I have to remember that I am not talking to a woman who is mentally well. For nearly her entire life, she’s suffered from debilitating anxiety, paranoia, mistrust, and depression. A “sad salad” if you will. Normally, a conversation like this wouldn’t affect me as much, and I can safely say that I can walk away from a tough conversation nowadays pretty unscathed. But the person I have been chatting with for the past ten minutes is my mother.
She started the conversation on an unassuming Monday morning yelling into the phone with her Filipina-American accent, “WE JUST CALLED TO MAKE SURE YOU WERE STILL ALIVE! YOU HAVE TO CALL US TO ONCE IN A WHILE!” Little does she realize, I can go without talking on the phone with her or my father for months at a time but it’s not a two-way street. I have to pick up the phone, post on her Facebook timeline, make an effort to calm her down so she doesn’t freak out and jump to conclusions about me being raped, conned, given a terminal diagnosis, and heaven forbid, eating too many carbs and meat!
I worry about my parents a lot- Mom more so these days. My Mom always, always tells me, instead of getting angry, just “kill them with niceness”. While that motto has served me well sometimes–– I’ve been able to get out of tense conversations about subjects like politics and racism with the phrase, “Well, if we can all learn to just see past color and be open to new ideas I think we would be okay as a society”–– I can’t help but think it could also adversely bury the anger and resentment you are feeling at the time. That frustration then builds and builds and builds and could eventually become the impetus for dealing with unaddressed, pent-up emotions.
As I quickly approach my 40’s, I find solace in the fact that I am just now starting to understand why people act out or say things the way that they do, including my elusive parents who worked their whole lives to pursue the “American Dream” and have American-born children. It doesn’t mean I am an expert on social understanding by any means. I just wish there was a class for that back in the 90’s. I have a working title–– Life Management. Or wait–– Not Killing Them With Niceness: A Field Guide to Life. I think I might just be onto something…