Stories We Tell Ourselves

From earliest days in memory until early teens, my father who had a temper would often yell and hit me for things I thought were inconsequential. One time he even screamed “I wish you were never born.” I didn’t take this personally; thought that’s just the way he was, nervous and easily agitated. He died at 60 of the flu. My mother lived another 28 years. I would often ask her how daddy really felt about me. Her response was always the same: “He couldn’t stand you.” To which I just laughed. What was funny was that he was irritated by meaningless things he took seriously which made them real. For example, if I got home a couple of hours passed my curfew, he would go into a rage; seemed odd to me because at that point I was home.

My mother loved me unconditionally. Always gave me preferential¬† treatment; she cleaned my room first, spared no expense in serving only me the best foodstuffs, even when we couldn’t afford much.¬† However, 20 years before she died she announced her entire estate would be bequeathed to my sister. While my sister was not indigent and likely to die with more money than she’d inherit from my mother, my mother felt that my sister needed it more than me. I shared mother’s news with my children, including my 5 year old son, who from then on would always greet her: “Hi grandma, how about 50/50?” However, she never changed her will. How did I feel? Just laughed. It was funny because others with whom I shared my story were taken aback, vicariously felt hurt. That seemed silly. There was nothing personal to me about this experience. My mother did what my mother did; seemed the right thing to do in her mind.¬† I was happy for her. (Of course, had she been worth say $10M or more, maybe I would have felt differently.) At her deathbed, I was with her and my sister. I asked her whom she loved more, me or my sister. She said she loved me more. That seemed like a good deal. I got the blessing and my sister got the goats.

The point of my story is that many of us in situations like mine with my father and mother would have told themselves stories like mommy or daddy didn’t love me, I’m worthless, etc. They might feel wounded, traumatized perhaps. But that’s not really what happened in times past. That’s just a story they chose to tell themselves. Perhaps they might feel better if they change their stories.