It’s funny isn’t it, how complacent we can sometimes get about our lives, where we’re going, where we think we’re going and then something comes about to make us question those plans and decisions that we’ve made. We forget sometimes how influential others can be even subconsciously and how they can affect how we feel about ourselves and our situation.
I am by nature a feisty type but by the same token am very laid back and liberal in my dealings with people and I think that at times this trait is taken advantage of. Some people think that they can say what they like, be critical and thoughtless and that it will be ok. Unfortunately in my case, this tends to come from those who are closest to me and I am at times stung by their unkind words, thoughtlessness and actions. I find it incredible that they say and do things that I would never dream of saying or doing and are so blase at times in their criticism that it is breathtaking.
I have two people in my life who behave like this – my mother and my daughter, and my brother and I joke that they are peas in pod and that the nasty gene must have skipped a generation but the reality is far from a joke. For years I lived in the shadow of my mother’s opinion and criticism and it coloured for many years the way that I lived my life. She can be endlessly generous financially but unbelieveably mean and unkind in her opinions of me, my brothers and our respective partners and children. She begins most sentences whith ‘well I have to say’ usually followed by some stinging criticism of one or all of us and I dread those words being spoken. Her attitude to most things is so negative and judgemental that by the end of a visit I feel as though the joy vampire has been and sucked the heart and soul out of me. Whether it’s someone on the television, in the street, the news, on the radio – wherever, no one is safe from the benefit of her opinion – and it’s never good. She is also the queen of the backhanded compliment usually about how I’m looking and I’ve had the ‘you look very well, mind you you were looking a bit bloated last time I saw you’ comment!
I can only assume that she is disappointed in her own life, a bit jealous that we all seem to be doing ok and perhaps resentful that things for her didn’t turn out as planned. Add to the mix a hefty dose of the sense of her own mortality (she is 70) and you have the perfect recipe for the dissatisfaction that is the common thread running through her life. I sometimes wonder if she knows that she’s doing it and I think that sometimes she really doesn’t think before she speaks but how sad to be living out your latter years being bitter and resentful.
My daughter is similar in her criticisms and opinions and sometimes speaks to me in a way which to this day I wouldn’t dream of speaking to my own mother however awful she can be. She is possessed of an incredible superiority and looks down her nose at my ‘ugly’ clothes, my unsuitable partner (‘I suppose he’ll be moving in then’ with an audible sigh as though I am some sort of idiot child), my somewhat chaotic life – I have two jobs and one teenager, and my less than immaculate house, again the two jobs, one teenager scenario, oh yes and she herself doesn’t actually work at all! The fact that I am also organising her wedding having been given three months notice (‘oh yes Mum, it’s at yours’) seems to have bypassed her sensibilities completely and she regards me at times with the disdain usually reserved for dog deposits on the pavement. She treats me as though I am a slightly demented old person who really shouldn’t be having any sort of social life at all let alone be sleeping with a man, and at 42 I’m made to feel as though I should be booking myself into a residential home rather than booking dinner. The man she is about to marry is also possessed of this innate superiority so they should get along fine.
But the worm has turned, well a bit, and I have had enough and by giving them a taste of their own medicine and challenging their behaviour they are (currently) being much nicer people. I have told them both that I am very happy with my life, my partner and in fact my clothes and that I am fed up with, particularly my daughter’s, criticism which is misplaced and downright nasty at times. It won’t last, I know it won’t but it is a welcome breather and I will make the most of it whilst it’s happening. Sometimes it takes a wobbly to make people understand that you aren’t the pushover they think you are, that you have feelings, are not just some sort of emotional punchbag and deserve to be treated with respect. Given my current success rate, I may throw them more often. Be very afraid!