We choose our friends based on mutual interests, shared humour, and similar personalities. The same cannot be said for family members. We would never choose a flatmate without copious interviewing, or guarentee a friendship for life without years of experiences and trust, and yet we are thrown into this world with no choice as to our housemates for the next twenty years, and our relatives for the rest of our lives. Is there any wonder that friction can and does ensue?
Sometimes we luck out. Our siblings share our sense of humour, our parents share our likes and dislikes. But what do we do when those ‘nearest and dearest’ are polar opposites to us?
Within the framework of our journey to communication, myself and my mother have been told to try to see things from each others point of view. She is currently going through a hard time with one of her pets being sick, and I am trying to be as supportive as I know how.
The problem lies in my sentence above. To her, the cats she has had for nine years are as dear to her (if not more so) than her children. She looks after them, plays with them, comforts them (and they, her) and will rearrange her time to suit their needs. To me, they are as I said, pets. Animals. However much they might be an enjoyment or hobby, they are not people, therefore not companions, not in the true sense of the word.
I have no great love for animals. Of course, I try to respect them, I shudder to see any kind of animal cruelty, and I can be awed by the sight of God’s majesty in all its forms, wildlife included. But at the age of 18, it was not a great struggle for me to give up the vegetarianism my mother had instructed on me since birth. I am not the kind of mum who is excited to take my baby to a farm, and I have been to two zoo’s in my life, and once was part of my job.
So how can I sincerely sympathise with someone to whom animals are possibly the greatest part of her life? To whom vegetarianism is almost a religion, and in fact compared my leaving it behind with my brother marrying outside of Judiasm? Who I have heard describe the emotion her cats have for her as “completely unconditional love”?
Truthfully-I cant. And that is part of this journey. We are not similar in many ways, and we will probably never get to the point where we understand each other completely, or even achieve the sense of empathy I have with some of my closest friends. Accepting this, and finding another answer, is a great challenge. All I can say to myself is, This is your mother. This is as important to her as your closest family are to you. Try and put yourself in that position and say what you would want to hear if something awful was happening. If necessary, I almost have to forget the situation itself and that to me it is ‘only’ an animal. To my mum, there is no such thing.
So another work in progress. And although I doubt I’m going to become a great animal lover in the process, I may just learn to be more understanding of others feelings.