Monday, June 13, 2011

Making Peace with Our Parents

It seems to be universal that children who have lost a parent, whether to death, divorce, or abandonment, forever feel that they themselves are deficient in some way. Maybe we can't fully become who we are meant to be without wrestling with our elders until we come to an equilibrium of abilities.

Having a steady light of home life is a safety net for spiritual seekers. The important thing seems to be that the elders stay steadfastly on their own paths, at the same time as they allow exploration and growth in their dependents. The keepers of the flame must allow the weary wanderers a place around the fire, but must keep them from infecting the innocent with anarchy.

At fourteen, I effectively lost my parents. My father had come out of a two-year-long depression as a man I no longer knew, acting the part of a naughty teenager when what our large family of soon-to-be teens needed was a patriarch. My mother refused to face that fact that Daddy and the leaders to whom she had entrusted her children were bringing all manner of sin to her home and her progeny.

This all happened at the same time as our country and our church were turning away from all our old rules in the 1960s. We had no more societal norms. Irresponsible sex, drugs, and anarchy became the new norm in our home, our church, and our country.

My mother and I began a very tumultuous relationship based on her belief that women were to be apparently submissive to men, at the same time as we were encouraged to be secretly subversive. I was never one to be secretly anything, so I often found myself feeling like the child announcing, "The emperor has no clothes!"

I seemed to see it as a way to affect change that I thought others would want, but this did not play out in my experience. How is one to know when others are whispering and pointing out the problem that they are all in on a secret that they pretend nobody else knows? I became the family outcast in my mother's eyes, while to my daddy, I became another of his flirtations with frivolous females.

I have since asked myself whether we are to go along with the community in an effort to keep peace, or is it our duty to walk our own path when the community seems to be blinded by their traditions and fear of truth and the accompanying change? At what point are we justified in saying that we see the same mistakes being repeated, no matter how uncomfortable this may make those around us?

Change made too rapidly, and without understanding and honoring the past, is doomed to create more harm than lasting good. Honoring does not mean repeating the past; it simply means studying it to obtain an understanding of what works and what doesn't work in the promotion of the eternal quest for a community of social justice. Social justice, it seems to me, depends on cooperation of all of creation, with an orderly way to affect and incorporate change.

Shortly before my mother died, she wrote to me that I had a "gift" for "challenging." I received her note after her death. Had we finally come to an acceptance of each other as we are? Was she granting me her permission to openly challenge that which she had been alternately submitting to and subverting? Can the fighting factions inside my soul finally make peace with each other?

1 comment:

  1. The key is forgiveness. It's not easy but it is necessary. That does not mean condoning wrongs that were done to you. It means respect for yourself and refusing the route of being subversive. Your strong character should be most helpful in this. I think you already know this in your heart.