My mother said something once when it was just us, towards the end of her life, and all she wanted to do was sit in her weathered rocking chair on the deck of her beach house facing the ocean. So we did. She tilted her head back towards the sun while the Atlantic Ocean was content to ebb and flow. Her tiny little body holding on while we rocked back and forth.
Regrets? I asked.
None, she said.
None, said the woman who survived damn near everything and lived life on her own terms.
She died that way too.
A scoop of Pelicans went by casting shadows on the deck and her face.
Well, she said. Maybe one.
She rocked back and forth breathing just fine even though the cord to the oxygen machine would not reach out to the deck.
Maybe she knew that.
I thought people would have the same basic moral compass as I had, she said, never lowering her face away from the sun. Eyes closed, her head supported by the back of the chair. Back and forth went the chair, back and forth to the rhythm of life.
I was wrong, she said. Maybe it was the rose colored glasses, maybe it was the hope I always had, maybe it was believing if I cast my bread upon the waters, it would flow. Maybe I was naive.
I thought people would do the right thing, she said. I always did the right thing. The right way.
I was wrong and this is what hurt the most, she said. Some people do not have a moral compass. Some people hurt others knowing they are hurting others.
I grabbed her hand. Her small hand, thin skin showing veins and bone. I cried. Knowing well what this woman rocking back and forth in a rhythm all her own went through, what she survived, what she came to terms with, and what in those final days, she declared as hers.
I have never forgotten that. I can still see her face lifted towards the sun, the ocean breeze blowing just enough to keep away the no-seeums. I can still feel the way her hand felt in mine.
Despite it all, and there was so much ALL my mother survived, she did it on her own terms. She did it the right way.
Two things carried her through: Knowing her children would be happy and okay, and knowing her wishes to live and die in her home at the beach would be honored. The summer home she named No Hassle, that became her forever home.
Her moral compass. Her rose colored glasses. Her terms.
It has taken me some time and a turn or two with people who have not had the same basic moral compass as my own to learn and relearn this. It hurts to learn this. It toughens the weaker spots, it shows you the sides of people you wished you’d never seen.It makes you stronger.It does not have to make you harder. Sometimes like my mother, I want to reach for the rose colored glasses and hope for the better.
It does not work. It never will.
I have learned to walk away, to let things be, to declare what is mine and to come to terms with this life. I do the right thing. It is not always pleasant. Some do not like it. Some invent distractions. Some decide a relationship is better than being right, or doing right. Some never learn.
There was a professor in my masters program who used to challenge me when I proposed a different view rather than the one she was selling.
She would often say:
DO YOU WANT TO BE RIGHT OR BE IN RELATIONSHIP??!!
She used to look at me and then look to the class.
DO YOU WANT TO BE RIGHT OR BE IN RELATIONSHIP??!!, as if I did not hear her the first time.
She would look back at me and then down her glasses as if to tell me (sigh),I still had work to do in order to grab hold of her concept.
I know the answer. I have always known the answer.
Relationships of all kinds come to an end. You do not have to be in relationship to anything that does not feel right. It is right to leave. It is right to piss off people who jeopardize your well being. It is right to live life on your own terms-and this just may be the best relationship you will ever know.