Wednesday, October 29, 2008

She's Got Psychic Powers

Dear SGF,
My husband won't change. What can I do?
Your Mom

Dear Mom,
Wait, Mom? Oh hi Mom. Yes, your husband won't change, I know that. Since he is not my father (that's one blessing I can count today), I think it's time you left him. For good. And not because he's not my father either. But mostly because I know that if I asked him how many years he thinks he can get away with calling you those mean names, he would respond with a big smile. A big creepy, yellow UK teeth grin. So I believe it's time to reevaluate the likelihood of him changing. Didn't you two have a food fight sometime ago? Like back when you were 65 yrs. old? I know your cousin, Psychic Fred, told you that "yellow grin" (quotations mean nickname) was going to kick the proverbial bucket. Soon. But remember when Fred wanted to "feel" my earring? He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed that sterling silver hoop until his joints got rusty and then he told me that I was psychic after which he said that my future husband would be wearing a military uniform at our wedding. Mom, I thought I was going marry Colin Powell. Fred told me so. And Fred said it was going to be soon. But as you well know, some years later, I found my soul mate in an Anthropology Professor. Who's even better looking and smarter than Colin, if you can imagine. It was during this earring reading though that I remembered only 5 years prior he told you to hang in there with your marriage because your husband's heart was going to give out. Soon. Thing is, it's been 15 years now. Meanwhile, Mom, your husband has yelled at you, spit at you, swung at you, and done other things "at you" the likes of which I don't care to know
. So Fred was wrong again. But he was right about one thing: I am psychic. At least when it comes to situations such as this. While I believe people can change, I believe that desire has everything to do with how and to what extent they do change. Your husband has no desire, Mom. None. And since you're still with him, maybe you don't want to change either. Maybe it's me that wants to think you want a change. No, not the Barack Obama kind of change. You already believe BHO is with some kind of terrorist cell. But a personal change. A change in how you see yourself, your worth, your value. Maybe all of that is my desire, not yours. Which leads me to a new word in this response, Mom. And that word is agency.

We all have agency. Yellow grin has agency so it's not your responsibility to try and change him. And you have agency so it's not your responsibility to try to change him. See how that works? We are responsible for ourselves, our own thoughts, our own actions, our own food fights. No one can take that away. That's the thing about desire coupled with change, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

That said, I wish you all the best in your endeavor to maneuver through the art of agency. It's a toughie and one that I'm learning to grapple with, even as I watch you to practice yours.
Love Always,
Your daughter,

A note to my readers: Embedded in this letter are issues related to parentification (child becomes parent figure for their mother and/or father) and enmeshment (child and parent do not have clear boundaries). Both issues are all too common and can be the cause of familial and individual distress. Believe me, I know. And those will be the topics of another post another time. I promise.