You Probably Need a Will, So Here's How to Have That Potentially Awkward Conversation with Your Family
Remember, if you die without a will, the state will determine who inherits
I should begin with this. I read the headline of this story to my mom just now and she sharply exhaled, laughed and said, "Oh you little muckraker."
Then I read her the subhead. "I don't know, though, is that really your job, Mandy? A lot of these other people are writing about the pro's and con's of nail polish."
Oh man does my mom make me laugh.
So I'm trying to find a way to write about this without estranging myself to every person in my life -- OK, mainly my mom -- so good luck to me on that one.
Here's what happened. I misunderstood my mother when she told me I could write about certain aspects of my childhood and her obsessive compulsive disorder. What she was actually giving me was permission to work through these details she told me about at the psychodrama workshop I recently attended, and, as she said after the fact: The details she provided me were intended as a private matter between the two of us.
Unfortunately -- which is what led to our fight -- what I remember her saying was something along the lines of: "Of course you can always explore this area. It's your life. It's your story."
I remember feeling so grateful for that at the time. For whatever anyone may think by reading a couple blog entries here and there, you know very little about my life. "What?" you may be saying. "You're crazy! You are the ultimate oversharer, Mandy." Except not really. In actuality, I am the keeper of other people's secrets -- perpetually. Men do not want me to write about them. Family members do not want me to write about them. People I work with sometimes do not even want me to write about them.
Yeah, it's pretty awesome.
But you know what I can guarantee? Click, click, click. Everyone wants it. The airing of the laundry that we are not supposed to air.
Normally, I always read everything to people to get their OK, but in this case, I misunderstood my mom. I honestly thought she was saying I did not need to get tiptoe blanket permission in this area. But, she felt violated. I understand this. And I apologize.
So now -- let's give this my best shot to write around, dance around, tiptoe around anything that could upset anyone -- except for me of course. I am here. Destroy me and say how I suck. I signed up for this, others did not.
Last week, when I wrote about growing up as a bedwetter on xoJane, I did not follow my normally careful procedural process because I thought I had already received the permission I needed. Instead, I concentrated on summoning up the courage to write about my experience with the fool's errand bravado of someone who needed to capture her gut -- at. that. moment. -- and the recovered pain that was bubbling up under the subconscious. And really, to do it before I chickened out.
I felt so much gratitude that my mom, who I am quite close to usually, gave me the go-ahead. But she didn't. In fact, she said she felt betrayed by my inclusion of some of the details with which she had shared.
In fact -- and here's where the genesis of the fight really began -- she tried to write a comment saying how she felt betrayed by me on xoJane. My heart sunk when she told me this.
"Oh my God, mom," I said, "please don't do that. Mom, that's the last thing I need right now. Do you know what people do on the Internet? They screengrab that stuff and then write about it on other websites. You have no idea what the Internet is like. There are people who actually go so far as to even make fun of YOU and your freaking card-making out there, and really, the last thing I want is to start some public fight on xoJane about me betraying you as a daughter. Please call me next time. Please? Don't try to leave a comment."
Thankfully, my mom's comment did not post.
To make things right with her, I went ahead and deleted the sentence from my story that had offended her, the private detail she had mentioned to me that she felt I exploited and exaggerated, and moved on. "Mom," I said, still trying to underscore why I felt so unsettled by what was going down, "my life is pretty filled with stress right now, and I need you to promise me that you will come to me directly please. Are you going to go on my Facebook next and start saying that I betrayed you there?"
She was still angry. "I won't promise anything to anyone anymore. I'm no patsy," my mom said.
"Then I will have to block you from Facebook, mom. I just cannot deal with that stress in my life right now, OK?"
"Fine," she said. "Do it."
And I did.
Then I agonized.
I am immature and childish and very filled with rage at times. I am an imperfect human being with some good qualities, a lot of good qualities I like to think, but what drives me deep down at my core is an animalistic desire to take care of myself when I feel trapped and threatened and ward off what I perceive to be DANGER DANGER DANGER. The last thing that the pit of my stomach needs right now in my life is public infighting with my mom on the Internet. Really. That's what I tried to explain to her. I tried to explain to her about some of the vitriol online, and how I did not want to introduce our relationship into that. Could she understand that?
But this issue -- the hilarity and insanity and stupidity and immaturity of me blocking my own mother on Facebook -- I haven't been able to get past wanting to write about and acknowledge this dumb act on my part. It's so absurd. So I did what I knew best: I called her tonight, a day after I had walked through and worked through some kind of a reconciliation peace with her so that we could become dumb old Facebook friends again -- and I asked if I could write about this awful horrible no-good very bad fight we had.
She answered the phone with her trademark wit, and said, "Hello, friend."
I laughed, and I told her that I was going to give writing about this a shot without pouring further salt on the wound. That I would try to write this in a way that she could stomach, that I could stomach, and then we would move on. Again.
Is it worth it? Offering up some kind of exhibitionist reality show of family drama for the commentariat to dissect and lambast and uphold and reflect upon? A lot of times, it is. Even now, as I type this, my gut gnarls relax a little, and in reading this aloud to my mom, it relaxes me a lot. Looking at things semi-squarely (as no one can ever look at things fully squarely lest all manner of relationships go fully and forever down the tube), it helps me. And sometimes, when I do it right, it can help others, too.
Maybe this is an open thread. Have you ever blocked a family member on Facebook? Are you as childish and ashamed as I am? Or did it maybe even help you out at that point in your life at that moment? Because I will tell you this: I am glad that my mom and I had the fight that we did.
Sometimes unloading anger in a somewhat safe space with someone who you love can have a healing and almost purging effect. Likewise, there is a peace and a strength in knowing that you will be OK when fights explode and emotions get gnashed, that the world will not be over.
That is my main point, probably. That we do not die when we share and when we feel our feelings. Because it sure can feel like it in the moment. Pain, grief, despair, disappointment, sadness are seemingly intolerable at times. I smoked two emotion-numbing cigarettes the day of my fight with my mom. Just numb that right out, baby.
When I did that psychodrama workshop, the therapist who led it stopped every recreated scene with a question. "Freeze," she would say and then turn to the person at the center: "How are you feeling right now? Mad, sad, glad, lonely, scared?"
I feel all of the above. But I'll add one more thing. I feel the opposite of numb.
I feel alive.
...Oh, and, "Here's the P.S.," my mother says after I have finished reading this to her.
"I'm so glad I learned what an open thread means."
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.