By Michelle Margaret Fajkus
I love my mother, of course; she gave me life and nurtured me when I was growing up.
She can be delightful, funny and caring at times. Unfortunately (for me), she has become more and more devoutly Catholic since I’ve been an adult and also more judgmental and harsh toward those of us who do not “see the light” or choose the same spiritual path that she has chosen.
When we visited my family in Austin for the holidays in December, I declined her invitation to attend Mass on Christmas. Mainly because if I went, she’d get all these ideas in her head that I’m going to become a good Catholic.
I appreciate Jesus a lot; I do not view him as my personal savior. I appreciate Buddha; I find that the dharma teachings resonate with me much more than the biblical ones.
I realize that Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist and Jesus wasn’t a Christian. I try to avoid labels and dogma.
I strive to be a good, kind, mindful human being but I falter a lot. I judge myself and others. I get upset and speak in a mean tone to my partner or daughter or students. I cry. I need to do more yoga.
My mother had knee surgery at the tail end of our visit and was heavily drugged with painkillers as she recovered at home. That night, she sat me down in the living room to tell me I had been giving her the cold shoulder and disrespecting her throughout my trip.
I said that was not my intention, though I did then realize that I had been subconsciously avoiding her because our conversations usually got so tedious and argumentative. Our opinions seem to differ on most of life’s important issues, and our lifestyles are polar opposites.
The day before my departure, she basically disowned me. When I told my dad, he advised me to ignore her, that it was the drugs talking. She and I sort of cleared the air the next morning as I was leaving for the airport, and when I sent her a note of apology, she responded with gratitude.
Soon enough though, the inevitable came: a note reminding me that Jesus Christ is the only light of the world and that I should come around and realize that someday.
I deleted it and tried to let it go.
Mom subsequently sent me this image via Facebook, with the note, “words to reflect on.” I did reflect, but I did not reply, because I could not disagree more and I know it’s a useless battle. I don’t want to fight.
This is where we differ. In my view, the light is our own. It doesn’t belong exclusively to any priest, bishop, pope, preacher, lama, guru or seeker. It is in every living being and in the air and the breath and the mountains and the fire and the water.
It’s not like she’s alone in her way of thinking. There are 27,000+ people who “like” this specific image and billions of other religious folks (Catholic and otherwise) who believe in this way. But I can’t think about all of them right now, so I’m thinking about how to reconcile my differences with my mom.
And I am at a loss.
I don’t know what to do, other than to “agree to disagree” and not participate in any conversation around religion or Jesus or spirituality with her. That has been my tactic for the last several years, anyway. It seemed to work pretty well up until my most recent visit.
Maybe I am more like my mom than I think. Maybe I, too, am harsh and critical and set in my ways. Maybe I always need to be right and have the last word. I try to cultivate compassion but often, especially lately, I feel like a failure.
Anybody have any better ideas?
I’m all ears.
Michelle Margaret Fajkus is the founder of Yoga Freedom and co-creator of EnlightenEd. She is a 30-something gringa Gemini in Guatemala where she lives with her life partner, daughter and black cat. Michelle learned hatha yoga from a book at age 12 and found Buddha in California at 23. Read her books, or come down for a retreat! Connect with Michelle on Google+ or Facebook.
Editor: Dana Gornall