My Mother is a very anxious person. While she might tell you that she is the voice of optimism, she is clearly the voice of doom. My Mother will imagine every worst case scenario for every single thing one may encounter. When one tells my Mother something they are going to do, her first words will undoubtedly be “Why would you want to do that- don’t you know X could happen?” or “Oh no don’t do that. You’re stupid.” The follows ups would usually be “that’s dangerous” or “can’t you go shopping instead?” For certain things, like when my sister says they’re going camping, it would be “I don’t know where you got this outside with nature bullshit. I didn’t raise you like that.” FYI, she has also told me “I don’t know why you like spicy foods. No one else in the family likes spicy food”, as my personal choice to order things on the spicy side is somehow a knock to my lineage, but that’s a whole other branch on the tree that needs to be shaken up…

But anyway…My Mother and anxiety are one and the same.

So recently, when my Mother refused to find a primary doctor closer to her house because of her anxiety, I simply said:

“Get over it.”

My Mother’s pithy response was “I can’t. I’ve been anxious my whole life.”

To which I replied:

“If you’ve been something your whole life, and it’s something that can be seen as a negative, you’re using it as an excuse for not wanting to change, grow, or move on. While it might be a nice soundbite to blame everything on your anxiety…you can’t use it as a get out of jail free card when faced with adversity. It’s become your crutch.”

If you have a negative habit or reaction, at some point you must face it head on. You must find a way to deal with it so it doesn’t hamper or mar you life. My Mother’s refusal to even try to find a more convenient Doctor could effect her health, sooner rather than later. And she’s facing this hurdle later in life, when admittedly it’s more difficult to change life long habits, because she’s always been afraid to face her biggest fears, and scared to look at the things that rattle around in her head.

Sometimes we need to take a good, long look in the mirror, and work on the things that are controlling our lives. While my Mother might not be able to get rid of anxiety, she can find a better way of coping with it than denial.

If something is getting in the way of being your best you, of living your best life, do something to change it, or amend it, or whatever, But don’t use it as an excuse. That won’t get you anywhere.

52 thoughts on “Not an Excuse

  1. an excellent point. often, when the person constantly criticizes others, it’s due to their own fears of trying something, their own anxieties, as you’ve seen –

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  2. You’re giving your mother the advice/response she needs to hear, even though it won’t change her. I know someone who gives as similar reply when things go wrong – her excuse. She won’t change either, but she still needs to hear that it’s become her excuse for not taking responsibility for her actions or inactions.

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    1. Exactly. I’m telling her what’s she’s doing and how it’s affecting her life. She won’t change, but I can hopefully open her eyes a little

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  3. My mother is anxious(she would never admit it), and very critical of others. I had a conversation with her recently about various people in her life..people at the nursing home, past neighbors, acquaintances, etc. I was very frustrated and I told her it was hard to help her when she dislikes so many people—trying to get her to realize that she is the common factor in all these situations. She has the beginnings of dementia so I know this is too much too ask.

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  4. You’re a good daughter. I’m quoting Anne Lamott: “Families are hard partly because of expectations, that the people in them are supposed to mesh, and expectations are resentments under construction.”

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  5. I’m someone who deals with anxiety and always expecting the worst. I try to keep it to myself and I am in therapy for it. I think a lot of the older generation never considered seeing someone for these types of things

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      1. There’s so much potential for anger, hurtful words and feelings and chaos in the parenting a parent time of life. Please don’t lose sight of your own needs in all this given you also have husbands familial issues and no siblings nearby to take on this burden.

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      2. It’s starting to show in my face and body…I’m just physically tired and stress eating…there are times when I wish I could be like my husband and just live in denial

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  6. LA,
    High strung. Anxious. Couple that with depression. (They often go hand-in-hand.) Someone I love just went on medication for that (in the last month.) She said it’s made a world of difference in her life. It’s exhausting when you’re fighting so hard (all the time) just to get through the day! Of course, there are days (my latest post) when even meds can’t relieve all of the stress. just speculating here, but what I believe your mother is looking for is validation that what she thinks and believes is right. That her opinion still matters. That she knows what’s best. There are ways to do this while maintaining your own sense of self and truth. For instance, you could say something like, “You know, Mom, I’m so glad you’re my mother. You’ve given me the courage to try new things and to explore so much in life! Maybe because you’ve always kept me safe and made me think about potential consequences before I do something new, you’ve helped to make me who I am and that gift is priceless! Thanks for all you do and for having always been there for us kids! I know you worry, but at the moment, I’m safe. I’m also happy. Now listen, I want to return the favor. I want you to try a bite of this (whatever spicy thing you happen to be eating at the time.) It’s different than what you’re used to, but I want you to experience something new just this once if you can. You don’t have to, and I get it if you decide not to, but how will you know whether or not you’ll like it if you don’t try it?” (She may not try it. If she won’t then say something like, “Well, you can’t knock something until you try it! Otherwise, you just come across as…you know…someone not in the know and out to spoil other people’s enjoyment and that would be a shame! I know you’re not that person! Maybe next time, huh?” Then try and find something that you both agree upon. If you’re Mom enjoys trashing someone (my Mom loved the negative gossip) try talking about any number of celebrities that are in hot water right now. “Mom, did you hear about…I know, isn’t s/he awful?! I can’t believe s/he said/did…” The point is, her children have grown up and dared to learn to think for themselves. She doesn’t have any control over you, and that’s scary for her. It’s difficult when you’re dealing with irrationality whether it’s within yourself or with someone you care about. Assurance and compassion for her, a sense of humor (for you) and possibly medication for her. It can be a winning combination. BTW, no one can change anyone else. Pressuring them to do so usually doesn’t work and usually only ends up in hurt, feeling misunderstood and not accepted and frustration for everyone. She’ll change if she wants to…but not until she feels more secure…and again, only if she wants to.
    I remember taking my mom to a spa for a full body massage, something I thought might relax her and she’d enjoy. (She’d never had one before and was looking forward to it.) Unfortunately, she said the masseuse kept telling her to relax. The moment the masseuse said that, there was no way Mom was going to be able to and she’d clinch up even tighter. Ugh. Mom told me that maybe she was someone who just didn’t know how to relax and that she just couldn’t do it. It was her belief that some people just aren’t wired to relax. I believe her, but it makes me sad. After the massage, we had wine and a nice lunch. So not all was lost and we ended up having a good time! Hope this helps. Mona

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    1. Alas my mom has always been like this. If this was just age it would be frustrating but in a different way…as an adult I struggled with overcoming the damage done to my mental/emotional health and well being

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  7. Your mother and my mom sound like they could have been sisters. I know how hurtful and demeaning it can be to have a parent who criticizes your likes and dislikes based strictly on what their own likes or values are. A mother who never asks herself, “what would my daughter want?” Just what they want!

    My mom viewed anything she didn’t like or anything she wouldn’t do as simply wrong or misguided .
    When I was getting married she wanted me to play the song she had at her wedding. It was a song I had never even heard of. I tried to explain that it was MY wedding and Music in 1946 when she married was not at all like the music I listened to in 1969. I wanted The Beatles song “All you need is Love”. Well she got mad and refused to pay for music. I told her not to bother. (Actually my first husband and I wanted to get married barefoot on the beach. (It was 1969 after all and we were feeling, GROOVY).

    She thought she’d punish me by saying, “Fine it will be a luncheon, no music, no dance floor, nothing but a small lunch). She couldn’t threaten me because at 20 We would have been happy living together or getting married by a justice of the peace. The problem was, in 1969 you needed a parent signature if you were under 21 because that was before the legal age went down to 18. Both the groom’s mom and mine wanted us to marry because we were both Jewish and they figured we’d stay out of trouble if we got married. Back then we weren’t ready for marriage, but both our parents pushed us into it. We just wanted to have sex. Lol
    Then when the marriage ended after 4 years and a baby, we divorced. My mom was shocked. What did she expect? We were married at 20 and parents at 24. We did what our folks wanted and then realized we were way too young for those responsibilities.. (I wouldn’t change anything because our son is an amazing man), but it was ridiculous for us to have been pushed into marriage. By the time i divorced I realized I could stand up for myself. But my mom continued up until she passed to never understand that she was pushing her values and likes on me and being judgmental any time I disagreed with her. Perhaps it’s generational. Except my maternal grandmother was more enlightened than my mother. I did my best to ignore her. But years after she died I read my diaries when I had to pack up to move into a condo and realized I had pushed all that into my subconscious. It resurfaced years later and I realized I was angry at her for being so selfish and self centered. In fact she never liked my brother’s wife only because she wasn’t Jewish. About a year ago when I was going through intense chemo I called her and apologized to her for my mother’s cruel behavior. I told her I was sorry my mom was not enlightened enough to understand how selfish and cruel her behavior was to you.. She thanked me because my mother hurt her terribly. I let her know how much I appreciated what a loving wife she’s been to my brother. Having cancer made me realize that I couldn’t take back my mother’s lack of kindness or empathy , but I could let her know my sister and I appreciated her.

    Over bearing mothers are a certainly challenging. You and I have tried to do a better job of parenting!

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    1. It’s the best way when they literally have no way of getting to their old doctor without me going out and getting them and spending hours in the car. And there doctor only has hours in this location two days a week from 2pm on…so 😆😆😆😆

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      1. Stubbornness or strength of character? I’m on the side of the oldies here. I haven’t actually lived through a world war and rationing but I have been made to eat salad and the war, let’s face it, is only just around the corner. 🙂

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  8. I got stuck back there on “You’re stupid.” She said that to you??? Oh, my goodness. That is so hurtful. I remember a child saying to me that another child said a bad word. I had her whisper it in my ear; it was “stupid.” That little one was right. It IS a bad word–so demeaning, so disrespectful. So, as I was starting to think bad thoughts about your mother, I remembered that she raised you. She may not have done everything right, but somehow (maybe because of the odds) she raised a strong, independent woman who cares enough to help her parents during the hardest time of their lives in what is clearly a difficult struggle for all. Kudos to you and blessings for you and your parents.

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    1. My mother would say it to anyone if she thought they were doing something she didn’t agree with. Those comments are universal in my mothers world

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  9. Wow. That’s a lot of anxiety indeed.

    My mom might feign mock outrage whenever I add hot sauce to a dish she’s cooked, but at least she isn’t angry at me for liking it. Or if she is, she hides it well.

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  10. Oh goodness: I hear you loud and clear on this one! My Mum used to ‘awfulize’ everything, as I called it. Nothing was simple, or a mistake: it was an impossible drama, or a catastrophe-in-the-making. So so tiring to be around, and deal with… no wonder I left her in England and moved to Australia! But you are closer, and it’s causing you great stress, which is very sad, and hard to deal with. So know that we all have your back, and admire it when you can find humour in it (like the new car scenario), but yes, sometimes people have to be told a hard truth, and make a change. Good luck, and take care of yourself in all this ❤ G

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  11. LA, I tried that route with my mother – hell, I’m a coach, of course I tried & I tried hard. I only ended up more frustrated, because she wasn’t interested in change – she only wanted validation and to be right. This is not a battle to be won, only survived. I fought valiantly before eventually withdrawing for my own good. Putting in place changes which will allow you to less involved can only be a good thing for your own wellbeing.

    If your mother were to accept medication for her anxiety it could transform her experience. But… mine nodded sagely as I talked it through with her, and then decided against it without reason. We can change at any age, but the desire to do so has to be present. When it isn’t, no amount of educating or urging works.

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  12. It sounds like such a miserable way to live. How unfortunate she can’t see there is another way. Or isn’t willing to do the work to make it happen. She’s missing out on a happier existence. But it’s good you were able to be honest with her. Whether or not she chooses to take your advice, at least you did your part.

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  13. Amen!! I get so very tired of hearing people say, “this is how I always am,” when referring to behavior that is clearly hurting them and others. We had no choice in how we were raised, and in how others treated us, in and out of our families. But we can sure choose to work on ourselves, especially those habits and traits that hurt us and other people. It’s hard work, but worthwhile!

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  14. How did your mom react to what you said? I have to say this woman is very dear to my heart but I am glad that it’s you that has to deal with her. I love the things she scold you about. Spicy food indeed.

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