Monday, March 22, 2010

Experience v. Potential

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. -Benjamin Franklin (or Albert Einstein, depending on your source).

What part of the human mind convinces us that people we have known for many years will change their negative behavior? Is it our ego, believing that we are so wonderful that others will change to please us, or is it more altruistic, stemming from a desire to see everyone reach their true potential? I would love to think it is the latter, but my cynical side believes it is more likely the former.

My relationship with my mother has followed a fairly predictable pattern for many years: a period of intense attachment followed by a much longer period of complete separation. When she comes back on the scene, there are apologies, regrets for not keeping in touch, catching up, and eventually the making of grand plans to make up for lost time. We get together, reminisce and have a great time. Then nothing. No fight, no goodbyes, just nothing.

I will think about calling her, but usually talk myself out of it. She's the parent, I'm the child. She should call me. I shouldn't have to pursue her for a relationship. Or should I? As I approach 30, should I grow up and accept the responsibility of cultivating a relationship upon myself, or do I wait for her to finally do it herself?

I look to my step-mother for guidance in this situation. She's seen me through all parts of this cycle in the past. She's also been in the same situation, but with her now deceased father. During his final year, while his health was declining, she visited him most days of the week, cared for him and tried to get to know him better. When he finally passed, she went back and forth between feelings of regret and anger. She wanted to forgive him and have a relationship, yet couldn't bring herself to do it. I wonder if I will have that same regret if I don't take a proactive stance with my mother. Knowing me, I probably will.

So I stand, facing the start of another cycle. I want to believe it will be better this time. I want to try to make it better this time. That's not crazy, is it?


  1. A very tough decision. Regret is something that can haunt. And it is kind of un-fixable after the fact. Follow your heart. My father used to say. "No fear in trying, the fear is not trying."

  2. I have to say that from my experience it's a good idea to take it on yourself to form the relationship. Sometimes parents are more like the children and children more like the parent in a relationship. You know Dad and I had a horrible relationship for most of my life until a few years ago. I realized that if I didn't do something that we would never have a relationship. It took a long time for us to get past the hard feelings of the past, but I have to say it's worth it, even though we have nothing in common and probably want to strangle one another entirely too often. I think I'm often the adult when dealing with my parents and they are more often like the children, but sometimes that's just how it is. Of course, every situation is different. You have to go with your instincts on this one. If you want to have a relationship with her, force one to happen. Don't let her disappear. Maybe it'll suck and you'll decide to give up on it, but at least you'll know for sure instead of ending up with regrets.