My mother as a set of relationships
15/05/2013 § 4 Comments
I had a really good chat with my mum the other day when she and my father came to visit. It was probably the most mature conversation we’ve had, ever. We talked quite easily and naturally about things from the past we’ve never been able to really talk about before. It was a good feeling.
It was no coincidence my father wasn’t around at the time. He was busy playing with Lucas. Not that this says anything against my father, it’s just that my mother is a different person when he is around. I can have a different kind of conversation with my mother if my father isn’t there. Likewise, she has different conversations with my father when I or my brothers are with them – she says that they don’t argue when we are not around, for example.
My mother, then, is not just a being, a collection of emotions, a body, thoughts, a soul. She is also a set of relationships. It is not possible for me or anyone else to encompass all of who she is, because she is changing all the time, in constant flux as she moves in and out of relationship. She’s one person with me, one person with my father, one person with my brothers, with her friends and so on.
That duality is mysterious. It is mysterious because she is not just a set of relationships, but also this physical, emotional, spiritual thing. To start to make sense of her, I need to see her as both, not just one. In that sense, she is like light. One of the mysteries that was uncovered in the 20th century was that light has both a wave form and a particle form. In some experiments light exhibits the properties of a wave and in others it exhibits the properties of a set of particles. And it is not accurate to say that light has simply the form of a wave, or simply the form of particles. It is both these forms, simultaneously. You will get different responses depending on how you measure it. Likewise, my mother, you, me and all human beings are both individuals and parties to a set of relationships.
I suppose the significant thing that comes out of this for me is that it reminds me how complex and mysterious we are. I think I know my mother but all I really know is what I have experienced in a series of encounters with her, separated in time. She is in constant change, even at the age of 79. She is, like all of us, both order and chaos, interacting constantly. This means that how I choose to engage with her, what spectacles I am wearing when I encounter her, will affect how I see her – will affect who she is, in my eyes.
It also makes me realise that I should be paying more attention to the relationships that I’m in, if I want to influence my direction in life. To live more consciously I need to pay attention not just to my own practices and thoughts, my own choices and habits, but also to the nature of the relationships I am in and who I am in those relationships. Which ones make me feel more whole and which ones weigh me down or make me want to hide my light? How am I in relationship to my son? Do I change as he changes? Do I allow him to change sufficiently while I model stability for him in his rapidly evolving life?
I also start wondering what other conversations I might have – with my father, my brothers, my wife – in the right context. The sort of conversations rich with meaning that we can spend lifetimes yearning for and yet avoiding.
What relationships nurture you? How conscious are you of the impact that relationships have on you? What meaningful conversations could you have to enrich your life and your relationships? Think about it.