Wednesday, April 02, 2008

i know how i want to be, but i can't seem to do it

I'm having a difficult time.

A relative is in the hospital, and my mother is staying with me indefinitely while she takes care of him. For a little while, we went together to the hospital. Now she takes the caltrain every morning to the hospital (and back to my townhouse in the evening), while I go to work.

Seeing my relative in the hospital is painful, but this post is not about that.

I keep losing my patience with my mother, over silly things. She turns off her cell phone for hours at a time, and I worry when I can't reach her. When I ask her for the condition of our relative, she tells me a ten-minute chronological tale of the day ("I got up at 7am, cooked some congee, and walked to the caltrain station..."). I have to listen to the entire story to distill it to a single sentence of how my relative is faring. My mother bemoans her lack of time, but refuses to accept any of my offers (such as renting her a car, or giving her cab money).

We're going through a cycle where I speak impatiently to her, and then I feel guilty. I try to call her to make amends, and her phone is off for five hours, and we return to the start of the cycle.

Our whole family is under a lot of stress, so the minor tiffs are not too surprising. But, ideally I would have a reservoir of Zen calm.

Maybe I will try to take more deep breaths, and meditate in the morning and evening.

I know this post is crappily written, without any beginning or ending, nor interesting dialogue or detail. Consider it a window into the past, of how every post on my blog was three years ago.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What I usually do is to look at it from a different perspective.

Just imagine yourself in her situation, at her age, with her concerns.

You clearly know that she doesn't do those things on purpose to annoy you.

You have the power not to be frustrated.


Anonymous said...

awww..i totally understand your situation..i go through this with my mom every time i spend time with her (which is like once a year...which makes it worse..) I dunno, maybe spend more time on the weekend might help?

I don't understand why she keeps her cell phone off save battery?

Anonymous said...

I totally understand your frustration: for years I am avoiding going back to china to visit my parents and talk about things with them. it's the cycle that really drives me nuts.

you show your concern by offering help but they seems just not listening. even my sister who is only a few years older than me becomes like them.

then I will feel guilty, for not being there taking care of them.
oh well, someone suggest me go to temple.

ardief said...

this struck a chord with me, even though I'm Italian rather than Asian - I also see my parents just a couple times a year and it's so hard to find the right balance and not spoil the time we have together...nice to know I'm not alone. hope things improve.

Anonymous said...

You're probably too young to remember the days before cell phones. Does she leave it off because the hospital does not allow their use in certain areas?

You'll see her at the end of the day. Remember, she's not the one that is sick...she's fine.

Jess said...

This happens with me too -- I get too easily annoyed by my mom and snap at her, then feel really guilty about it. Knowing that I'm not the only one who does this makes me feel slightly better.

I don't have any brilliant advice other than to temporarily take a break from each other (which may not be possible in your situation).

I hope your relative gets better soon.

Melinda O said...

aww, i'm sorry.

Some hospitals do not let people use cell phones in patient areas. Is this hospital like that?

Anonymous said...

Vipassana meditation could help. :)

Strider Aragorn said...

Why do I get the feeling that all Chinese mothers are the same? (My wifes mom does the same thing.)

Also, extra points for using the word 'crappily.'

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'll refer you to a linked entry from my blog. There's a long response I'd like to give to this, but @3, my mother simply forgets to charge the phone, so when it runs out of battery, it simply dies.

Niniane said...

Specifically in response to all the comments about the phone...

She does leave her phone off during the hospital, which I understand.

I specifically call her before and after hospital visiting hours, and her phone is often off during those times as well. When I ask, she says her phone reception and battery are poor. I offer to buy her a new phone, or get a pre-paid phone, but she is very against this.

Anyway, the specifics of the phone are probably not the crucial issue.

Anonymous said...

stop the cycle. she's not going to change, accept that first. Then instead of asking her how the relative is doing, ask her how her day went and make sure you have the time to sit and listen.

KE Liew said...

Expectation and self-control.

These days, we expect too damn much from one another, may it be consciously or subconsciously. It's expectation that drives most of our emotions and feelings. It's clearly not good, 'cuz it usually lacks understanding, respect and acceptance.

Self-control and patience always go nicely together. One of the hardest character to polish, let alone perfect. Truly a valuable property to acquire for hope.

Anonymous said...

hi ur mom probably listened to u for hours when u started talikng
give her some time
10 min is not much in a 24-hr day

mahlen said...

Frustration arises from the difference between expectations and reality. "Desire is the root of all suffering", and so I'd encourage you to examine more closely what you wish she was doing differently, and why you wish that. And then examine how reasonable that desire for different behavior is.

From my own experience, I find that most of my desires, when examined this way, are not important enough to get upset at the person. If you find a core concern that is justifiable, then try to negotiate with her on solving that concern (e.g., "I worry about you when you are away all day and I can't reach you. Could you call me whenever you leave the hospital?") But don't count on that actually working. After all, if you find it difficult to change, you should presume that she does too.

The tricky part is noticing you are getting angry or emotional before you act on it. Meditation can be good training for the self-awareness needed for that. But just practice noticing your thoughts when talking to your mom, and pay attention when you feel your temperature rising.

Ironically, the people we are most devoted to are the ones we have the most detailed complaints about, and as engineers (I'm a Google eng as well), we're used to being able to tweak the behaviors of things until they are just right. People, thankfully, are resistant to such tinkering :)

Good luck,


Juan Pablo said...

Hi! great blog by the way. Sometimes it's hard to deal with "old fashioned/traditional" mothers, and it's hard for them to change.

Be patient and undestanding, try helping her indirectly, and try making time to talk, not only about your relative, but about everything.

Gook luck and i hope your relative gets better.

Joanna said...

Oh this is classic Chinese mother behavior: having a cell phone, but not having it turned on 50% of the time.

This post really resonates with me. We know how we want to be but we can't seem to do it.

Will we be like mothers at their age and will our daughters TRY to get along with us?


Anonymous said...

Lift N up

Ok, that was poorly done.

} catch (StillFrustatedException e){
catch (TooHeavyException e){
catch (NothingWorkedException e){

Hang in there N, hope your situation improves =)


Niniane said...

How is StillFrustratedException different from NothingWorkedException? I think these need to be more clearly differentiated.

Anonymous said...

I have/had the exact same issue with my mom and the friction between us subsided when I focused my energy on correcting my own energy =p I've discovered it takes less effort to change my own approach/thinking/attitude towards "difficult" people than it does to try and change them. If our moms had the patience to raise us and still call us their daughter after all those years of teenage angst and whatnot, then we should remember that and remind ourselves we can spare a few moments of patience for them too. I recommend meditating before you speak to her, just so you're in a calmer place and less apt to snap. I've been disconnected from Skype-ing with my mom for over 2 weeks now (which is highly unusual for us) because she's trotting around China and now I miss her detailed accounts of what she's been up to...go figure =p

Anonymous said...

maybe this idea of you saving her time and her refusing the rental car,etc is related to your pig knuckles post. just go get a damn car and leave the keys for her. then she'll start to feel guilty about wasting money by NOT using the car. and she won't have the guilt over possibly asking for extravagances.

Anonymous said...

hi ; shall you talk a bout your education

Anonymous said...

once a week, watch her while she sleeps..

Anonymous said...

i know how hard it is when someone you care about is in the hospital. i think the best thing to do is be zen about things. I can understand your frustration, but there is a time and place for that. Now i guess it is all about your mom and the sick family member.

omar said...

niniane your mom rocks what are you talking about i've met her twice i should know better than you! everytime she puts a smile on my face (her story about your uncle in the park! that's classic). give her my number or tell her i'll chill with her at the burrito place when i'm back -- i throw down the gauntlet, she's not going to phase me.

and that blog post was *#!%! .. i can't believe i didn't get my dose of a tom-zinger.

ps you know i'm joshin you, hopefully in a smile inducing way. if not delete this comment immediately! :! relax with a pig.

Anonymous said...

I am a programmer in silicone valley.

I love not having my phone ring.

I love being out of touch sometimes.

No phone, no computer.

I turn them both off many times.

I am no ER doctor so there are NO emergencies that I ever need to tend to.

So much easier to be me...

Not having anyone else injected in to my thoughts for hours is so heavenly.

Being "alone" allows eccentricities to fester and flourish.

Anonymous said...

Try to look at the whole situation on a different angle without equating yourself to it. Every time person feels annoyed by somebody’s action or by some situation that is the signal that he has a weakness in that area. Every event in our lives dedicated to make us stronger and to show the areas which need attention. Obviously you can’t change somebody but you can change yourself. So if somebody is cut you off on the road and you feel angry that is the area your consciousness you should work on. The method is not to equate yourself to the situation and look at this event as a Teacher’s lesson. That alone will make it much easier already. If it is your relative it is a little harder to do but still works. If your mom’s phone is off it’s a given situation. You’ve tried to change it many times but it did not work. Now try to change your reaction to it. I truly believe that if the problem can’t bug you anymore it loose it purpose and disappears.