When Mama Ain’t Happy

When Mama ain’t happy,
ain’t nobody happy.

“You’re so excited!” TBB said to me.  “Just listen to you!  You are bubbling!  It’s great!”

“I know,” I replied.  “I can feel it.”

Yeah, I can feel it.

I just can’t show it.  Mama ain’t happy, and that means nobody can be happy.

It’s amazing how our delight, joy and happiness gives permission to others to not only feel their feelings, but also to express them.   And it’s also amazing how expressing our feelings can build momentum, momentum to move us farther, momentum to get us over the rough spots.

My mother’s rule, though, since I was a child, is that exuberance is just too exuberant.   We had somber events, even the party ones, so sucked dry of excitement and festivity that a friend I knew in high schools said that my mother’s house was the place he would least like to spend Christmas.

So I’m excited, but I have to swallow that excitement around my family; my mother, my father who just hears noise rather than nuance, and my sister who has learned to keep her head down. And when I swallow, my sister finds me dour, unpleasant to be around.

I need that energy to move on.

But it makes my parents distressed.


6 thoughts on “When Mama Ain’t Happy”

  1. I know I’m not you and don’t know all of the history and nuances of your relationship with your parents, but I say, let your parents be distressed. As you already know, you are not responsible for their feelings. They’re entitled to their feelings and it’s not your job to protect them.

    That’s my 2 cents worth.


  2. I’m not responsible for their feelings, true, but I am subject to them.

    There is a basis for the “If Mama ain’t happy” aphorism. Women know how to get what they want by blocking happiness for others until they are satisfied; in fact it’s a key technique in the way women take power in relationship.

    My father sees his job as keeping my mother happy, and I see my job here as helping my father do his job. Shit rolls downhill, as the old axiom goes.

    I do understand that her passive-aggressive narcissism is how she takes power in her life, always disappointed that “no one makes her happy.” Of course, no one else can ever make her happy; only she has control of and responsibility for her own happiness.

    But she does know how to make others miserable, and has trained my father to avoid getting her in that state.

    Yes, I know I need to claim my own power.

    But I am subject to her emotions, even if I am not responsible for them.

    It’s hard being both the daughter and the son, eh?

  3. Callie, being both the daughter and son to your parents has got to be amazingly difficult. I admire you for your strength and courage in succeeding at something I don’t thing I could maintain for very long at all.


  4. What’s the excitement?

    What’s the bubbling?

    It’s awful when you feel that way and you have to damp it down or conceal it to survive around someone whose power is her sense of helplessness.

    But what is happening when you’re not around her?

    There’s a tarot reading i do called Court Card Confrontation.

    It begins with taking the 16 court cards from the deck. Then you think of someone with whom you have difficulties. With that person in mind you look through the 16 cards until you come to one that for whatever reason represents that person.

    Next you choose one that shows you around that person, and finally one that shows you when you’re away from that person.

    It’s a valuable thing to do, especially when you choose the cards from response to the picture, and then consider afterwards some of the meanings.

    Many women who do this reading name their mothers as the problem person. The interesting thing about that, of course, is that it continues from generation to generation. I might choose my mother, but she would have chosen her mother, who would have chosen her mother in turn.

  5. My mother definitely lays her helplessness at the feet of her mother.

    I had to do the eulogy when my grandmother died just before her 100th birthday. Afterwards, she told me it was nice but she was still angry; and this was when my mother was in her early ’70s.

    It’s amazing how far my sister and I have taken ourselves and her in consciousness raising, but her change is not up to us. She passed on her most precious talent, the failure cycle (failure, self pity, more failure, more self pity…) to her family.

    As to being apart from her, well, that doesn’t come in an hour or so. They live in my head, and that’s too hard. Today was full; sewer backup, a rented 100″ power auger going nuts, a diabetes diet class for her, dinner, pushing her to shop, coming back to clean up the sewage, all that.

    And when will I be far enough away from them to get clear?

    My head hurts.

    Thanks for your comment.

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