A friend was telling me the other day about a couple of relatives she has who are fighting like crazy over some property and money issues.
The fight is between a mother and daughter, both adults, and sounds a little like their…what do you call it – “Waterloo?” Because it sounds like it’s a very deciding kind of deal for both of them, wherein each has made up her mind to "make a stand,” and fight to the finish -- however grim that finish might be.
As is typical in every family I’ve ever known, there is in this family a history of divorce, of alcoholism, of co-dependence, of unintended child neglect (in both the mother's and daughter’s histories), and many generations of good old-fashioned inherited emotional family dysfunction – all of the usual stuff, and all of it contributing to years and years of unresolved anger and resentment in both the daughter and her mother.
But what got my attention was a description my friend gave of a conversation she had with the mom in this dispute. In the conversation she was listing for my friend all the reasons her daughter was wrong about the property and the money, and then suddenly in this list she was reciting she mentioned something that seemed out of context to my friend – said something about some totally unrelated offense the daughter had supposedly committed long ago.
Only she said it as though it had just happened yesterday.
So my friend, confused, stopped her and said, “Hold on a second. Didn’t you say that happened over a year ago?" And this woman says, “Yeah, uh-huh: over a year ago,” like it was the most normal thing in the world for her to mention it at that moment and in that context.
And when my friend told me that, suddenly I saw it: I saw exactly how this woman couldn’t differentiate between her current argument with her daughter and all her past arguments and resentments with her daughter.
To her, it was normal to mention the old wound because to her the old wound was as new and as current as ever. One year ago, 30 years ago, one hour ago, what’s the difference when the resentment has never been laid to rest – when the vampire is still feeding and has never been slain?
Suddenly I could see the two of them, this mother and daughter arguing, with all their inner vampires vying for position in the fight – I could see the daughter’s vampires screaming at her mother’s, and the mother’s screaming at the daughter's: a million old vampires trying to take advantage of the chance to express themselves in this seeming "property" fight.
No wonder they can’t resolve the property issue. And no wonder everyone is so hurt and confused -- nobody knows who's doing the fighting here or why!
Their inner vampires – the parts of themselves that they've refused to look at for all these years, are doing all the talking. Like the good vampires they are, they live in the dark and grow in the dark because that's where we pushed them so long ago so we wouldn't have to look at them, wouldn't have to deal with them. But they’re lonely and tired and really, really mad, and they'll insist on being heard, on having their say – just as they did with this mother and daughter, and just as they're sure to do with the rest of us, too.
It was the best argument I've heard yet for practical vampire slaying, for calling our inner vampires out into the light where we can see them and stake them. Because if we don't, it's plain to see that no matter how many years go by, they'll always be hiding in there, and will surely consume every bit of joy we're meant to be experiencing in our relationships today. After all, how can we possibly pay any attention to what's happening in our lives today when yesterday's vampires are doing all that talking? And doing it so loudly, too!