Monday, 4 January 2016

Caring for my Mother: Gypsies versus Tourists

I've always felt that from way back we had Romany blood in our family, from somewhere on my father's side.  I have no proof of this, and it probably isn’t true in the ethnic sense.  But this is about the inner gypsy, which is something we have in our genes from the First Ancestors who left Africa to find better eating somewhere new.
Anyway – I happened to drop this into a conversation with my mother, and she was astonished that I would feel any affinity for gypsies. 
She said “But you're the only family member who’s not interested in travelling!” 

A valid point that set me to thinking. 

I can't see that the mere wish to travel has anything to do with being a gypsy – even though they refer to themselves as travellers. (Note: this has nothing to do with romanticizing or analysing the traveller/Roma life, which is a thing in itself and none of my business.)
A gypsy is someone who leaves where they are and moves on to another place to live. Just as our first ancestors moved on when the place they were in could no longer support them, a group would hive off and move to new hunting grounds along the endless sea-shore between Africa and the rest of the world.  It's about taking everything you have and making a home in a new place. 
It's not about going somewhere just to look at it then going back home.  Which is what tourism is.  Tourists are not uprooting and setting off into the unknown to find a new home.  They are just on holiday.  They already have their homes.  They want to see something new without losing what they already have. 
And I'm not dissing that.   It helps us to see ourselves as one world, all connected - to go and see something of how other people live.  Lots of people make their living from the urge that people have to do that.

It's just not something I feel an urge to do myself. 

There are places I'd like to see, and connect with. I went to Crete once to see the ruins of that ancient civilization and felt so touched by the landscape of olive groves and pinkish soil in the interior – I felt I was stepping back into the Bible and the life of Christ. (And then I discovered that this was the home of Nikos Kazentzakis- who wrote the only life of Christ I've ever felt a connection with) 
I'd love to go to a part of France where they have cave paintings.
But I just don't feel any need to travel all over the world just to stare at people who look and live differently to myself. I do travel – but mostly to see family and friends. Once I even went all the way to Seattle to meet a friend I'd met on Second Life, for an hour in a cafe

But I have always been willing to move away from a situation that is no longer nurturing to me.  To up stakes and find a new place to make a home.  I don't like to own too much, because I need to know I can take all my possessions with me. 

But this doesn't mean I don't do commitment.  Far from it.  I know myself to be bigger on commitment than most – in relationships, friendships, community.   It's just that, for me, the commitment is all the greater because it's not just a kind of laziness, or stagnation, or because I'm too afraid to let go of what I have, too afraid to be alone.  Commitment means – to me – that each moment of each day I have actively chosen to be there, with that partner, that friend, because that is what I freely wish to do, not because it's just too much faff to break up, or move on.    My loves are never just habits.  And there's nothing I hate more than being taken for granted. 

Hmmm. This all sounds a bit arrogant, and selfish, but I know I am not arrogant, selfish nor - as I say – unable to make commitments.  But I do believe that in order to live with integrity, to be authentic and fully present, to grow and become whatever we have in us to be, one has to be prepared to lose everything, and to be the bad guy in the losing of it, if it becomes necessary to leave a partner who is preventing growth and connection.  I just hope that by the time I get to the end of my life I have lived up to those ideals enough to justify the pain. 

It's ironic that the only reason I am available to live with my mother as her carer is because of this.  I moved on from a relationship and a community that were no longer nurturing nor even healthy for me, and found myself living with my mother at a time when she really was not coping at all well on her own.  And however much I try to make the best of it, I long to be free to get on with my own life.  But this is not like relationships, jobs, communities, that I can break away from, this really is a commitment for life.  Not my life, but Mother's. I can't just move on – not yet.  
And it has provided me with a breathing space. A time to collect myself from wherever the real me went in the situation I was in before.  It’s provided me with an opportunity to recover financially, with respite from the constant anxiety of never having enough to live on.  It's actually very comfortable and easy in some ways to be here. 

But then - comfort and ease have never been top priorities in my life (pleasant though they are).  I tell myself that this, too, is part of my growth, my learning and becoming, that I am reclaiming parts of my past, exploring what's really there in my relationship with my mother. 

All true, but what I am really doing is just what I've always done – living in someone else’s house and looking after them.   Story of my life.  But I guess that is what the learning and becoming is really about – my tendency always to end up looking after someone, and never even really, fully being allowed to feel their home is mine too.  For all my tendency to move on I am a triple Cancerian which means I have one massive, incurable mother-hen complex – albeit a hen that carries her home with her wherever she goes.

And I really do have to face up to that. 

My future life will be in a house where I can shut the door behind me and there is only me to think of.  I can wake in the morning and breathe, knowing I can make my own plans for the day without having to factor in anyone else's needs.  Where guests really are guests, and behave as such, rather than taking over in the name of 'helping' me.  There will be a period when even sharing my home with a pet or a house plant will be too much, as I find for the first time what it truly means to put myself first.   

1 comment:

  1. totally empathise - and yes its the true nomad spirit - we move on to learn (like finding new food)