2 weeks. That’s how long I spent ignoring my mother’s phone calls and text messages. I knew what this would do to her. She’s a paranoid, anxious, person. I mean she watches me walk all of 100 feet to take out the garbage at night, because she thinks someone might kidnap me. So I knew that ignoring her would only increase her anxiety. But I didn’t care.
2 weeks ago my mom and I had a huge fight. Not our normal “you’re a crazy person”-“I don’t care, I’m your mother” kind of fight. But the kind of fight that had even my dad running for the hills. She said some hurtful things, things that had me doubting who I am and everything I’ve accomplished. If my own mom thinks that about me maybe it’s true, right? We never fixed it or talked about it. I packed my bags and walked out with just a wave of my hand in her direction. Mistake One.
She tried contacting me at least once a day ever since. I ignored her. Mistake Two.
She had my brother FaceTime me. I ignored it. Mistake Three.
And then icing on the cake? I told her I wasn’t coming home for Christmas break…right after TEXTING her ‘Happy Anniversary.’ Mistake Four.
She called me this morning. I contemplated not answering, but something told me that I should. We talked for a minute or so, arguing about why I wasn’t coming home. I told her I have a lot of work to do over the break and I never get anything done when I’m home. To be fair, I wasn’t lying. Grad school students are never really on break. She started crying asking if it was because of our fight. She didn’t know this, but as soon as she started crying…I did too. I told her it wasn’t because of her, but she didn’t believe me. And she was half-right.
With a strained voice she said to me, “You’re my child. You’re my daughter. And I will always love you. And if you need me to apologize, I will.” The fact that she felt like she needed to say that to me, makes this Mistake 10000000.
After we hung up, I thought back over the last two weeks. I stopped being angry with her the second I woke up the morning after our fight. I realized that I was punishing her, not because I was angry but because deep down I wanted to hurt her as much as she hurt me. And the award for the crappiest daughter goes to….well, me.
It wasn’t until I actually heard her cry and felt her pain over the phone that I realized how much I actually hurt her. And by hurting her, I actually hurt myself even more. I have never felt more disappointment for myself than I did in that moment. I was acting like she was a stranger. Like she was a friend I could live without. I forgot that she is the woman who raised me. Held my hand when I was scared. Stayed up at night when I was sick and in pain. She cried when I graduated high school and left for college. She laughed when I made fun of my dad or brother. She smiled when I told her that I wanted to help make a difference in the world. And most importantly, she forgave and loved me every time I made a mistake or said something hurtful when I was upset. I had the opportunity to do the same…and I screwed up. Big time.
I am always talking about trying to change the world for the better. I talk about how human beings have the capacity for change, but we won’t ever accomplish it because it’s easier to show hate than love. I speak out about these things, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I, too, struggle with this. I could never hate my mother, no matter what. But I didn’t show her forgiveness when I could have. Instead, I punished her. In the face of a tragedy, people always question, “how could someone hurt another human being?” But don’t we hurt the people we love every day? Don’t we punish our friends or family for hurting us all the time? So is it really a stretch to ask how someone could hurt a stranger?
I am not proud of what I did. And even though I don’t deserve forgiveness, I know my mom will willingly and gladly give it to me. THAT’S the difference between hate and love. Forgiveness. There is so much suffering in the world today. People killing other people, floods, Donald Trump, etc. But in the midst of all of that, is the chance to forgive. The opportunity to show even our enemies how we can still love. This won’t be an easy task, trust me. So maybe we don’t start with our enemies…maybe we start at home. Maybe we start with forgiving our friends for stealing the last piece of cake. Or forgiving the stranger that knocked into us while trying to get to work.
I want to use this experience to make a real change within myself. I know I have a lot of work to do and that it starts at home. I’m incredibly sorry for the way I’ve treated my mother the last two weeks. And I hope that someday, we can all be as loving and forgiving as she is.
Be the change you wish to see in the world- Mahatma Gandhi