Saturday, April 28, 2012


Latest posting for the Health Activist Writing Month Challenge WEGO

Prompt #27: The First Time I… Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it? 

The first time I talked back to my mother I was horrified! I was 50 years old. I'm sure I had done it a time or two as a child, but this was the first time as a cognizant adult. It turned out to be a gift for both of us.

I Yell at My Mother - Version I

It is midnight. It is raining. Running myself around my track of wonderings, I cannot sleep until I find an explanation. Who is this upstart self who possessed me, making me raise my voice to my mother! The afternoon had gone on much as usual. Me driving, handling the requisite errands, while she sat beside me running her endless critique of life, society, and “Why on earth they designed the stop lights that way.”

Back at her room, I broached the topic of summer vacations, offering up a little packet of lovely possibilities. Each one was turned over with doubt—”Well, no, not quite right. No this one won’t do.” Until I heard my voice rising and rising, filling the little room, this room of the paper walls with old ears on the other side hungry for a drama to make life interesting. Pausing for a moment in astonishment, my mother’s voice then rose behind mine, but I was out in front so I didn’t notice. She said, “Lower your voice!” I paused for a millisecond, I stopped mid-breath and said loudly, “No, I won’t!”

What had really happened? Could this have been some sort of mid-life victory? I decided to dig deeper. I played with reality, rewriting what had happened in the voice of the rebel, just to see how it would feel. Writing can be so therapeutic.

I Yell at My Mother - Version II

It is not midnight. It is not raining. I did not rise troubled. I had caused the upset and I am glad. I had set her up. I’d needled her from the beginning about her innocuous observations, her critique of life. I had jabbed her with little questions every step of the way.

The vacation topic was my coup de grace. A happy topic, yes? Yet for Mother, who regretted the ending of joy before it had begun, vacation was the ultimate mockery. No vacation idea could be good enough, inspiring me to come up with more and more, piling them at her feet with a smile as she quavered, twisting her hopes into knots. And then, as she became mute I stole her voice, doubling mine in volume. Finally I had done the unthinkable and pulled it off—I had raised my voice to my mother! 

While my writings clearly were passive aggressive, in the confines of my private diary I could begin to explore my emotions about Mom without taking them out on her. I took the learnings wherever I could find them. This was a big one. From then on I had a stronger voice when needed and Mom respected me. That turning point put our relationship in a balance that made easier the rest of our time together.

(Taken from “Exploring Hell and Other Warm Places”, a mother/daughter memoir, and the story which sourced “The Caregiver’s Compass”, a handbook for emotional balance.)

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