Heartbreaking, Joyful Inheritance

Yesterday turned out to be a good day (which was surprising, considering how it started).

After finishing my post, I got off my duff and went to the gym for the first time in more than a week. It was discouraging to see that I’d lost a lil’ bit of my edge — i.e. my target heart rate was reached at lower levels of effort than before — but it felt good to move (something I’d been blatantly avoiding).

I didn’t want to get on the scale (because I feared my week of fast food and junk snacks had gone directly to my thighs); but I did it anyway. It turns out, I’d put on less than half a pound. It wasn’t a loss; but it still felt like a win, all things considered.

I shared yesterday’s blog post with my husband — which he read while on the road to Phoenix — and it served as both an apology, and a window into what I was feeling. When he returned in the evening, he apologized for not having invited me to go with him, and gave me a great big bear hug. (I also later received a killer lower leg massage — to relieve pain from shin splints and plantar fasciitis — which Mitch excels at giving!)

But the true joy — and heartbreak — came with a visit from my son, Bug (a nickname that he’s had since he was a lil’ guy). A visit I was in a good mood for, thanks to my early morning efforts to sort myself out.

Bug inherited his quick, dry wit from Mitchell; and he can always make me laugh. After a time though, he grew a bit melancholy; and when I asked him what was troubling him, we had a long conversation about how his anxieties and Pure-O (a rare form of OCD) are affecting his relationship with his girlfriend.

The Sins of the Mother, Visited on the Son

As I’ve mentioned here before, I come from a long line of persons affected by mental illness (addiction, especially); and as such, I feel responsible for my son’s mental health afflictions. (He, too, has struggled with alcoholism.) It’s really hard to watch your child grapple with struggles similar to your own… and to be helpless when it comes to soothing the effects of their own mental health issues. The best I can do is to share my own experience with him; and often, it does little to quell his anxieties.

What I may not have mentioned before is that (in addition to being a lil’ nuts) I am a serial cheater — something that Bug and I have talked about, at length, in the past.

I have never been in a relationship in which I didn’t cheat. (Mitchell — thank the universe — is the only one that ever loved me enough to stick around in the aftermath of such deceit). As such, I taught Bug very early on to be wary of women and their wily ways. I thought it would serve to protect him; but instead, it planted a seed of mistrust in his partners — a mistrust that he carries with him to this day.

I apologized for this, as we conversed yesterday; and he explained that he appreciated our talks about sex and women, but that he also believed they started too soon. (I started talking to him about sex and relationships when he first started asking questions at around nine-years-old.)

I then told him that though I have loved him with an unbridled ferocity since he first lived in my body, his father and I were too young — and very ill-prepared — to be effective parents. To which, he gave me the killer smirk that I have always adored, and said, “No shit, Ma; but I know you did your best. You’ve gotten a lot better, by the way.” (Score! 😂)

As has he. Bug is a smart, funny, good looking, die-hard romantic (qualities that he inherited from all of us — me, his biological father, and Mitchell). He has struggled with addiction, and has managed to find a way to drink like “normal people” — for pleasure, and not for black-out escape. He has grown in maturity, has returned to school, and even bought dinner for Mitch and I last night (something I’ve never been able to do for my own parents 🤦🏻‍♀️).

His current girlfriend is also very different from his ex-partners. She’s wildly independent — both in spirit and finances — and she doesn’t seem to need him like the other’s have. (He’s very fond of a “project”, and is always try to fix people for the better.)

They’ve gotten very close; and Bug feels as if he’s finally “settling in” to their relationship. So when his girlfriend went on vacation this past week, Bug spiraled into a rabbit’s hole of fear and anxiety based on his previous relationship experiences. (i.e. “When she comes back, maybe she won’t want me any longer, Ma.”) But, as I pointed out to him, he was dealing with that anxiety in a much more healthy way than he would have chose to in the past.

I wasn’t able to soothe my child into a place of serenity (a curse of parenthood, if ever there was one); but I was able to help him sort his thoughts, and to examine whether or not his fears were justified. We talked about not viewing his current relationship through the lens of past experience; and by the end of the conversation, we had worked out the particulars of the conversation he hopes to have with his partner about his anxieties.

Bug was also able to cuddle up with Tocho-Bear (our rescue pup); and there has never been a stressor too large for our fuzzy lil’ guy to somewhat pacify.

The Best and the Worst of Us

We all inherit traits from our families; some of those traits are fantastic, and some of them far-less-so.

It’s disheartening to watch your child make the same mistakes that you did, and to be able to do nothing about them. It makes you heart-sore to hear him explain how your household and relationship dynamics have affected his own; and to not be able to provide advice on how to change said dynamics (because you’re still learning to navigate them yourself).

Becoming a parent also gives you a new perspective on your own parents. In my life, it has brought me closer to my folks; and I often call them up just to apologize for having done to them what my child now does to me (a curse and a blessing bestowed upon all children who have their own child).

Bug has taught me the power and freedom of forgiveness. When we fight, we fight as my parents and grandparents did before me — with passion, and (sometimes cruel) honesty; but we also bounce back more quickly, and we don’t harbor resentment toward one another.

I have learned more from my child than I probably taught… and I look forward to the next obstacle that allows us both to grow in some positive way (as yesterday surely did).

Soundtrack: “The Greatest” by James Blunt

For Bug… who has surpassed my dreams and expectations in every way.

“I feel that you deserve a chance to know the truth and to be better than…

…and people will try
To take you down too
But if I was a betting (wo)man, I’d put all my money on you…”