This article is going to get into the nitty-gritty of how relationships evolve as we evolve as individuals. It will focus on the relationship I share with my mother. It’ll also talk about going after what you want and succeesing through consistency.
I enjoy being honest with my readers; I write about both my successes and my failures. In the interest of honesty, I am compelled to write about my relationship with my mother, which has been under some strain over the last four years. This is a complex subject to write about and I will do my best to tell the story in an unbiased form.
So if you want to learn about how our relationships with our parents present us with rich opportunities to learn about ourselves, I invite you to read the whole article.
My Mother and Me
First things first, I love my mother – she is the angel God put on this world for me. All I am is because of her.
Throughout my childhood, my mother worked a full-time corporate job. Every weekday she would return home from work tired and would manage to find the energy to be a loving mother to me and my brother. Through her love my mother showed both us that we were the biggest blessings in her world.
That’s the divine purpose of every mother. To show her children that they are loved as they are. To show them that God (or the universe, if you want) loves them.
Through her love, my mother convinced me that I deserved the best, just for being me. She convinced me that I never had to settle for anything other than living my most heartfelt and genuine life. Thanks to my mother’s love, I knew in my heart that I was here for something special. I didn’t know that consciously, but I felt it, deep within.
So in 2017 when I found myself living a life which didn’t resonate with my heart, I changed it. I started making different choices.
It wasn’t easy. Making different choices meant walking away from professional and financial security. But I was deeply unhappy were I was and I knew in my heart that there was more to my life than working a job I disliked and feeling chronically unsatisfied. You can read about it here.
Today I know that it’s our perception of things which determines how happy we are. But I didn’t know that then, so I chose to leave everything behind and start again. Sometimes we need massive change to update our perspective.
My New Choices Strained My Relationship With My Mother
Until then, I had unconsciously followed the path she had unconsciously laid out for me over the years. My mother grew up poor – she ardently wanted me and my brother to live financially abundant lives.
What parent doesn’t want the best for their children?
But my mother wanted me to live the life she envisioned for me. She unconsciously guided me to make the choices she approved of. Parents do this without knowing it, believing they are acting in their children’s best interest. Parents fill their children with their own unfulfilled dreams; my mother dreamed of being a skilled and respected executive in a renowned company.
This is why I want to accomplish at least some of my dreams before I become a father. How can a father guide a child towards living their best life if the father hasn’t done so for himself?
So when I left my job (I was a graduate student in chemistry), my mother immediately began worrying over my future. She wanted what was best for me; now that I was making choices she didn’t understand it made her fearful. We fear what we don’t understand. Up until I left my PhD my mother had understood all of my choices, from her point of view. My choices made sense to her.
But now they didn’t, and that made her afraid for me.
How My Mother Expressed Her Fear
She would tell me “When I was your age all I wanted to do was work!” and “If I had had the education you did I would not hesitate to get a job!” and “How about you get a job in the United States in your field for a few years, save up money to invest it and then you can do what you want?”
My mother wanted me to follow the path she wanted out of fear. She was worried about my future, so when I began drifting from the path she understood she immediately began offering solutions that she understood; to direct me back towards where she wanted me to go. But living through fear means settling. I was done with living through fear. I wanted to live a life I loved, not a life that was “good enough”.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted! But I knew that what my mother wanted for me wasn’t it. And I knew getting another job would mean ignoring the root cause of my professional dissatisfaction, which was self-ignorance. Insanity is repeating the same choices expecting a different result.
I had to discover what I really wanted. And to do that I had to know myself better. Want to succeed but don’t know where to start? Start with knowing yourself.
Without knowing ourselves we can’t make choices which are true to ourselves.
So I began choosing to know myself. I began reading, meditating and writing. I then moved to Europe to live with the woman I loved. There, I started teaching languages privately; I became my own boss – all of these things were new choices which began showing me who I was and what I wanted.
My mother didn’t understand them – that made her fearful.
My Mother’s Fear Was Understandable
To be fair to my mother, she and my father paid for 20+ years of the best schooling they could afford. They then supported me until I “found my feet” in graduate school (I hadn’t really found my feet, I was good at pretending I had).
My mother wanted me to show results; to prove that I could live a happy, productive life in modern society as a grown man. She wanted me to show her that I could and would live a good life once she was gone from this Earth.
But that wasn’t what she was seeing. She was watching me fall apart. But sometimes we need to fall apart so we can recreate ourselves anew.
I Failed At Adulthood
Being an adult means experiencing the full consequences of your choices. I tried being an adult from 2013 to 2017 (after graduating college). I failed. I had little idea of what I was doing. I hadn’t learned what I needed to learn to live a good life. I was undisciplined, unfocused and lazy. Laziness is essential to uncommon material success, but you need to know how to use it, otherwise it destroys you.
I didn’t know how to use laziness. I blindly coasted along. I fell prey to the low pleasures our civilization has to offer.
And I had no clue it was happening.
My boat was rudderless and I was caught in a raging ocean of temptations. Temptations which drew my time and creative energy and left me drained, living an unsatisfying life. I was being an adult; I made the choices, so I experienced the full consequences.
The consequences of my choices were a dull, repetitive and disempowered life. I was frustrated with myself, but I didn’t realize how I had created my own life through my choices. Working a job you hate, and then directing your remaining time and energy to engaging in low pleasures, like alcohol and cheap entertainment, serves to bury you in a rut.
That’s what I did for several years. Until I quit digging.
Quitting Meant Letting Things Fall Apart
At the end of 2017 I admitted defeat. I quit. I retreated home with my tail between my legs.
I went back to live with my parents in Mexico for six months. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, but I knew there had to be something. As a child I had never envisioned my life being a repetition of the same day for 40 years while working a job I hated. Why had I wound up living like that?
Something had to change; I had to understand why I had wound up where I had.
So I made it my job to understand. To know myself. So that I could make new choices which would lead me where I wanted to go. God was working in my life, even though I didn’t know it.
While I was in Mexico my parents supported me. They understood my situation, somewhat. But my mother wasn’t fully convinced, she was certain I was throwing my life away. She let me know it whenever fear got the better of her. She told me that if I had gaps in my resume no one would want to hire me. She also told me she didn’t know what she and my father had done wrong to raise me so terribly.
My mother never expected for her son to quit his PhD program at a top institution – which he had worked so hard to earn – in order to retreat from the world and begin meditating and reading for most of the day! And she certainly didn’t expect for him to leave the American continent to do who-knows-what in Europe while living with a woman she had never met!
But in 2017 that’s what was happening. And it caused great tension in our relationship.
Fear Was Speaking Through My Mother
I took her words, knowing they were coming from a place of fear. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt.
And so the tension between me and my mother was born.
This tension, although unprecedented, never blinded us to the love we shared. We loved the other and that wouldn’t change. But when we were together we were sometimes incapable of giving the other space to be.
I wanted to change my mother and she wanted to change me.
Whenever we want to change another person we are acting through the ego – the ego seeks to preserve itself by making the world (and its people) conform to it. When we live through the ego we are incapable of giving others space. The ego has its uses – it’s essential to keeping us alive and directing our creative energies; but if we want to have genuine relationships we must put the ego aside, otherwise we will use our energies to attempt to change others for our purposes, and people don’t like that.
Have you ever been with someone who wanted to change you? How would you describe it? Probably not positively.
It’s interesting, to my awareness, my mother is the only one I ever struggle to give space to. She has told me that I’m her harshest critic. And it’s true!
At the same time, she’s the only one capable of pushing my buttons and frustrating me to no end. She’s also my harshest critic.
Parental relationships truly are some of the best vehicles to spiritual growth. Our parents can draw up deep traumatic patterns which no one else can; and vice versa. We can choose to fall prey to the patterns and repeat them endlessly or learn what they have to teach us.
I choose to learn from them.
What I Realized While Living With My Parents In 2021
While living in Mexico with my parents in 2021, I realized my ego wanted to change my mother so that she could understand why I made the choices I did. The ego believed that by changing her in the way it wanted to she would accept me again. Which is crazy, but there it is.
As a law, when we are incapable of giving another person space, frictions emerge. How we handle those frictions will determine how the relationship changes. I dentifying with the ego by refusing to listen, inflexibility and being uncompromising to the other person’s point of view will lead the relationship to dissolution. Putting the ego aside and listening to the other, engaging with their point of view and negotiating will allow the relationship to evolve.
Our frictions were triggered by certain subjects; school, work, money, the past, the present and the future.
We Were (And Are) Both Responsible For The Tension
I was responsible for wanting to change my mother. My mother was responsible for wanting to change me. We both wanted to change the other and would get angry when we failed, which was always. We would get into arguments; each trying to convince the other he/she was right.
This had never happened before, because I had been unconsciously making the choices my mother wanted me to make! My choices aligned with my mother’s ego. And to be fair, many of those choices were true to my heart, but not all of them, especially not the ones related to personal freedom.
I love freedom. Every human does, whether they know it or not. Our spirit seeks to express itself without bounds – by living in a way that denies that expression we begin to hate ourselves. We can never love life when we engage in self-hate, because all love originates from self-love. And since our selves are part of God, all love emerges from love of God.
Since 2017, I’ve learned I cannot stand being subject to a boss who gets to decide what I can and cannot do with my time. My mother had always envisioned me as a successful employee in a Fortune 500 company – throughout my life she guided me to make the choices which would make me a successful employee.
But I’m A Terrible Employee
I get frustrated when I make money for an employer, rather than benefiting from all of the fruits of my work. Whenever I was an employee, there was an incessant feeling in the back of my awareness – it was resentment, which I harbored toward myself, for not believing I wasn’t clever/capable enough to create my own enterprise and run my own show.
In my heart I wanted me to be my own man – to use my time and energy in the way I wanted to. But I had no idea how; all school had ever taught me was how to be an employee. I was undisciplined, I refused to take risks and I was unaware of my creative power. You can’t be your own man/woman when you embody those qualities!
It was quite the pickle.
It was my mother who taught me to never settle for anything less than the best, to live my life genuinely! She did this through her love, which she showered me with for all of my life. If my mother hadn’t loved me and had taught me instead to be indifferent to my heart, I would have accepted living an indifferent life.
She taught me to always follow my heart.
To me, that was running my own show and being free (or as free as I could be). But I didn’t know how to do that in 2017.
And at the same time, my mother was the one who taught me to be an employee!
It was this conflict playing out within me – wanting to do my own thing but only knowing how to depend on an employer for employment – that manifested in the tension between my mother and me.
We are working to resolve the tension to this day.
What About My Dad?
You might be wondering where my dad was throughout all this. He was mostly around on weekends. He provided for our family financially and was checked out emotionally. We rarely bonded, and that certainly left me feeling confused, because it’s a father who teaches a boy how to be a man.
I’m not writing this for sympathy, I’m just being honest. God (life) has taught me what my father wasn’t around to teach me and more. What does a father teach? I like the phrase “Mothers stroke and fathers poke” – our mother teaches us to love ourselves and to be happy with who we are; our father teaches us to go out into the world and get what we want. I’ve noticed that boys who were raised with a sparse fatherly relationship tend to not know what they want, and because of that they lack focus and discipline. I know this firsthand.
The love of both parents is necessary to raise a responsible, healthy and happy adult. I don’t know if parental love can be replaced or not. I recommend reading “A General Theory of Love” by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon , “Born for Love”, by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, “The Social Animal” by David Brooks and “Man Disconnected” by Philip Zimbardo for more on this subject.
I Was Blessed – And You Were Too!
I was blessed to have my mother’s overflowing love, and my father’s financial support and occasional presence, that was enough for me. Some people have neither parent and still manage to grow into happy, healthy adults against all odds. Others have both parents and end up destitute and forlorn. Goes to show we’re all unique. Although I believe the more love you receive as a child the more likely you are to become a fulfilled adult.
We’re all born into a unique set of opportunities and challenges. What determines our success is how well we take advantage of our opportunities and how we respond to our challenges. It’s the combination of wielding our opportunities to meet our challenges that leads to the highest expression of our potential. Ignoring our opportunities while being resentful of our challenges keeps us locked into victimhood.
The choice is always ours.
Suffice to say, both my parents did the best they could for me and I am everything I am because of them. Nothing I can ever do will repay what they’ve done for me. I am grateful every day for their gifts. I am living my best life now because of them.
And for now, my mother and I are working on our tension.
What Five Months Living Together With My Mother Were Like
I am profoundly grateful to God for the time my mother and I got to share in Mexico in 2021. I will only ever have one mother, the time we get to share is a precious gift.
This remains true despite the tensions which occasionally emerged. Without fail, they emerged when one of us said something the other disagreed with, like when I said “All school teaches you is to be an employee” or when she said something like “If today I saw your resumé in the application pile, I wouldn’t hire you”.
My mom and dad both paid for the best schooling they could for me, so you can imagine how she feels when I disparage school (don’t be fooled though, mosts schools are indoctrination camps). For my part, I am doing the best I can to craft a professional life I’m happy with (running my own business), so you can imagine how I feel when she underestimates my professional capacities.
We each have our egos and we want the other to conform to it. The way we navigate frictions will determine the future of our relationship.
And We Made Progress!
From what I observed over the five months I lived in Mexico, we made progress in resolving our tensions. There were times of intense friction, when we both needed to identifying with our ego and listen.
We did that. I listened to my mother and she listened to me. We didn’t end up agreeing with anything, ever, but we did listen. The more we listen to someone, even if we don’t agree, the more we understand the other’s point of view.
The five months of living with my mother and listening to her allowed me to see things her way, while remaining true to my values. She wants me to be happy and live in plenty, to be a contributing member of society who holds responsibilities. That’s what I want, too.
What’s at issue is how that is accomplished. My mother has her ideas of how to do so, which she arrived at through her experience. I have my own ideas, which I’ve arrived at through deep introspection, self-analysis and experimentation.
But my mother is now open to my new choices, even though she doesn’t full understand them.
She told me that even though she doesn’t understand my choices, she believes I’m making something new which she has no idea about.
And that showed me that even though she doesn’t fully agree with my beliefs and might never do so, she’s open to seeing where this leads.
And that’s wonderful, our relationship has evolved! We both put our egos aside to listen to the other. We both did our part. And part of what I did was to go after what I really wanted.
Go For What You Really Want!
I believe my choices will lead me to fulfill my highest potential, because for the first time as an adult I’m clear on what I want professionally and I have the focus and drive to get it done. For the first time as an adult, I am disciplined at doing my work. This is a 180 degree turn from where I was four years ago.
We all have the capacity to focus and be disciplined, what keeps us from doing so is believing we can’t accomplish what we really want – in other words, settling. When we settle, we shoot ourselves in the foot. If our goals don’t excite us, how will we have the energy and focus to accomplish them? We won’t.
When we go for what we really want we accept no excuses – we become unstoppable.
- Go for the lifestyle you want.
- Go for the income you want.
- Go for the woman/man you like.
Believing you can is the first step. Have faith that God provides.
I’ll tell you my heartfelt professional goal. To do meaningful work for around 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, nine months a year and have an income which grants me freedom. I can already see it taking shape around me.
As you can see, my goal has nothing to do with a title or fame or having power over others. It has to do with money – money is a means to an end, the end is freedom. Freedom is what excites me, it gives me the drive to keep going.
Today, I am way closer to that goal than I was 4 years ago. What if I’d never started? Most people never start, and out of those few who do, most give up after a while.
Final Thoughts – Just Don’t Quit!
A huge key to success in anything is simply not quitting. It isn’t even always giving it your all. Most of it is showing up and going through the motions until success happens one day. Consistency is the mother of mastery.
I read about an Olympic weightlifting coach who said that the champions in the sport are those who can go through the same boring repetitions day in and day out.
Yes, some parts of work can and will be boring. What matters is whether you find meaning in the boredom, like the Olympic weightlifter who finds meaning in doing endless repetitions to become an Olympic champion.
The difficult part is showing up consistently – that’s what separates the successes from the failures. It’s so simple and yet it’s the hardest thing to do. But if you do it, success is guaranteed. Of course, the more competition there is for what you want (an Olympic medal) the more work it will take. And the more creative you are, the less you will have to compete.
So whatever it is you want to accomplish, don’t quit! Keep going, even if it’s just a little each day. You’ll see how your goals materialize if you stick to it.
To our wealth and success.