What do you do when, sometimes, people don’t want to understand you? And you have stopped relating to them? Move on… In today’s Podcast I champion that you must protect your inner peace – because that’s all you have got and only you are responsible for it! Listen time: 4:03 minutes
Only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
On a show that I recently hosted, my guest talked candidly about how his father and he could not see eye to eye over Life choices that the guest had made. Subsequently the guest narrated how he was thrown out of his house by his father. It was a painful memory and the guest perhaps made it sound light by calling his father “dumb”. Some members in the audience clapped and many laughed. But a few of them reached out to me and said that they found the guest’s statements about his dad questionable. At least one of them pointed out that his open remarks, and the audience’s reaction, may send a signal to children watching the show that it was cool to criticize your parents in public.
As a show host I am all for socially responsible comments in public. So, yes, both the guest and I may have liked to qualify the guest’s remarks as intensely personal, adding that these sentiments are not to be generalized. But, I believe, I let it be because a. I could relate to what the guest was sharing and b. such qualification might have been redundant as the guest was only sharing his personal story, of what he had experienced.
And that brings me to the moot question – is it okay to share how you feel about your dysfunctional relationship with your parent in public?
Those who know me and who have read Fall Like A Rose Petal or have heard my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk are aware of my dysfunctional relationship with my mother. In sharing my story I only tell people what – and how – I feel about my mother. I don’t quite see it as criticism, I see it as the truth. Trying to make sense of why we have this apparently abnormal, unique, relationship, where there is no chemistry between us, is a lived experience for me. It is not imaginary or aspirational. It is what I have lived through. It is an integral part of how my Life has shaped and evolved. I have chosen not to hide it. I am not baring it all in public forums to malign my mother. I am however sharing in relevant contexts only to tell people that such things happen in Life – that even in a close, blood, relationship, dysfunctionality can prevail. And that when you can’t resolve the issues between you and the other person, it is perfectly fine to maintain a distance. I can’t get along with anyone with whom my value systems don’t match. That one such person is my own mother is just incidental.
The problem with society is that it expects everyone and everything to be stereotypical. And in reality there are no stereotypes – each one’s story, and each one’s lived experience, is unique. No one can understand the pain of a child not being trusted by his parent – my pain! No one can understand – not even me – the pain of a child being asked to leave his home just because he had a secular outlook – my guest’s pain! Indeed, we may have similar journeys but the experiences we go through are unique. So, just because our movies generalize the mother as sacrosanct, I can’t force myself to relate to my mother. Or just because our tradition and culture say, “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” – advocating that the parents occupy an exalted position, even ahead of the teacher and God – it need not be true that everyone on the planet either feels that way or relates to that line of thought.
Just as I have stated in my Book, and as I say here again, I have nothing against my mother. I respect her for giving birth to me, raising me and teaching me the alphabet. That’s a debt I may never be able to repay to her. Never. By sharing how I feel about her, I have never intended to belittle her. Also, there are so many areas where I disagree with her choices in her Life. But I never will comment on those. That’s her Life. I only have a right to choose what works – or refuse what doesn’t work – for me in the context of my relationship with her. And in that context, I consider my relationship with her a dysfunctional one. To be sure, this can happen in any relationship, to anyone. It is my experience and learning that only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
So, my two penny worth perspective is this. It is never a great idea to criticize anybody, least of all your parents. But that shouldn’t stop you from sharing how you feel about people and your relationship with them, even if they are your parents. Being socially responsible is important, especially on public forums. But you have a big responsibility, primarily to yourself first – to be truthful about your Life. If that means sharing how you feel about – and in – a relationship, so be it. Saying it, and sharing it, as it is always acts as therapy; it heals and contributes greatly to your inner peace.
In any relationship, only the two people in it have a right to a view on it.
A reader recently asked me how I could talk so openly about the lack of chemistry I have with my mother. He was referring to a chapter, “You Can Never Get A Perfect 10!”, in my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal. He said that the most sacred relationship in Life is the one between a mother and child. “How can you demean that relationship by talking about it in public? In Indian culture a mother is equivalent to God. How can you rubbish your God,” he asked.
I never deny anyone the right to ask me questions. In fact, it is only through questions and answers, and more questions and more answers, that clarity is got. So, I thanked the reader for his question. And then I explained my point of view.
It was precisely for the reason that the reader deems as sacrosanct that I decided to talk about the broken relationship I have with my mother. I was telling my children (my Book is a set of letters written to my children Aashirwad and Aanchal), and through them I was telling the readers, that Life is never the same for everyone and everything is never perfect in everyone’s Life. Some department or the other is always broken. Some have a health issue. Some have a career issue. Some have relationships issues with spouses, siblings, colleagues, or as in my case, with a parent or parents. Struggling to make your Life perfect, which is striving for a 10/10, is what leads to your suffering. Denying that a problem exists or hiding from it also causes suffering.
For the longest time, I suffered. I thought something was wrong with me. How can my mother and I have a broken relationship, I asked myself. After all, she bore me in her womb and brought me into this Universe. But the more I tried to adjust, accommodate or atone (for my excesses in trying to fight her ways), the more I found her manipulative. So, I decided to be honest to myself. I said that, perhaps, I don’t have smooth, compassionate, mother-child equation in my Life’s design. I let go. And I let be. Almost magically, a 25-year strife-ridden environment fell peaceful. Here I must appreciate my mother as well. She too appears to have let go and let be. I believe this brutal honesty has helped our entire family. We all remain estranged, with Vaani and me on one side, and my parents and siblings on the other. But I guess everyone is peaceful where they are.
In trying to make sense of strained relationships, you can never get anywhere as long as you try to understand who’s right or who’s wrong. Because each party will keep maintaining that they are right. Instead, be honest with yourself first. Are you able to relate to the person you have a relationship with? If you are not able to relate, then no reason is a good one to cling on to the relationship. No amount of arguing, justifying or showcasing evidence is going to help. You both don’t relate to each other because your value systems don’t match; you are on different wavelengths, you live in different orbits! The nature of the relationship is irrelevant when there is no relating. All this talk about society, culture, dharma, tradition, sacredness and God – all this is a whole lot of fluff! No one but the two people in a relationship have a right to talk about their issues or how they feel in each other’s presence or how they experience each other. And even if one has a problem, even if it is because of their own doing, they have a right to recognize that relationship as dead.
Life is inscrutable and unpredictable. It defies logic and definition. And therefore boxing relationships in frameworks and talking of culture, tradition or roping in God to preserve a suffering-infested status quo is meaningless. Just as a husband and a wife can have a problem and separate, so can any two people, in any relationship, have a problem and choose to separate. Bottom-line: when you cease to relate, no matter what is the relationship, or who it is with, let go. And let be.
Always speak your mind. If you don’t, well, then, don’t complain!
A gentleman I met recently said he was finally divorcing his wife of 35 years. He told me that he had never been happy in the relationship. He said he was feeling liberated that he was moving on. But then he asked me this question: “When we have been wronged, let down, trampled upon and dumped in a relationship, why do we often not seek closure and move on, why do we cling on to the hurt and insist on prolonging the trauma?”
Without necessarily focusing on the gentleman’s relationship with his wife, this still is a very important question. There are a few reasons why this happens. For one, most people cling on to dead relationships hoping to revive them. Or they want to fight to reclaim their lost dignity while staying in the relationship. Next, we generally don’t like to directly confront a person who makes us uncomfortable or sometimes even miserable. In a very strange way we enjoy feeling sad, pitying ourselves and presenting ourselves to the world as someone who’s been wronged. The other reason pertains to the discomfort we feel in making the other person feel uncomfortable. When you take up an issue head-on with someone, that person is going to most likely squirm. And you, being the good soul that you are, don’t want that person to feel like a worm. But unless you tell someone, who seems to take you for granted and so piles atrocity upon atrocity on you, that you don’t like being treated in a certain way, how do you expect that person to respect you and treat you any differently?
What you must understand is very simple. Don’t let anyone take you for granted. The moment you allow anyone to do that, you have lost your right to complain about your Life! And you don’t have to do much to push someone back. Just speak your mind, draw your boundaries and set a clear protocol that you don’t appreciate any trespassing or over-stepping.
Ultimately, if someone pisses on you, or tramples all over you, you, more than that person, are responsible for the way you are feeling. So, if you don’t want to feel miserable, stop clinging on to relationships that make you feel miserable. You don’t have to be rude. You just need to be firm – no matter who that person is. Have a brutally honest conversation. If you can’t do that, write that person an e-mail. Basically, communicate – efficiently, effectively and without mincing words. Seek a closure, with such communication, to whatever bothers you about the issue or the person. When you do this, you will feel truly liberated and totally at peace with yourself!
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