“It’s not always about you.” That was and continues to be one of my mother’s most famous lines – constantly reminding her spoiled and often self-centered only child (ME), that this world doesn’t revolve around her (GASP!). In reality, only children or not, many of us become all consumed by the importance of our own lives. It is a normal human response to a normal human condition; we are generally governed by our egos.
Wikipedia defines “Ego” as a Latin and Greek word meaning “I”, often used in English to mean the “self” or “identity”. It’s not such a negative concept, except when it clouds our ability to understand “others” and see our place in the bigger-picture context of the universe. This lesson has never been so clear as it is today, in this moment, as I sit alone in my mother’s house while she is battling some debilitating symptoms in the hospital as a result of the ugly C-word. I flew home from Argentina to be with her, mentally justifying my trip because she “needed” me here to take care of her (not that it required any justification). But the reality is that this trip was just as much, if not more, for me as it was for her. It pains me to admit it, but it was in large part fulfilling some kind of egotistical desire of mine to feel needed and useful. However, when I arrived, I realized that my presence, while helpful and definitely appreciated, is not what lights up my mother’s face and makes her days of laying in a hospital bed any easier. I can admit with both envy and some relief (two recognizable ego-driven emotions), that my mother has someone else in her life that comes in first.
I am her daughter and I know in my heart that my mother would do anything for me, but I am learning to accept that I am on my journey, living my dream in Argentina (which she has always supported 100%), and she is on her journey, living her life with her friends in her own dream city. Now that journey has steered her down a bumpy road, and her satisfying my childlike desire to feel like the center of her world has taken a back seat. Her prerogative is to focus on herself and her recovery – as it should be – and if that means that I do less talking, more listening, and open my heart to the person that is most important to her right now, that is what I must commit to doing.
At times it is a tough pill to swallow. Initially I didn’t want to accept this person in her life, the first person since divorcing my father, and I consciously built up an emotional wall with the intent of keeping him out. But seeing how much joy he brings my mother in her weakest and probably one of the most difficult times of her life has made me realize that I am fighting a loosing battle. If I want a place at all, be it first or second, I must embrace him and what he brings to the person I love most in this world. I must let go of my ego and remember that this is not remotely about me.
As children I believe many of us get to a place in our lives where suddenly a switch is flipped and we have this urge to be our parents’ parents. We think we know what is best for them and we want to care for them as they cared for us during our formidable years. I am realizing through this experience though, that caring for someone is also letting her make choices about how to live her life. Sometimes it is easy to forget that parents are still adults who have a lot more knowledge and years on this earth than their children do. Life struggles and obstacles are not foreign. While battling cancer may be a new one for my mom’s books, she certainly has the gumption and strong will to beat it, just as she has other difficulties that I was either not alive for or too young and naïve to understand.
Whether playing the role of child or parent, somewhere deep inside I always want to come in first. And even though in the truest sense of what that means I know I always will, I must make room for others who bring something to the table that I never can. Perhaps I will understand this one day when I meet the love of my life and have my own children, but for now, I humbly take a step back and recognize that the force of love is stronger than any ego and any race for first place.