Posts Tagged ‘Empathy’

A Tale of Two Brothers and Stumbling Motherhood….

December 24, 2011

Some readers have asked me to keep them updated about my   ‘two ‘boys’ and this Christmas visit.  I woke up with some thoughts this Christmas Eve.  They  have been troubling me all morning.

Last night we heard from Christopher #2, the younger one, off in the Navy for the past two years.  He was trying to rent a car to bring both of them down from Virginia.  Why he was doing so when his brother had a perfectly good car for this road trip was beyond me.  Apparently he never considered asking his brother. If this sounds strange to readers, well, they just met this summer, and there probably is shyness,  other things going on between them.  Learning the new ‘brother’ on both sides probably takes time and consideration.  Our son (Christopher #2, being younger) was having trouble with his credit card, and I didn’t want to hear about it.  I was exhibiting my usual impatience with our squirrelly son, and I could feel these old sensations of something creep into my brain.  Our son joined the Navy right after some years of college and immediately bought a Jaguar.  He is in love with Jaguars, being given my old one at 18 for a birthday present.  That was a mistake on our part, the parents, because the money drain of a car like that is unending.  The new Jag, a silvery blue one, beautiful and running well, was a sight to behold until the floods in Virginia this summer.  The entire electrical system, designed by the Prince of Darkness , flooded  and our son was left with an expensive and continuing repair. Again, the nasty money drain on a young man who doesn’t have a clue about financial things in general. 

Talking with him last night, I was struck by his determined optimism about coming down to Atlanta for Christmas. He was coming and bringing his ‘new’ brother — Come Hell Or High Water.  It just never occured to him to ask his brother to use his own car.  Our son was determined to ‘be responsible’ in these things…regardless the obstacles facing him.  Enterprise car rental would not use my husband’s card because he had to offer it in person according to our son.  Five minute later, in the next phone call from him, everything was fine, Christopher #1 agreed to use his car, and Christopher #2 would do an oil change.

This morning, in the midst of preparations for Christmas and their arrival, I am feeling shame.  I recognize some of the same behaviors of another person in my family: impatience, distain, annoyance at the troubles of others.  The cycle truly goes on when you aren’t aware or conscious of these things.  And they don’t make for being a good mother or a good person.

I became a mother to our son in my early 40’s.  I had no experience with children, and I think at the time I had no real awareness of what it really entailed.  Though having a child from a previous marriage, my husband didn’t either.  We were locked in a selfish, self-centered marriage, not really emotionally mature enough to recognize this huge thing we were facing.  Having Christopher in our lives broke a lot of that crap down, but I don’t think we really understood the changes  necessary.  That took too many years and only in the last 6 have I understood where so many of the deficiencies of my own parenting came from.

The good news is  I did not have to repeat these unending patterns. Narcissism is, in part, an inability to place the suffering or discomfort of another person first in your actions: it is usually a total lack of empathy for the situation, the condition of someone else.  Of course, narcissism is much more than this, but the lack of empathy is key in defining pathological narcissism.  It’s a horrible ball of wax.  Narcissism contains so many disruptive and destructive elements, but it is truly poisonous to children.  They have no real defenses against it, and when it comes from a parent, it is debilitating for life until therapy shines some light and understanding.  It disrupts any real family life.  It makes a mockery of unconditional love, something we are called to especially in this season.

How truly wonderful the optimism and fortitude of my son.  How wonderful they both are working in tandem to come down here, and want to spend Christmas with us.  It is also amazing to me that Christopher #1, (28 apparently, not 29 as I thought) wants to come and spend this precious time with people he really doesn’t know.  He’s coming here on a wing and a prayer, not knowing  knowing for sure his place in this family.

He, a new Mormon, (a mysterious religion to us)…is stepping out in faith. 

I am humbled.  I am humbled by the constancy of my son who will ‘walk through flames’ to be home for Christmas.  I am humbled by Christopher #1 who is determined to be here, to throw himself into a new family who  wants him as family.  But most of all, I am humbled that two young men can teach me the real value and meaning of love and Christmas: they desperately care and are not afraid of showing it.  Their youthful optimism cuts through doubt and darkness.

They want to be with us as family, their family, and they bring love with them.  The plan is that they will be here around 1opm- midnight this Christmas Eve, and they will be amongst the most important  blessings this season brings.

Lady Nyo, wishing you all a wonderful Holiday. 

Chris #2, if you read this, you have to set up the Creche.  The camels are waiting.

The Point of Being Adult

October 20, 2009

Lord knows I have some other things right now to do besides write a blog entry, but that is the privilege of having a blog…you can blab all you want.  Your friends and dear ones will listen.

The thumb-biters don’t count.

There are a couple of things on my mind…blurry as it is because my sleep cycle has been disrupted by trying to get this latest ms together, and all the attendant stuff to publish a book.  Like cajoling people to write blurbs.  And attending to friends who are in distress right now and those who need to make  some changes in their lives ..even in little steps.

One dear friend has discovered that her husband of 15 years has mild to moderate dementia..Alzheimers?  I am not spelling that correctly and my spell check is asleep/disabled or ignoring me this morning…but it’s a tragedy in any case.  The dementia, not the spell check.

This man isn’t that old, in his early mid 60’s, but for the past 5 years he’s exhibited ‘the signs”.

My friend is running away from it all. Constant trips around the country, sure that there will be total chaos when she comes home, which happens from trip to trip, and just not knowing what to do.

And what do you say?  I’ve tried to talk to her about the wonderful world of counseling out there, and she’s been through that before, but for her own benefit.  I would think that now is the time to throw this issue in the lap of a competent counselor.  If not now, I don’t know when.

But we can’t force people to do as we think, even when we see the pain they are in.  So I will continue to listen where she talks, or writes, and apply patience and try not to push.  It’s not easy because two people are involved and she’s  overwhelmed in her own pain.

For now, it’s lunches and endless cups of tea, and just hugs…and mostly applied ears.  But I can’t begin to know her pain.  And it and her confusion and fear must be enormous.

We wait all our lives to grow up, and then when we are….these are the things that grown ups do. Our roles are clear, but damn if we want them.  But we have paid the price of admission in life and if we can’t be there for the traumas of our friends, what worth do we have?

I don’t know, but I  feel what she is going through. In part because I am almost 9 years older than my dear husband and sometimes I wonder if  he wonders the same about me.  I forget things, I can’t find the words and things are thusly:  “Go get that thing out of the car/drawer/closet/fridge, etc”.  “Thing” has many meanings and I can’t remember what it’s name is.  IF I think s-l-o-w-l-y….Thing gets it’s proper name….but slowing down life is an effort.  For some reason my son and husband always comes back with the proper ‘thing’ so I guess I’m not that ‘out there’ yet.

I am not a sadist, but lately I have thought about my own level of cruelty.  Life does not force us to be so, not if we are mindful of the consequences, but we can be blind to them.  We are caught up in the moment of insult/slight/offense/and sometimes hatred.  Sometimes certain people can really push our buttons….and the reptilian brain kicks in.  Some people do this because they are churls and delight in the hurt, but we have to remember we have choices.  We can chose to walk away and ignore.  Perhaps that is what being an adult is.  At  least part of it.

Perhaps the most important part of being an adult is the compassion we can show without being embarrassed.  What is the point of having empathy if we don’t use it for another’s pain and need?

Even behind the words of a thorough-going sadist there is a lot of pain somewhere….deep down there.  It’s not easy to know how to respond, but perhaps this is where we fail the most to be adult.

Lady Nyo


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