Every shitty conversation with a family member becomes my best writing material and an opportunity for personal growth.
Mom asked how things have been going with our nanny. I said she’s wonderful and has been enormously helpful. But she’s going back to school in August, so when that happens, Sam and I have decided we want someone for more days during the week and longer hours.
Mom responded, laughing, “You guys are horrible. Why did you even have a baby?”
There is a visceral reaction that occurs in my body whenever I have an interaction with a family member that goes south. I feel hot. My heart starts pounding. I struggle to hear the rest of what she’s saying as she moves on to the next topic of conversation.
The old me would continue the conversation as if it didn’t bother me. Later, when I spoke to my husband, I’d unleash my anger and vent for hours. It would consume me. I wouldn’t be able to focus on other things because I’d be so worked up.
But this time I wait until there’s a break in the conversation and tell Mom, “Listen, it really hurts my feelings when you say we’re horrible parents and why did we even have a baby.”
I could feel the eye roll on the other end of the line:
“I was teasing!!! I didn’t mean anything, it was a joke!”
“Yea, but it’s not funny.”
“I was joking. You’re going to make me feel like I can’t say anything to you.”
“It would be fine if you said something funny but I don’t think it’s funny.”
“Well, I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to hurt your feelings.”
“It’s okay. Thanks.”
Silence. Awkward. Mom says she has to get back to work and we say goodbye.
I wish I could say that by telling my Mom she hurt my feelings I felt better about the whole thing. But I still felt like shit, still vented to Sam, and still had trouble focusing on much else for the rest of the day.
But the goal is not to feel better after having a hard conversation. The goal is to create boundaries. Mom knows how I feel, so maybe next time she’ll think twice before “teasing me” or “making a joke.”
Even though it felt shitty, it was still a step toward a healthier relationship.
From age 17 to 30 I was on a diet. It was a sad life to be consumed by thoughts of food and calories and the number on the scale.
Today I have no thoughts of dieting and no negative feelings around food. I wrote an essay about diets and the real secret to losing weight.
We talked about all things writing: my process, ways to improve, and my journey to become a pseudonymous writer.
Until next week,