of grim determination to do the right thing.
This cancer has become a litmus test of whether I managed to succeed in living up to my silent vow.
I would like to believe that so far I have kept that promise, that I did not let my fear, uncertainty, and, yes, weakness, tyrannize them.
But, am I really succeeding. There are times I wonder about this.
I was not my usual self of being chirpy and upbeat with her when my father handed over the phone to her. With 30 years of training, one would think I got really good at it, but certain things can’t be faked all the time. I will have to call her tonight to build her back up. It won’t be hard to do that. She is a terrific dependent — with the right kind of words spoken in a soft cooing voice, she rises to the task of being restored to her happiness. This, I believe, is her saving grace. All I need to do is get myself in the mood of creating that perfect pitch and tone of a soothing, cooing voice.