I did a Google.com on the words "conservative parents" and was surprised that nothing gave me new insight. All I can ever find on the Internet are rants about people calling conversative parents "stupid" and "mindless" and "evil." That's not very constructive.
Google usually is my best friend when it comes to providing page upon page of insights into the most obscure questions I have. And I always have tons.
But this time there was nothing.
So I called Kavita for her insights, but she wasn't around, so I left her a message.
What do you do when the choices you make cross very sacred lines in the minds of the people who gave their entire lives for you?
I remember an angry phone call from my dad one night while I was at Brew Moon. He said, "I hear you're at a drinking place. I'm disappointed. I didn't raise you that way. I hear noise in the background. I don't know what they're doing." He said I was "carousing" and brought up a bunch of other disappointments, such as my choice months ago to explore other churches with liberal or middle-of-the-road theology. And to top it all off, I heard my mother wailing, most likely in tears, in the background.
It was tough to explain what was happening since no answer would quite cut it.
By most people's accounts, I'm very, very conservative in the way I approach living. I don't sleep around. I've never smoked a joint or done illegal drugs. I've never gotten drunk. I'm not carrying out an affair. I pay my taxes. I don't money launder.
But that's simply not enough to please parents who deep in their souls want to honor God and want their children to honor God, too. Any deviation from the teachings of my youth are considered to them a slap in their face, a dishonor to them, and most profoundly, a dishonor to God.
So these days, I live with a great degree of discretion. If I do something that I know would disappoint my parents, I simply never mention it. But sometimes, I feel a little sad - and even dishonest. All of this ducking and discretion makes my stomach curl.
About a year and a half ago, I tried my best to discuss my differences with my family, but it always turned into an emotional mess, and they always ended up feeling sorry for my waywardness. I hated feeling like a disappointment in their eyes. It's demoralizing. It really is, and I know they don't mean it to be that way.
After awhile, I sort of learned that I cannot convince them to understand where I'm coming from. All my explanations and deepness of breath were fruitless, thus a waste of energy. So I just sort of listened and didn't talk much when it came to issues of contention. However, my nonverbal cues and lack of participation sort of communicated my ideas nonetheless.
To be truthful, I don't blame my family for their actions one bit, since they are doing what they wholeheartedly believe. I cannot fault people for the sincerity with which they carry a belief. And, I know they deeply love me and want to rescue me. I know they love me and have the best intentions for me. Though I don't agree with them many times, I still want them to be happy believing whatever they believe. I want them to own their thoughts and be proud of them. In some ways, that's counterproductive to my personal comfort, yet I know how precious one's belief is, and I want to offer my respect the best I know how.
So, there is this battle that I carry around in my mind all the time. Today, my mom asked me "how was church?" The answer came easy, since I went to a fairly conservative church they would've loved if they attended. She seemed happy (or at least satisfied) and suggested that I go to Sunday School and network with other people my age.
But I won't be able to answer the same question the same way for the next few Sundays. I won't even be in church, or near a church. I can't get into great detail here, but the real plans would truly disappoint my family. They call me every week or almost every day to check up on me while I'm here in Boston. I appreciate their caring but sometimes resent how it encroaches on me, since I want freedom and the ability to happily choose where I am and the company I keep.
This situation makes me a little sad, since part of my journey to Boston was a personal search to feel liberation. I'm on the other side of the country, yet the stifled feeling still exists. And I know much of it has to do with how I've been managing the situation. Physical distance is not the cure-all. It's a personal choice to live how you want to live without apologizing.
I want it all, somehow. I want to keep a bridge to my family, feel a certain amount of intimacy and closeness. Yet, I want to keep being who I am. And, at the moment who I am saddens them.
I've decided that feeding them changes slowly makes the most sense. I've already fed them some of the more "dealable" differences. Their adjustment to those were very difficult for them and me. But things seem calm now, for the most part. And I do know that some things are simply better left unsaid, if they're minor enough. But there are some things I simply cannot hide, over the long haul anyway, and I'm certain those things will break their hearts.Posted by ruth at July 21, 2002 08:15 PM