Before I start, the question of what is or how to love should be defined. I don’t have it defined yet, which is why I am writing this to help sort my mind. Right now, I just know that to love her should maybe feel more happy rather than annoyed.
She’s a difficult person. She loves to complain, which I hate hearing about. She is extremely passive aggressive, but if you confront her about it she is ready for a verbal throw down. She is a picky eater, and therefore always cooks every meal (really, I can probably count the number of times we ate out on my fingers, until I turned 18 and left for college). She is a workaholic busy-body. I think some of these things are like blessings in disguise. After all, I had a very healthy diet through all of my growing years, and hell, I learned what qualities people really dislike and thus what to avoid doing in my own behavior. Perhaps that was a bit of an inverse ‘blessing in disguise’ for me though. Anyways, my mother is my mother. I know she cares about me. I know she misses me when we’re apart. I presume that she loves me. I’m part of a particular percentage of Chinese where family does not show love openly, nor praise. I grew up with what people might call a tiger mom. For me, it just felt like a sad life. Many other factors made it a miserable and lonely life, but at the end of it all (a.k.a the present now) I feel that I turned out to be just fine as a person. A little cold in some people’s opinion maybe, because they like hugs and touches, but if I wanted to give a hug and a hand, I’m perfectly capable of giving them. I just normally don’t.
Calling our parents regularly once we are no longer living under the same roof is common practice. How regular a practice it is, well, that’s another story. For me, I kind of avoid calling my mom. Or I even just plain forget. When I do remember, I always get this feeling of I don’t want to do it because I know she will nag and complain, which c’mon, who actually wants to listen to that every time you give someone a phone call. Like, if that’s the result I am expecting, of course I don’t want to call. It’s so negative and I don’t want to invite negativity into my mindset on a regular basis. But maybe I should just listen to her and try to instill some positivity into her mindset. That could work. Maybe. Potentially. When I’ve avoided calling her for long enough, she’ll call me, and that’s when the guilt kicks in. It should’ve been me to call her, because she’s the parent after all. Propriety, Confucian philosophy, societal expectations. What can I do? She’s already called me before I called her; it’d be even worse if I didn’t pick it up. So I pick up.
Sometimes she surprises me. She’ll have a good laugh over something in a movie on the television, that’s a common one, and I enjoy it because we can bond over that. Other times she’ll completely surprise me by casually suggesting that we go out to do something other than grocery or supply shopping. It shouldn’t surprise me too much, but it does. My aunt told me that they used go out shopping, go to the movies, go for car rides, etc. quite often as kids. Why didn’t that apply to my mother’s adulthood any? Or her motherhood any? It confuses me how it used to be so common in her childhood, but now it doesn’t seem to exist. You can’t just throw your past away like that, it follows you in life! She has so completely immersed herself into this… minimalistic-ish lifestyle that I do not know how to make her happy or enjoy a day in her life without it relating to some type of chore. I cannot buy a gift for her, because it’s either wasting money or it’s an ugly gift or she doesn’t ever use it/loses the gift, or something else! I’ve tried. These are the results of multiple years of trying to gift her. Things that make her “happy” are helping her buy groceries or going with her to buy them (in which time we may also grab snacks and drinks to bring home and enjoy at a later time), helping her sort her mail and potentially doing some phone calls to help her sort the paperwork that came in, doing the laundry. The thing is that she’s set up this whole image of self-sufficiency that honestly, what can anyone do to make her life fuller is the question. We try to do materialistic things, and she rejects them or loses them. We try to do abstract things like helping her do work chores, and we get zero thanks or appreciation (oh, but if we decide not to help after having helped her once before, it becomes a guilt storm where she yells at you and guilt trips you for not helping her anymore. It isn’t a duty or expectation, mom. It was the only choice we had left to try and make you “happy”).
How in the world do I show you that I do love you mom? I don’t know. Most of the time, my actions seem to say I don’t care, but it’s because of the whole environment that’s been set up. I do not want to work like a workaholic, and I don’t want to have to do that just to show her that I care. I can say I love you, mom once in a while, an awkward while, but I’m not sure how that’s getting to her. Probably it just makes her feel weird, the same weird I feel by saying it. Hugs, that’s just extra weird. Honestly, I can’t remember us having any gentle touches (i.e, hand on a shoulder, passing plates, sharing food) in the longest time. I remember once I even backed away because she got too close. That upset me, and I felt terrible for it. Every time we have a phone call, almost every time, I tend to zone out once she begins to complain. The problem is she doesn’t have anything else to talk about. I don’t know what to tell her about either because saying oh, I’ve been lazing about most of the day instead of being a productive worker like you, well, that just doesn’t sound like great conversation topic. My interests and her interests don’t overlap for the majority. I wish, I wish, I really wish I could express to her that I do care about her and I want to love her (do I love her? I think I do), but I don’t know how to do that.