Carolyn Hax: Accepting Mom for who she is — and isn’t

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 6, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

A recent column about family really hit home. For years I’ve been trying to make my relationship with my mom better, always hoping that if I just tried harder and did more she would love me and accept me. We’ve had some wonderful times but it’s always been a roller coaster.

I finally hit rock bottom with her and feel like I need to let go of the mom I want her to be and accept her for who she is and grieve that loss, but make the most of what I do have. Any book recommendations? I will be pursuing therapy. I think it’s a must.

Accepting


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

I’m sorry for your disappointment, but it sounds as if you have a lot of good things ahead of you now — the inherent benefit in “rock bottom.”

The first book I thought of was “Anywhere but Here” by Mona Simpson. A novel probably isn’t the type of book you had in mind, but it’s Difficult Mom Distancing immersion.

Another offbeat offering that I suspect will hit the spot is the movie “Ruby in Paradise,” starring a young Ashley Judd in the kind of role I wish she had stuck to. It’s a pitch-perfect take on the transition from a life where others let you down to a life where you come through for yourself. It’s lovely, really, and that’s not a word I typically use with a straight face.

Dear Carolyn:

Do you think people should go to their high school reunions? I skipped my 10th and there were people in my life who genuinely couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing. I had a former co-worker tell me to definitely go to my 20th.

I just don’t see any reason to go. I’m not curious about anyone. I was bullied. And I would only go to be a braggy braggerson (”I live in New York City now and celebrities and musicians know my name and say hi to me!”) and their responses would all be, “How many kids do you have and how big is the house you own because those are our measures of success.” I just don’t see the point.

Anonymous

Some “genuinely couldn’t understand why I would do such a thing”: Really? People capable of seeing things only one way are automatically suspect. Reunions are strictly a matter of personal experience and preference.

That said: If you are going only to brag and judge, then it’s still too early to go. Go when you don’t give a [road apple] what people think of you. That’s when you’re open to seeing how much better people can get after life throws them around a bit.

Now, some jerks are absolutely immune to seeing themselves for who they really are — but I think by the 25th, many will surprise you for having gotten over themselves.

Meanwhile, it can be cathartic to talk to people who shared your past and shaped your present. Consider going not to catch up with classmates you haven’t thought about in X decades, but to learn more about you.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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