For the first time today, I am deriving my reflections from a cue at the site of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), namely from that of Wednesday, February 22, 2012: “If you had to live with one member of your extended family for a year, who would it be?”
In complete frankness: The idea of any member of my extended family living with me for a year has never enticed me, neither have I ever pictured myself to be that individual. Even my imagination – a steady companion otherwise – fails me as far as the original scenario. So, I deviate from the actual prompt, leaving out from inclusion any extended branch in the familial tree and answer the question with an unhesitating shout: my daughter!
My love for my daughter has been unconditional before she was born – before I knew I was going to give birth to a girl and while I raised her. Now that we are in an adult-size mother-daughter relationship, that love is mutual and perhaps our strongest fort. It nourishes continuous respect for and uncompromising acceptance of the differences in our personalities, life choices, and tolerance and understanding for the steps we were mistaken in taking. “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing [,]” Plato concludes in his voluminous work on ethics and politics, The Republic. Putting to shame my genuine conviction with Plato’s claim when knowledge and wisdom are taken into consideration, I still have to insist to say it out loud: “I know one thing,” one thing for certain, and that is my love for my daughter.
And yes – had I not changed the original prompt to a call for factual narration, it still would have been my daughter about whom I would write as a response. There is, however, nothing conditional about my case: She has, indeed, been living with me. For over a year. Together with her husband.
Summer of 2011, their arrival date back in the U.S. to begin to live with me, has been the bearer of an oncoming difficult time for all of us but for my daughter, in particular. My son-in-law and I had our distinct differences from our initial reunion on, a fact we found out very soon after living through the first in the form of serious personal conflicts. When I think back at those first few weeks, I end up wishing against all factors of reality: namely, to be able to take back all my harsh reactions to anything he was about and stood for but also to silence myself before I uttered any hurtful words. I had been very protective of my long-term privacy, something I just wasn’t ready and willing to compromise, simply because he happened to be married to my One and Only.
While I was overjoyed because my daughter now was not only back in her home country but also was going to live close by, I overlooked the pain I created for her on account of my behavior toward her husband, the man she loves. Overly self-confident, convinced of my sophistication in matters of human interaction and in a variety of communication means, I forgot to notice. What he was going through in their initiative and efforts to settle in what was to him a foreign country, having left their secured lifestyle of multiple years back in Germany. In the heat of my concern for the change in my own life circumstances, I had abandoned my calm, my caring and gentle self, my mastery over my actions and speech. Today still, very long after my clashes with my son-in-law ceased and became a thing of the past, I am reminded of the following words of wisdom by the American author, Napoleon Hill: “Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.”
Before this year ends, my daughter and my son-in-law will have moved out of my home. No longer due to the anxiety-and unease-ridden exchanges between my son-in-law and myself during our early encounter – an initiative both must have considered acting upon back then. But rather, happily, for another reason: To have what they can finally call their own four walls. With the exception of those hurtful few first weeks, I have given neither my daughter nor my son-in-law any reason to be unhappy, uneasy or anxious or to live through anguish in any form or size because of any acts or words on my behalf. For I – thankfully for all three of us – realized soon enough how to make peace with the differences in our personalities, life choices, mindsets and worldviews. Namely, by presenting unconditional respect, acceptance, understanding and tolerance, all gifts I enjoyed in my life thus far from and with my One and Only, to her One and Only.
The inquisitive prompt sought an answer in the conditional and should not remain unanswered: My One and Only’s One and Only.