Welcome, chickies, to Open Mic Friday! Every week we have a featured “reading” in the body of this post. Applause and other feedback go in the comments, where you’re also welcome to share your own work. The comments are threaded, which means you can reply directly to each reader by hitting the “reply” button within that comment box.
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Today I joyfully present to you this thoughtful piece by Willona Sloan, one of my fellow VONA writers. Put your hands together!
Don’t Be Such a Whiny Baby by Willona Sloan
Last week, I went on my first ever road trip with my mother. It was first time we got in the car going somewhere other than my grandmother’s house in Raleigh, or a funeral or Costco.
My mother inherited a timeshare in Williamsburg, VA, and she allows me to use one of the weeks ever year. When I do use the timeshare––which I didn’t this year––I typically cash in my week at a beachfront resort in some exotic locale where my friend and I drink margaritas, take poolside salsa lessons, and shop for silver jewelry and handmade pottery. But this year, my mother had an extra week in the bank that she desperately wanted to use rather than lose and couldn’t get my dad on board for a second vacation. I told her to let it go, she said she’d think about it. A couple weeks later she called me and asked, “So, do you want to bond with your mom?”
In my (almost) 35 years I cannot remember my mother ever saying that to me. It’s not that we’re sword clashing warrior women exactly, but we have definitely have had our differences––our very, very, loud differences. I would say that I am pretty quick to rise to anger, which often results in a lot of crazy style yelling. I’d also say that I learned this communication style from my mom who would probably vehemently deny it.
As I have matured, I have struggled to manage my anger and keep it a level suitable for human contact. A couple years ago, my mother informed me that she had relaxed, eased up, taken it down a notch. I didn’t believe her, I said. Every time she said something to me she seemed to still be attacking me. Wasn’t she?
Since my adolescence, I have taken it on as my sworn duty to dissect my mother’s every comment and each helpful *suggestion,* ripping out their flawed logic and exposing their hidden motives. But why was it necessary to assail the woman who had birthed me, sacrificed endlessly for me, and sat up nights in a hard chair while I wheezed asthmatic breathes until the sun rose?
Lately, I’ve been going through a life change. I’ve come to understand what it means to choose happiness. And it’s a lot of hard work. To create my own happiness I must put out into the universe what I want to receive: love, respect, patience, creativity, kindness, hope, and warmth. And so, I am working on how I interact with and react to other people, especially those I love. I need to listen, pause, think, digest, and then react.
Therefore, in the case of communicating with my mother during our 4-day journey to Colonial Williamsburg––where we would have no referee or warning looks from my father––I decided to treat myself like a bawling infant who had just fallen down. Usually when a baby falls, whether she’s hurt or not you tell her, “You’re fine” because even if she is really hurt (which she usually isn’t) she’ll live through it.
So, I decided as I rolled my suitcase to the Metro station where I would ride the train out to meet my mother, that whatever she said to me, before I rose up on my hind legs, I would just do the baby test, and ask myself, “Am I fine? Am I fine? Is this worth making my mother cry silently and replay the conversation over and over and over in her hand wondering where our bonding excursion had failed?” I would just take a step back and think before yelling or feigning indignation.
And the strangest thing happened. A couple hours into our trip, baby test and all, I realized something truly fascinating. My mother is actually quite a lovely person.
Willona is a writer and daughter based in Washington, D.C. She runs the arts, culture and creativity focused blog, DC Scorpiongirl.
Give it up for Willona! The comments are open!