In my last post I mentioned my aunt would be phoning my dad and I Thursday night. Well
she phoned and it seems she has taken to trying a different tack than she was before with me. In previous conversations she sometimes felt it her duty to tell me what I should be doing. I have become less passive in accepting these unsolicited offers of advice so she seems to have switched to giving me advice through allegory. She told me about this woman my grandmother had to share a room with in the nursing home before getting her own room. Apparently this ex roommate of my grandmother’s was in her 70s and a poor roommate due to bad behaviour. My aunt saw this older woman as being childish and demanding because she had a few irritating habits along with not going outside for the past 30 years. She must have gone outside to move into the nursing home but otherwise, I guess, she hasn’t gone out anywhere. My aunt mentioned how her family had coddled her when she was growing up because she had a few things happen to make her life hard (don’t know the details).
Anyhow, I could hear my aunt telling me she thinks I am being coddled and not stepping out to try new things (like she said about the elderly woman); also I am feeling entitled to act poorly because of my hard life. Perhaps I am totally having delusions of reference and my aunt wasn’t saying any of this through her story about the grandmother’s ex-roommate but my aunt is more than capable of such things. She wants to tell people how they should do things and will overstep your boundaries because she thinks she’s helping you. Basically, my aunt doesn’t mind treating you as a child if she thinks you’re acting like one in her eyes. She doesn’t have a sense of compassion for people either so your history is not her concern. Her desire to be helpful trumps any possibility of allowing others to live as they wish and do things with their own mind. Thank goodness she doesn’t live closer or she’d be putting her nose in my business all the time!
Her “helpfulness” isn’t limited to me only; she also said she thought my dad should just stay at home all the time to avoid any falls before his hip surgery. Seriously? Does she think being a shut-in for a couple of months is healthy? He won’t fall outside but he still can fall at home too. She thinks she is being caring and helpful but she’s just ignoring one’s right to live as they please. If you are an adult of sound mind then you have the right to do things the way you wish (so long as you aren’t hurting others). It’s called having free will or acting independently. When you’re an adult you can act foolishly or poorly and the consequences are your’s-my aunt is being paternalistic in her approach. She wants to control people so they live in accord with her vision of a just world. But we can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves.
I was somewhat annoyed as I considered what she was saying to me through her story and felt self pity for a good portion of Friday. Then I realized my aunt was merely operating from her understanding of the world and the people in it. We don’t share the same understanding of things so we aren’t reading from the same book, never mind the same page! She isn’t inside my head and I’m not inside her’s. All I can do is appreciate the fact we both grew up under different conditions and times and have our own view on things. It isn’t her job to understand me anymore than it’s my job to understand her. Yet I understand her reasons for being paternalistic. I understand she doesn’t view spirituality as something you focus your life on because one “should” focus on getting an education and earning a decent living. Well, obviously these aren’t awful things to strive for but they come a distant second and third to my value I place on spiritual development. I don’t really care about material wealth.
The issue I have with my aunt’s interference in my life is her lack of respect for my own choices. But I don’t live my life to please her and she isn’t the one living inside my body so her opinion on what I ought to do with my life is moot.
Do you have family in your life that treat you in a paternalistic manner? That is, they try to tell you what to do as though you’re still children needing guidance from an adult?
Thanks for reading.