My mom was furious about last week’s blog post. Initially, she said she felt humiliated that I aired my “dirty laundry.” She lashed out, told me I “embarrassed the family,” and didn’t want to speak to me for several days.
I couldn’t understand what was at the root of this, because we have always been a very open and authentic family.
In the late 1980s, my dad made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show to talk publically about his struggle with OCD. As he told the world about how he used to repeatedly return to the house to make sure the oven was off and pull over while driving to make sure he didn’t run over anyone, Oprah looked at him like he was f-ing nuts. Because these were the days before, “I’m so OCD,” was part of our everyday vernacular; before the book Prozac Nation.
So, when my mom freaked out about my post, I felt kind of lost: didn’t I also have the right to share my struggles in the hopes making others feel less alone?
After a few days of hostility, she finally articulated her fury into words:
“I see you portraying yourself as a mentally ill, dysfunctional individual. I totally disagree with that persona. That's not the Joanne I see today. Rather, I see you as someone who for years has worked very hard to conquer a lot of neuroses and weaknesses. All along you set goals and accomplished them. We are so proud of the person you have become. You are compassionate and thoughtful, kind and respectful.”
WOW. Either this was her crowning moment of Jewish-mother guilt, or she had a great point.
Her words made me reflect on how I see myself, and how I hold myself to ridiculously unattainable standards. When my friends are self-critical and feeling down, I often ask them, “Would you ever treat someone the way you treat yourself?” It seems though that I need to ask myself that very same question because I am so, so hard on myself.
My mom is right in that my struggle to cope does not define me, and that I don’t always reach for the easy button. I don’t need a drink or a Xanax to enjoy being a mom or to deal with conflict. To quote Glennon, “I can do hard things.” And I'll add, I can do hard things without mood-altering substances.
In my previous post, I shared me on a bad day being the worst version of myself. This is not my every day. My everyday is the person my mom describes, and I too am pretty proud of her.