I was chatting with Mindfump the other day about whether people are capable of change after they’ve reached middle age. It seems like people have their minds set and that’s that once they have reached a certain age (though middle age seems to keep moving later and later so it’s hard to pin down). But maybe seems is the important word, it might seem that way but maybe it’s not age but willingness that determines our ability to change.
I was very proud to point out to Mindfump that my mother is not a stagnant personality. Her willingness to change her opinion and perspective means she is now a completely different person to the woman she was ten years ago. Even though I write anonymously I wanted to double check with mum before I told you all about her. So I called her up and I said
‘Hallo Mutti!’ to which she replied ‘Hallo meine
So with mother’s permission gained let us continue. Ten years ago (I really can’t remember exactly how long ago but it sounds like a good number doesn’t it) my mum was a model Christian. She would go to church every Sunday, she would give up her free time to help out with church functions, and she even went through the rigmarole to become a preacher. Every year she would make a kind of pilgrimage to a Christian gathering, praise, sing and generally do the whole Christian thing. I think if my vague memories are correct she even joined the church choir once, but those ladies were all housewives, didn’t have five kids, a university degree to work for and training for the church ministry. They shared out all the womanly cake baking and food making duties equally. So when mum said no she didn’t have time they were not happy. That should have been our first clue about the kinds of people they were…
My mother also worked a steady job in a school, she’s really a very intelligent woman, with A LOT of university study under her belt, she’s studied sciences and arts (bit of a renaissance woman my mum) but she didn’t want a stressful job so worked as a teaching assistant. She’s a very patient and nurturing woman so it was a really good job for her I think. I don’t feel (anonymous or not) it would be fair for me to go into all the details for what prompted a change my mother. But essentially she was let down by her work place leading to depression. I know a great many of you who read my blog posts suffer from the dreaded beast yourself and you know from my confessions that it makes life bloody hard. You really don’t like leaving the house in that state so she retreated into our home, even neglecting her faith and avoiding church.
And you know what? Of all those “good Christians” who knew mum, who praised the kind of woman she was, who referred to her as a friend, not one of them came to see her or reached out to her in anyway. I believe she was once visited by one of the other preachers but he only talked about the local Christian circuit and tried to get her back to preaching with zero sympathy for her situation. That’s gotta sting.
Couple that with two of my siblings coming out as homosexual and you have some tough questions to ask yourself about the church. Could she really continue to follow a religion that would have her children burning in hell for all eternity for being themselves? Could she really go back to church knowing that these so called Christians were not good to thy neighbour and did not do unto others as they would have done unto them? And could she really go back to work knowing they had let her down quite so painfully?
But that meant that the woman my mother was would have to change. She still had the constants in her life. She still has five children of varying degrees of usefulness. She still has a husband, no matter how emotionally retarded he can be (I’m just going to put the definition for retarded here so no-one complains about my choice of words – Retard verb – delay or hold back in terms of progress or development, from the French retarder to mean slow). She still has the same home, it’s a great home too. But she no longer had her career or religion. That’s a big hit.
But my mum is a really strong woman and she’s has powered through. Nowadays she leads a much simpler life. I would call her a hippy (she has informed me that she is happy to be called one too). She loves her gardening and her craft work, she made me a couple of onesies and I’ve never worn anything so comfy and cosy in my life. Now she’s tossed that Bible crap out the window coming to terms with having gay children has been a lot easier for her. She’s supportive about it and (I hope) not in an awkward not really kind of way. Her new outlook on life is completely judgement free and accepting of whatever it is that makes a person happy. It’s something she has in common with her new friends. She’s found a whole new social group who I’m happy to say are much more reliable friends. They are open minded, friendly, supportive and caring people. They’re Pagans. I know what you’re thinking, because I probably thought the same thing when I first found out mum was a Pagan now. But the more she learns about it the more it just seems like a simple way of living that’s particularly in touch with nature. And that’s her thing. I’m not going to begrudge her that.
That kind of highlights for me just how far she has come. I remember a long time ago, way before all the crap got be a bit too much, I took a real shine to Charmed. I loved that show and it did in a way begin my questioning of Christianity. It made me google Wicca. I couldn’t really find anything objectionable about the peaceful, moon celebrating gardeners, but the ritualistic side didn’t really appeal to me. However when I excitedly told her about this new religion I had discovered she shot me down so fast my head span.
‘Get your head out of the clouds S! You need to stop living in a stupid fantasy land!’ Is just a bit of what I remember her saying. But that was when she was Christian and she was constantly told that praising any other deity was wrong and a sin punishable by more burning in eternity.
I’m really proud to say my mum has been able to change her life so that she is happier. I wouldn’t say there is any way of life that is innately better than others. She’s made a change so that she is happier. She’s gone from an unhappy, kinda homophobic, devout Christian to an open minded hippy who’s happier for it. And when we talked she said that what allows her to change is knowing that an unwillingness to change leads to defeatist old age. Saying you can’t do something because you are too old means you can’t. Saying you can do something allows it to be possible.
She actually wanted me to take a look at Maslow’s Triangle to best explain why people can’t change or move on.
My dad’s poor emotional and social skills means he is stuck on the third tier, he never meets his belongingness and love needs so he’s never happy. Mum says she is finally through meeting her basic and psychological needs so she can move onto a bit of self actualization. Which makes a lot of sense, she’s certainly moved on to the ‘including creative activities’ aspect. If you are stuck in your life then maybe you need to check you are fulfilling your needs as a human. I don’t know, it’s all gotten a bit psychology based and that’s really not my area of expertise. Psychoanalytical readings of literature sure, I can do that. Psychology, not so much.
You can’t force people into changing, just like kicking a drug habit that desire to change has got to come from within. So I don’t want to see any of you smashing people over the head with change. No matter what though I’m glad I could point towards my mum and say you don’t have to rush to make yourself perfect before you can’t change anymore. As long as you want to change your mindset you can. And that’s pretty cool.
P.S. Note how I stayed away from the old dog new tricks saying, not sure mum would want me calling her an old dog…