Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Nothing is Easy

This link is purely for myself. For some weird reason, I occasionally spend minutes clicking the "Fresh Blogs" on Blogger (gah, I hate that word) and I sometimes find something exciting. Like Quinn Skylark's BookWatch. Ok, it's...eclectic. Still, I'm all for anyone thinking about books, and even more for anyone TALKING about them.

So, aside from that, I'm avoiding my mother in law. I don't hate her. I don't think she hates me. But I feel the weight of her dissapproval within five minutes of her entering the house ... and starting to clean it. For the last ten years, I hid in my bedroom and let her run. Now, it's making me angry. Yes, I know, it's lovely having someone else cleaning your house. Sure. Some of you don't mind someone else going into your closet and cabinets and who knows where else. The thing is, my house was clean enough. I didn't ASK for her to do DIDDLY. I'd be just as happy if she came down and watched TV all day. All I ask of anyone staying in this house is to pick up after themselves and occasionally throw in with the cooking or the dishes.

You know, it's the disapproval part that bugs me. Everything she does is an indictment of my abilities, my character, my choices, and my judgement. Somehow, somewhere, that's what comes across. Even if 1/3rd of it is in my head, I'm not completely making it up -- the husband notices it, too. He's just more immune.

Still, I stand by my choices. Sure, a perfectly clean and tidy house is a lovely thing. Occasionaly I really want to clean. But in the grand scheme of things, I just don't see my worth as a human being as summed up by the state of my laundry, or the crumb-free-ness of my kitchen counters. How many things do we miss out on doing because we are obsessed with creating magazine-cover perfection in our homes? There are better things to do than spray chemicals and wipe up a coffee cup stain. I'd rather read a book, write a story, talk to my cats, laugh with my friends. It's jut not that important! I think back to my own childhood and my mother's particular attitude toward cleanliness. Oh, our house was always clean, but more because my mother had few hobbies and interests and because activities were strictly limited (aka, most of my mess making activities were confined to my room, which was hidden down a hall and behind a door.) On the positive side, Saturday morning housecleaning was a regular part of the week, over with relatively quickly, and consisted of vacuuming, dusting, and mopping hard floors.

I suspect a lot of other things went on of which I was not aware. I also don't think my mom spilled anything in her whole life. She was also Queen of the One Pan Meal. If a meal didn't all fit onto one plate, you didn't need to eat anything that wouldn't go. And no ever perished from a green bean touching the mashed potatos.

There's another thing to this. My mother died before I turned 17. The time between my 11th and 17th birthdays was oddly empty of her much of the time -- she had a bout with cancer that lasted 2 years, from which she recovered. I was a teenager with my own set of mental, emotional and physical problems, highly isolated even from her, despite living in the same house. I think the point of keenest regret for me on her death was that the year previous (she died in early January 1982) we'd begun to actually build a relationship where I was learning from her. I'd gotten over a lot of my stuff, she'd gotten over a lot of hers, and we were actually connecting on a very different level. When she died, I was again isolated --this time from my dad, because I was forced by circumstances to live with my stepfather in what became a very, shall we say, abusive, situation. I quickly became resistant to other people trying to mother me, while still trying to find a relationship like that I was developing with my mother.

I blame her for her own death, you know. She had high blood pressure and a hit-or-miss attitude toward her medications. Her smoking and heavy drinking (that was a left over of attempts to self medicate during her cancer) didn't help. I've never really put that thought into words before. I've gotten over it and gone on -- the story of her death is now reduced to a zingy little joke "My mom dropped dead while vacuuming our living room. Housework will kill ya!"

Which is another reason I don't particularly want to spend my life cleaning house, especially to gain the approval of a mother figure I have learned to live without. And I resent having to live with and quietly accept without demure someone else's dissapproval of the intimate details of my life. I'm forced to accept the intimacy and the dissapproval in one gulp. I used to crumble under it. Now it makes me mad. There's no one to blame except perhaps myself -- my mother in law is not a bad person. She is just a person who has clear, strong, and unshakeable ideas of what is "right" and "wrong" in the world, and who has never learned (never needed to learn) that her ideas are not shared by everyone. Even when she says "Well, I guess not everyone agrees with me", I can hear the subtext "but everyone with any brains or sense or who matters DOES agree with me, completely."

Ugh. I'm not writing the anger away. I'm building it up. I should delete this, but I won't, so that I can look later. My husband will read this and be hurt, I'm pretty sure, but I know that he's upset by the situation anyway and pretending doesn't fool him (he's much too smart and perceptive for that.) Thus it goes. Life isn't fair, nothing is easy, and sometimes you have to live with situations you'd rather not.

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