Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: Mom

Making Sense of the Insensible

On Wednesday of last week, I became a little philosophical after quite a number of hours awake (30+). As one afflicted with bipolar disorder, this sometimes happens, though not always with the philosophical turn.

But something had been on my mind since that morning. Once again, my mom had affirmed her belief that “what goes around comes around” and I was struck—again—by how simplistic a view of life this is.

Now I’ve heard about Karma, but “what goes around comes around” seems to be a simplistic view of even that. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, I’ve never gotten the impression that Karma will unfailingly swing around and bite the offender in the butt in this life. My impression of Karma is that, yes, sometimes it takes a direct approach and hits the offender in this life, but that it’s more likely to mean that the offender, in the afterlife or next life will suffer for the offenses they gave in this life, as a way for them to learn the lesson they failed to learn before. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I’ve had of what Karma is for a long time. Since my teen years at least.

When my mom says “I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around,” she always means, without fail, that she expects that the offender will experience some sort of bad luck or unhappy event in this life. Their comeuppance is on the way. She may not know when, but she’s absolutely certain it will happen.

And that, to me, is a very simplistic view of life.

The fact is, life is not that simple. Life is by its very nature uncertain. It’s insensible—sense cannot be made from it. Not any real, true, firm and unalterable sense. Sure, we can make sense of some things, but these are all little things, minor things—like, I can make sense of my mom from my own understanding of myself and the choices I’ve made that have brought me to a point where I can see into her a lot more clearly than I think she realizes. But even that doesn’t give me the ability to understand everything about life. I can make some sense of it all, but not complete sense.

And that’s because the world is complicated and uncertain. And I accept that life has those qualities. All I can do is my best to understand what I can. But for people like my mom, those complications and uncertainties are frightening. So she, and they, seek a simple way to understand it.

We all want to understand life. But I’ve realized something about this search for understanding of life. There are two basic ways to “understand” life. One can take either a simplistic view, such as “what goes around comes around,” or one can set out to really work on gaining a deeper understanding of oneself, the world, and life. This requires a number of things, chiefly the willingness to be mindful of oneself.

Now, it’s no secret I write. And I freely admit my writing is, at its core, little more than me seeking understanding of life. I’m trying to make sense of the insensible with my writing. But! It is far more complex than tacking on a simplistic “what goes around comes around” view of life and being satisfied with that. I could never be satisfied with such a simplistic view of life. Life is far more complicated and uncertain than that. Life doesn’t tie things up that neatly, not even when it seems to be offering a neatly-wrapped package tied up with a pretty ribbon.

Life is messy. Life is insensible. No one can make complete and total sense out of life, because it is always uncertain. There are any number of philosophies we can adopt or adhere to in order to try and make sense of life, but the fact is, those philosophies are only the beginning. Clinging to them as the end-all and be-all of Understanding is a dead-end. Yes, it can be comforting to adopt the focused view of life religion and philosophy seem to offer, but if that’s only as far as it goes, it’s not doing much good.

I realized one major difference between myself and my mom on Wednesday. My life philosophy changes day by day. Sometimes only a little, sometimes a great deal. But it’s always in flux. Mom’s life philosophy is, to me, frighteningly static. And, I think it has been most of my life. Where she clings to the mere beginnings of comprehension, I have made efforts, in part because of my mental illness, and in part because I simply want to do so, to push myself away from those beginnings. I started doing this back in 1988, when I wrote my first Star Trek “novel” in a series of pocket folders with prongs, on college ruled notebook paper. Back then, I didn’t realize just what sort of inner journey I was embarking upon; all I knew was that it felt good to write, and I enjoyed it immensely, and it gave me a better escape from the difficulties of my life than even reading had up to that point offered. But it taught me to really look at people, to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations. Through my writing, I’ve gained a far deeper, more complete and complex, and much more nuanced understanding of life than I think my mom has ever had.

And even with that, I still can’t make sense of it. But that’s okay. I don’t need life to make sense in order to be comfortable with it. All I need to do is keep doing my best to learn, and I don’t intend to ever stop doing that.

Patience and My Parent II

Well, it’s been about a year since my post regarding me exercising more patience with my mom, and I’d like to share my experience with it. To recap, back in December 2014, I complained to Mom that I didn’t want to hear about what shows or movies she was watching on Netflix, but about her and she snapped at me during a December visit that “This is me!” I posted about this visit and the changes I’d subsequently made in my February 10 post entitled Patience and My Parent.

So, for the last year, I’ve exercised patience when dealing with Mom, and I’ve reaped benefits from it. The biggest one is that nearly all our conversations this year have been enjoyable for me. Even, surprisingly, the political discussions (for the most part). I’ve also learned to speak up when our topic starts to make me edgy or angry or upset and ask for a change of subject, which Mom has always been happy to agree to. Previously, it was all I could do to convince myself to chat with her only once or twice a week, and frequently, those chats were half an hour or shorter, and I almost always ended them feeling stressed and in desperate need of calming down. Since beginning with exercising patience with Mom, my stress level with these chats has gone down, and the calls have lengthened and become frequent enough I’m calling Mom at least once almost every day, and frequently spending at least an hour on the phone with her over the duration of at least one of those calls.

Something I wasn’t expecting to help so much with my stress level is asking Mom to change topics. I spent the first part of the year afraid to ask for topic changes, but when things started to get heated about politics back in October, I gently interrupted Mom and asked if we could change subjects. Mom didn’t even pause to ask why I wanted to do this; I think she recognized that it was upsetting me. She promptly started in on another topic and our conversation continued as if we hadn’t just broken off an intense subject, and I was able to calm down and enjoy the remainder of the chat. Since then, I’ve been much more willing to ask for a topic-change if I feel myself getting uptight or angry or frustrated with a particular subject we’re discussing, and Mom has, every time been willing to change the topic without question.

Something that helped a great deal with our discussions was hooking Mom up with Bryce’s dog in April. I recognized after Poopie’s (her previous dog) death in November 2014, that Mom had slipped into depression. She wasn’t getting out of the house very often, and had fallen into vegetating in front of the TV. I think I was understandably concerned for her. I wrote about this in my 21 April 2015 post, My Mom + Bryce’s Dog. This introduction started off rocky; the dog, whom Mom renamed Mei Ling, had not been properly socialized because she’d been a shelter dog most of her life, and Bryce had little energy for taking her out to be with other dogs. Mei Ling is a stubborn, vocal, excitable dog, and Mom had never had such a dog before, so she spent the first two or three months struggling to introduce some discipline into Mei Ling’s life. It was very difficult for Mom, who at first didn’t understand Mei Ling, but they got through it. Mei Ling’s been living with Mom just over 8 months now and they’re both happy, healthy, and attached to each other.

So Mom and I are getting along much better these days. I’m enjoying my chats with her, and I’m sure she appreciates me calling her so frequently. This really is the better way to do things, and I’m glad Mom and I had that brief discussion back in December 2014 that led me to making this decision to be more patient with her.

The Importance of Friendship

Back in 2009—well, actually, before 2009—I realized I was mentally healthy enough to expand my social activities. I was by no means capable of throwing myself into a club or bar with the goal of meeting anybody, whether prospective friend or lover, but I was ready to be more social than I had been up to that point. In 2009, I volunteered for the Pride Festival that’s held here the first weekend of June each year—I forget which one it was. I did it primarily so I had a free entry pass so I could see the sights and maybe meet a couple of people to strike up something of an acquaintance. To do this, I intended to join an organization or two, maybe a church, maybe find out some information on another religion or philosophy or some group activity.

And I found Temple Squares’s booth.

I found them dancing in front of their booth, in fact, wearing variously-colored tees that all said “Circle To A Square” on the back. I hadn’t square danced since middle school, when boys wouldn’t touch me, but I had enjoyed the PE module despite that, and I knew I could learn how to do this. I collected every last bit of information I could find and left them my contact information—neatly written because I definitely wanted them to contact me—then went on my way in search of another organization I could possibly join.

Well, I didn’t find any other organizations I wanted to join that day, but I kept in contact with Temple Squares and joined them for classes when they started up in September. I went in expecting to have fun and to meet a fun group of people, which is precisely what happened. I had fun, and I had it with fun people. Over the course of my first year of dancing, as I learned the many square dance calls, I made friends among these fun, welcoming people.

I went into square dancing the same way I enter into any group activity. I expect to find fun-loving, fun people who are trustworthy and friendly. I go in to have fun, to be a fun person, and with an open mind willing to open wider, and with a complete willingness to be trusting and friendly. I expect to make friends.

My mom, on the other hand, has a completely opposite view of people in general. These days, even her closest, deepest “friendships” are rather shallow in comparison with my friendships. Hell, they aren’t even really friendships at all. Mom is lonely, and has been burned by her loneliness more than once, when she willingly entered into marriages which turned out to be abusive for her.

In a way, I can kind of understand her withdrawal, but I think that’s the wrong way to solve her problem. Instead of looking at people with an open mind willing to trust, she looks at people with a closed mind at first mistrustful. I get that she doesn’t want to be hurt again, but this is not the best way, in my opinion, for her to “protect” herself. It’s not real protection. It further isolates her. She’s lonelier now than she’s ever been before; she may not say she is, but it’s in the way she reacts to those around her.

Mom looks at people with a judgmental mind. Yes, I understand that there are people who are busybodies, nosy, untrustworthy, and who seek to create drama where she lives, but even with those whom I believe are trustworthy and sincere, Mom is reserved and distant. She’ll associate with them, but not let them in close.

She says she doesn’t want friends among anyone in her building, but she also doesn’t make any efforts to get out and meet other people. Mom isolates herself. I believe she doesn’t realize just how emotionally and mentally debilitating this can be, or how much of a sign of emotional and mental disturbance it is. She’s not so closed off that she’s afraid of people, but her “friendships” aren’t healthy, and her expectation of finding untrustworthy people is only further isolating her.

I hate seeing this, but I know and understand Mom’s thinking on this. She believes that if she doesn’t get close with anyone, she won’t get hurt. And, for her, that’s very profound, because she’s been hurt by men she’s married.

And that’s basically because she’s been trying to live out her dream of being a wife and mother. This is a completely honorable and respectable dream to have, but her life simply didn’t work out the way she wanted. She spent most of my childhood falling for abusers because she “needed” a man so much to fill the emptiness she saw in her life when her dream failed. She’s generally a confident person, but with men, she was desperate to fulfill the role of loving wife, and abusers picked up on it and took advantage of her.

And that is why she isolates herself now. I think, in a way, she’s conflating friendship with her bad marriages. She’s afraid to trust anyone now, even with her friendship, because she’s afraid of being hurt again, when, in reality, if she opened herself up a little more, trusted a bit more (with caution), she’d have rich, rewarding friendships with a number of people. My mother is a very rich, rewarding friend to have, with a lot of wisdom, a lot of common sense, and a lot of good humor to share, and I think she could find similar people and connections that would be as rewarding for her as what she can be for other people.

It’s all a matter of perspective. She expects to find mistrustful, unhappy people around her, so that’s what she sees in her neighbors. I’m expecting to find trusting, happy people around me, so that’s what I see.

Now, I won’t say I don’t find the occasional loser, but that’s just it. They’re not that frequent, and they’re easy to spot. Yes, I’ve been hurt before by people I thought were friends. I haven’t let it make me withdraw, though. Years ago, once I got mentally stable, I recognized how bad isolating myself was. It’s healthy to have friendships, and I’m glad for each and every friend I now have, no matter who they are, what walk of life they come from, or what social group they belong to, and I’ll continue to put myself and my trust and my faith in people out there to make new friends because I need friends. Not only is having friends a sign of good mental health, it keeps me mentally healthy.

Mom has told me, on numerous occasions, that I’m too trusting. Well, I’d rather be trusting and rewarded for my trust with friends who trust me, than be mistrustful and rewarded with isolation and loneliness. Being hurt occasionally is a small price to pay for the company of good friends.

My Trans Nature vs. Mom

I’m as open about being trans in real life as I am about it online. While I don’t throw the information out there on first or second meeting someone, generally speaking, unless the topic comes up, I’m also quite direct about it when I do tell someone. All my friends, both local and online, know I’m trans, and they accept me despite (or perhaps because of) that.

The one person who has refused to accept it is my mother. Way back two or three years ago, when I first realized I was trans and that it was pointless—and too painful—to hide from it any more, I told Mom. Well, I sort of broached the subject of me being trans as if I needed her permission to deal with it, and we ended our phone call on it with me stating, “Well, I need to deal with this, and I’m going to.”

It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, to be honest. While back then I wasn’t quite ready to abandon my need for Mom’s permission in part of my life, I did recognize that I couldn’t let her reaction to my confession of being transgender dictate to me how to live my life. This, I think, is the point at which I first, subconsciously, realized I didn’t need Mom to give me permission, that my life was mine to live how I wished, and that giving her all the control I’d given her over it was detrimental to my mental health.

I have not tried to tell Mom I’m trans again since. It is a fight I have no wish to engage in at this time. Like my decision to go to school, my decision what to do with my trans body is mine alone to make, and I can’t let Mom tell me what to do with it or my gender dysphoria.

I’m not so much avoiding telling her as I’m choosing when to bring her back into the loop on it. If I get far enough to take Hormone Replacement Therapy, she’s going to realize it at some point regardless of whether I tell her or not. My current plan is to have my breasts removed, then change my name, and about that time start HRT. At some point near the time I change my name, I’ll tell Mom again that I’m trans.

She may never accept it. This is something I must consider and deal with in therapy. Mom may be angry with me, another reaction I must prepare for. I don’t think she’ll disown or shun me, though. She may not understand or accept what I’ve done and will be doing, but I think she’ll eventually try her best to deal with it, even if she hates it. And, considering she tends to look at the negative, she may view it as the death of her daughter and miss the fact that I’m finally the person I was meant to be—and happy with myself at last.

However she chooses to react, I’ve decided is on her. I can’t let myself get bogged down in it, and I won’t. This is my life, and I’m going to live it how I see fit, whether she likes it or not.

My Mom + Bryce’s Dog

I spent about two and a half hours on the phone this afternoon on phone calls to my mom and to a friend I met via Bryce. Anita and I have been keeping in contact since his death, and hang out together every so often, and today she brought up the subject of Bryce’s dog Candy. Bryce’s mom has been looking for someone to take Candy in. One prospect got another dog for herself before Bryce’s mom could suggest she take Candy, and another prospect is someone she has no connection with whatsoever; the friend of a groomer she knows, and she feels uncomfortable passing Bryce’s beloved pet off to someone she has no knowledge of.

Mom’s much-beloved dog Poopie died in November of last year. While she’s growing accustomed to being alone, Mom dislikes it. She’s always had someone to care for, whether it be her children or her pets, and I know she’s been missing the companionship of having a dog. Mom’s considered getting a cat, but she’s very much a dog person these days, and I know she’d be happiest with a dog. Though she’s looked online at shelter dogs, the fees charged for adopting a pet have turned her off—she’s not desperate for a dog, but she has been considering adopting one.

When Anita brought up to me the fact Bryce’s mother was looking for a good home for his dog, I tentatively suggested my mom might be a good candidate. I was a good friend of Bryce’s, his mother can get my mother’s pet-care history from me, and she wants to have a way of hearing how Candy’s doing, which I’ll be more than happy to provide.

As things stand, they’re still up in the air. Last I heard from Anita today was that Bryce’s mom would talk to her husband about passing Candy on to Mom. Anita’s fairly certain things will go through. Mom, though willing to take Candy in, isn’t counting her eggs; she’s given it to God and told me that if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen, and she’ll accept whatever decision Bryce’s mom makes.

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable afternoon. I think Mom’s readier for another dog than she believes she is, and I think Bryce’s mom is ready to let her go. I do know that Mom told me she couldn’t bear the thought of Bryce’s beloved pet being given to a shelter again (he adopted Candy from one), and I’m fairly certain Bryce’s mom will appreciate knowing Candy’s gone to someone who adores dogs. It’s fitting, I think, that if Bryce’s mom decides to give Candy to Mom, they’ll be going to each other, and I hope this is the outcome. They both deserve to love and be loved.

Patience and My Parent

Late last year in response to something Mom said to me during one of her visits to my home to drop some things off in early December, I decided to be a little more patient with her. Up to this point, I hadn’t been. I’d cut her off on the phone, interrupt her if she tried to describe TV shows or movies she’d watched, and generally didn’t listen to her as well as I should have.

Her heated comment of, “This is me!” in response to my statement I wanted to hear about her and her day made me aware I’d been disrespecting my mom. That was not a comfortable realization to have.

I wasn’t sure how things would go, though, to be honest. What I’ve learned is that I generally have to make myself be a little more patient—with both Mom and myself.

Mom’s primary hobby is currently watching TV. Her secondary hobby is playing Farmville on Facebook. Both subjects bore me to death, generally. For the most part—at least with Farmville—that hasn’t changed. However, since exerting a little patience and enduring her TV and movie rambles, I’ve learned some interesting things.

One of Mom’s most recent Netflix binges has been WWII movies and documentaries. Tonight, we actually got into a pretty interesting and fun discussion about WWII based on what she’s learned from these media and what I’ve learned from my books and DVDs regarding the German side of the war. I won’t call it a debate, because I deliberately resisted the urge to insist upon things as I do at times. We were on the phone for over an hour on this subject, and had spent most of the previous hour discussing other topics unrelated.

Two hours. I’ve never enjoyed two hours chatting with Mom so much. Well, maybe when she reminisces about her life and childhood. I like it when she talks about her life growing up and stuff. But I’ve never enjoyed a conversation about something (mostly) unrelated to her history or life so much as I did that WWII chat.

And it’s been like this a number of times since opening my mind to listening to what Mom has to say. I’m now glad Mom got angry at me that day in December and snapped what she did. I’m sure there will be discussions where we have disagreements again, but now I know to pay better attention to what Mom’s saying. I’m not sure just where this new respect for Mom will take me, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

© 2017 Ashe Elton Parker

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