Let me tell you about my mama, she is one of the most endearing people you’ll ever meet. She’s sweet, kind, sensitive, loving and will give you the duds right off her back. She’s a saint; people who who know my mother personally will attest to that. They might also divulge that her home is affectionately referred to as the mission. From my earliest recollection, my mother has provided refuge and comfort to everyone from relatives, to strangers she’s adopted as such. She does it with a smile; she does it without questioning. She does it time and time again!
In high school, I met a girl named Simone* in choir class with whom I quickly became friends. After some time, Simone shared that she was in the foster system and explained how unhappy she was. “My mom will take you,” I assured her. I had no hesitation and of course, I was right. Within weeks, my mother had taken the necessary steps for Simone to begin spending weekends with us, and she did so until her family situation improved.
Understand, though, Simone wasn’t the first of my mother’s rescues. In fact, the reason I was so confident that she’d take Simone, was because I’d witnessed the same scenario many times before: aunts, uncles, cousins, strangers, church members– if you were in need, my mother opened her doors. Once, she allowed a family friend suffering from cancer to spend his final days in a spare room upstairs. He and his wife were estranged and he was dying; My mother nursed him and tried to make sure he ate, was comfortable, and had dignity during those last days of his life. He died right there in her home. Another time, she took in a graduate student from her church. This young girl had made her way to America from across the sea. “She’s having trouble adjusting,” my mother told me, after I’d stumbled upon the stranger inside my mom’s house. I wasn’t sure that the arrangement would be good– there was a language barrier in addition to a cultural one. Still my mother proceeded. Her only concern was with assisting the young lady. Again, this is why my mom is a saint.
I, on the other hand, am not. In fact, I am very different from my mother. While she is nice, deep down on the inside, I am pleasant, but with a definitive edge. My mother is generous in a selfless kind of way. I am giving, but with forethought and calculation. Mom believes in accepting others unconditionally; I receive only people and situations that are a good fit. Sometimes when I ponder it, I laugh at how my mother ended up with me as her child. She has never understood my assertiveness—I have always wanted to challenge her passivity. Her motto is “just let it go,” and she hates to talk about things that are uncomfortable. My inclination is to push boundaries and to shout about injustice or unfairness so I’m heard! She and I are like the east’s distance from the west.
Even still, there is one way we are similar– or, should I say, we were similar– and that is in liking everyone by default. It’s somewhat of a courtesy, if you will, and it is something that my mother does quite well. My like button works good also, but now I only turn it on when I chose to. See, you can’t grow up with a woman whose level of compassion is that high and have it not inevitably rub off—and that’s cool. What wasn’t so cool, however, was the road it took for me to finally be comfortable with not liking people. Being my mother’s child made that an unpleasant space.
Nonetheless, I’m proud to say I’ve gotten there; In fact, dislike and I are now respectful friends. Today, I can say, “I don’t like her, or him,” without the least bit of daughter guilt. And when my internal voice chides, “But Kish, they’re so nice!”, my rational voice overrides with a “so what!” Nice people can still be unlikable, and annoying, or sneaky and so forth. I don’t have to like people just because they’re nice. I don’t have to like someone just because they like me, or because they want to be my friend, or because they find me interesting. I don’t have to like someone if they’ve hurt or harmed me; I don’t have to like someone who didn’t harm me personally, but has done so to someone I love. I don’t have to like racists, pedophiles, narcissists, liars, scammers, or people who are greedy and obnoxious. I’m not even obligated to like other’s ill-mannered kids. I am okay now, with being selective with who I like, even though my sweet mom is not.
One would be surprised, but this default like button is more common than people realize: just think of how children are forced to hug strangers and relatives they don’t want to, or, made to share and be friendly with kids who are mean. Then as adults, we’re expected to be amicable with the office jerk and smile while we pull the slacker’s load. My mother, as sweet as she is, never gave me the option of not enjoying our frequent houseguests; I never had the example of choosing to not like someone, or, of turning people away.
So now, I give myself that permission and it’s liberating, if not a bit frustrating for my mother to accept at times. It’s not how she raised me, but it’s how I choose to be. Even as I type this, my mother is yet sheltering another person in need. Me, I’d much rather help someone with their rent, so they wouldn’t have to stay in my home. But, that’s just how different we are. And again, I’m okay with that, because I know she can have an open heart and be wonderful, and that I can be amazing, but selectively like.
* name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Tell us, have you’ve ever found it difficult to admit that you just didn’t like someone? Or, were you raised to like everyone like I was? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear from you!