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ALONE AND HAPPY
I’m a 35-year-old single woman. I’ve everything that I ever dreamed of—my own business, a nice home, great friends and a loving family, as well as a very cute pug that’s the apple of my eye. I’ve been in long-term relationships before but I’m happiest on my own and I have no plans to get married or have children. Because of this I’m the object of pity and embarrassment in my Asian family. For my parents, family is everything and my mother cries for the grandchildren I have denied her. She tells me that I’m selfish. And maybe I am. Recently at a cousin’s wedding I had relative after relative give me pitying looks and comments. To be honest, I’m sick of this treatment now. How do I get everyone to leave me alone and let me live the life I want to live?
Yours, Alone and Happy
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Dear Alone and Happy,
I’m a mother and I can relate to yours. Now, I’m not saying you should conform and get married but there are a few things going on here that deserve further investigation.
I’ve always wanted my children to be happy, I’ve encouraged them to pursue their dreams so long as it didn’t involve hurting anyone. Now some of them have made choices that occasionally left me speechless, one of them is in a cult and by all accounts blissfully happy! She keeps in contact and has some pretty strange beliefs but as long as I can keep the channels open and allow her the safety to talk to me, I reserve judgement. I listen, a lot.
Now your Mammy is a similar generation to me, albeit she is of Asian origin and I’m Dublinese, therefore there are cultural differences that might prevent a deeper understanding. But if I was to speak to her, Mammy to Mammy, I think I’d understand some of her pain.
I don’t know where she is from, but let’s assume she’s of the generation that has had either direct experience of war or was born into war or directly after. There’s this thing called epigenetics, it’s the study of how our cells can hold memory from previous generations. There’s a saying in Ireland —“She didn’t lick it off the stones”, a crude way of saying, it’s in the genes.
Your Mother is one of the first Asian generations that has had the relative privilege of her children being almost guaranteed to survive into adulthood. The thought of you opting out of having children is an anathema to her. To her, it’s cellular, like denying an arm, it goes to her very core, deep in her waters she believes her survival depends on it. It’s primordial, undeniable.
You are one generation removed from this, the memory, the instinct has been diluted. You belong to a generation that has moved around more than any other, with relative ease and most likely by choice. You have stepped out of the Asian collective unconscious, a term yer man Jung used to describe an idea that we are all somehow connected. The Asian way is “the many before the one”, where the individual comes second to the community. The Western collective unconscious is one of the “individual”. Here we put individual happiness first. Both have their benefits. They both exist, I’m not in favour of one more than the other.
What you are experiencing are the benefits of individual happiness. Personally speaking, I think this can be viewed as selfless or selfish, depending on your view point. Now stay with me, we’ve taken a little wander off the path in the woods, but that’s where we meet all the interesting characters. Perhaps the Asian viewpoint has served us well in terms of survival, planning, standard of living. Perhaps the Western viewpoint has served us well in terms of questioning, analysing and making individual choices. I think a fusion of both is the way forward. You see by you behaving “selfishly” as your Mother would put it, you are in fact bringing more happiness to those around you (aside from your Mother and pitying relatives). By pursuing your own happiness, you are I’m sure a well-liked and socially integrated individual, probably capable of great altruistic deeds.
I think what is happening right now on our planet is ultra-individualisation, is this a bad thing? Yes and no, if we can fully connect with ourselves, follow our bliss as it where, I think we would generally make good decisions that would also be good for society and the planet. You see my experience has been, that the more I can follow my own inner voice, my own path, the more space I create for healing, joy and in fact sharing and doing things for other people.
So let’s get back on the path in the forest and back to your Mother. She is trying to Mother you in the best way that she can, if she could look inside, she might find a deep Mother wound in herself. She is craving Grandchildren because of a lack inside herself, perhaps she was conceived into a womb that was scared for its survival, no solid foundation.
Alone and happy, you have the solid foundation of your own happiness. You can engage with this situation and help heal this lack in your Mother by simply shining the light of awareness on it. You don’t need to do anything other than keep following your own happiness. You can of course pursue a dialog with your mother, you can look for opportunities to talk about things but you can only try and you cannot change her perspective.
Listening is an amazing tool. I’d encourage you to listen to your Mother. You can do this without taking on her pain or expectation. Ask her about her Mother, listen to her story, ask her about your birth. You are where you are because of her and your Grandmothers, they paved the way for your happiness now. Maybe you can somehow share this with her and don’t be afraid to share your joy at being Alone and Happy. Have a sense of humour around it too. We are the stories we tell ourselves, you are writing a new future, show her it’s okay to lay the bricks as you go along, it’s okay to go off the beaten track, that where all the wild flowers grow.
Growler is a 78-year-old vulva from inner city Dublin, Ireland. She is an accidental activist, an abuse survivor, feminist and writer.
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