I am watching this television series called, Enlightened, starring Laura Dern. I have to say, this show makes me really uncomfortable, and yet I can’t stay away from it. Laura Dern’s character, Amy Jellicoe, reminds me of myself from a previous decade. But see, I empathize there. What really makes me get goosebumps are her colleagues and her mother, or really their relationship issues.
My colleagues, from a world I don’t associate with anymore, were just like hers, sweet to the face, and bitchy behind my back. I also had this tendency to be honest about things that didn’t seem right. I had these ideas about improving the workplace, and reporting people who didn’t seem right. I was no one’s wing man. And when the job was boring, or if I had finished the job I was meant to do, I asked if I could leave for the day. When things didn’t go my way, I would either move from one newsroom to the next or get kicked out. Story of my 20s. I also made the mistake of thinking that my colleagues were my friends. Whereas, the truth is, I had no social life because I was swamped in work. Slowly resulting in a breakdown, and alienating myself from friends, nay, colleagues, who wanted nothing more to do with me. I was Amy Jellicoe.
Since I no longer work in an office, and have realized I am not meant to lead a 11 am to 11 pm lifestyle, I now try and find things to do I enjoy. God knows, I try everyday, and as much as some people think I am doing nothing, I have been trying to re-invent myself. This process of re-inventing one’s life is not easy, for one, where do you start? Ok, let me start doing all the things I like. I can certainly do that, and try while I am at it, to not feel guilty that I am now dependent on my husband who has never whispered a word about me not earning. I can say I am lucky there. And then, while I am trying to regain my self-esteem and not be haunted by the ghosts of my past decade, how do I deal with the many friends and family who would like to know what I am doing now? That’s always a great opening line to a conversation. What are you doing now? As in, you are defined by your profession, so please explain so that we may classify you as an individual and bookmark the details of your life for later reference. Frankly, I also have realized these and many more are the people I really don’t need to explain to. Still, society can catch up and prick my ego. This is another similarity between me and Amy. The more you try to stand up as your new self, the more you find resistance from those who knew you before your inner transformation.
And then, the parents issue. In this series, Amy is trying to deal with her mother whom she has just moved back in with. Her mother and her never seem to get along, and her dad died 20 years ago. Amy and her mother can’t seem to understand each other, they don’t speak the same language. Amy is divorced, but still hangs out with her husband, who is an alcohol addict and a substance abuser. In an episode climax, he lashes out at Amy’s mother saying that Amy has been fighting the void her entire life, the void of parental love, that he tried but he could never replace what she wanted the most – the love of her mother.
I still face these issues with my mother, and I have tried a lot of things to get over this void. Therapy, meditation, self-help groups, drama therapy, the works. If you know something else that could help, let me know on this space. In the TV series, it is after her divorce and meltdown and almost getting fired from work that Amy discovers meditation. In that way, I am lucky. I went to see a therapist four, maybe five years ago. There was a lot of re-parenting that he had to do, to change my patterns of thinking. It was literally like learning to walk. And my therapist’s biggest gift to me – Vipassana. He didn’t call it that then, because somehow the term ‘meditation’ just put me off, but he taught me the technique anyway right under my nose! I have a lot of issues and am still working through them, but today at least, what I have are tools to help me in moments of distress, jealousy, anger, loneliness and deep, deep sorrow.
And like Amy, who also flies into her neurotic, obsessive old self and then recovers in a snap to remember, that it is okay to let go, to breathe and forgive, I too have felt this. Watching this television series made me remember. Sometimes it teaches me, even though I practice meditation every day. In the second last episode of the first season, it’s all about Amy’s mother, who has her own ghosts to deal with – a husband who committed suicide, a son-in-law who blames her for undoing her daughter forever, a friend from many years ago who now shows her pictures of happy children and grandchildren, things around the house that remind her of a life from long ago, children’s chatter echoing from many years before. I felt bad for my own mother, and although in my head, I have forgiven her many times, I still fly into a rage when I remember what she did to me in my childhood. And then when I watch an episode like this, I remember that she got that way because of things that didn’t work out for her too – a tyrant mother, an absent father, a philandering husband, a condescending brother.
There is nothing else I can do where my mother is concerned, except to forgive her. I have tried to distance myself from her, I have used harsh words, I have tried sarcasm and I have made her jealous (not deliberately) by sharing better times with my father, who should have been our mutual enemy. All I can do, after watching Amy is to remind myself that my parents have a past too.
Sometimes, I wonder if we see our parents as this asexual, inanimate utility. You know, like a refrigerator with a lifetime warranty. It can’t break down, it’s got that shape because it stores all this food that it’s supposed to keep ready for us, if it doesn’t have the food we thought we kept in it the night before, we slam the door in anger. It has no eyes, ears or mouth. And we children, we are the humans, we are the ones with a soul that can break. If our fridge conks out, we should be able to replace it for free. But nobody else will take this old, weary, outdated fridge. Everyone has one of their own they are trying to get rid off. We’re stuck with it, and when we finally throw it away, memories of good times come flooding in.
It’s all I can do. Meditate, and remember that like Amy, I and many others have similar problems that we are all trying to resolve. That like the countless millions I will never meet, we all have our forgiving to do.