A lot on my mind. As usual. A lot of back-story needed to explain this one.
My daughter’s party is over, and it went well, and the universe didn’t implode because I invited people into my house. I have to joke about it, but I want to make sure it is clear how big of a deal this was for me. When I first had my baby girl 10 years ago, I initiated play dates and invited other moms to my house. I can’t recall when or how it happened that I withdrew from everyone and made my home a sacred refuge, inpenetrable by the outside world. I just know that it happened.
It was such an unhealthy setup for me. For the first time ever, I had no need to deal with other people and so I often didn’t. I worked from home with a nursing or squirmy baby on my lap. I had no car. I loaded up babies in my stroller or sling and walked to the grocery store or the park – both just a few blocks away in my small town. I didn’t talk to anyone. Hubby worked crazy long hours to try and get enough overtime to support us. I barely saw him, and when I did, he was very tired. My babies were my only friends, well, other than WebMD and Dr.Sears and every other parenting advice I could find to make sure I wouldn’t mess up and kill my babies with something stupid.
I even took a break from therapy those many years while my kids were young. I was truly isolated. And at some point, I also don’t know how this happened, I let my Mother in. I mean she wormed her way into every thought of mine. She fed my insecurities and encouraged my negativity. Depression was all that I knew. Every cell in my body was sad and lonely and hopeless for it to ever be different. I lived to make my children happy, knowing I could never have it for myself.
Then my daughter turned 4, and I had my first flashback. I saw her, but I remembered me as a 4 year old, being tormented by my abusive father. Strangely, I remembered feeling pretty much the same way at age 4 as I did then – isolated, lonely, scared, and sad. I remember always feeling sad.
Not right away, but sometime in that year I returned to my therapist, and we started the long journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse and psychological trauma that was my past. With her help, I was able to eventually face each demon, name it, and remove it. She encouraged me to get out into the world and find joy for myself. She encouraged me to open up to Hubby and create a stronger relationship. She encouraged me to create healthy boundaries and get some distance from my mother.
None of this has been easy. Most of this has been heartbreakingly difficult. I have had to hurt people with my truth.
I am still confused about my mother, and what role she should have in my life. I know now that she will never truly be a mom to me, and I hate the part of me that still longs for supportive parents that actually want what is best for me. I fear that is a hole that will never be filled, and will always hurt a bit.
After the wedding last month, my mom apologized to me for being a terrible mother. Her apology was in an email, but I know it was still difficult for her to write. I thought maybe, just maybe she could move on and start being real. I don’t why I thought that, and now I am almost embarrassed to have been hopeful again.
I finally found out what had been going on with my mom and brothers the weeks following the wedding. My mom lost it. she had a breakdown of sorts, as reality crashed in and she tried to take on the guilt and pain of allowing her children to be abused by our psychopathic father. She started cussing uncontrollably at my brother that lives with her. She started throwing away her possessions, one after the other, everything taken up to the curb. She said she needed a fresh start and wanted to remove anything in her house that reminded her of my abusive father, her ex-husband.
So it started with the dining room table. When I was about 8 years old, my mom started working at a fast food place to earn her own money. She saved her first few paychecks and purchased a nice table for 6 for our dining room to replace the table for 4 with the duct taped metal leg and the book under it to keep it from tipping over. I recall my father’s anger when he found out she had been shopping for a table without him. He went to the store and cancelled her order, saying that she had chosen the wrong one. He changed her nice hardwood table into a new formica topped one, he said this would be more durable. She had wanted a light pine tone, and he chose a dark, dark brown. She wanted slender, armless chairs to fit in to our tiny room, and he insisted on captain’s chairs for each end. But my mom was still to use her money for it, since she was the one that thought we needed it, but she was not allowed to get what she wanted. Years of bowing down to him made this no different – he was in charge, bad things happened when we disobeyed.
In the divorce, my mom fought for that table, feeling like she had won a trophy when it was given to her. But now, 25 years later, she no longer wants this memory and asked my brother to take the table to the curb.
Next was her living room. She had my father’s old recliner in there, something he had no room for when he moved into my brother’s house. That went out to the curb along with her vacuum (also used to be my father’s) and all of the video tapes in the cupboard that she no longer has a VCR to watch them.
Next was her bedroom. Her comforter set was from a friend, given to her after the divorce, so that went out to the curb.
Next she threw away items that proved she had not been taking care of herself – so every towel with a worn spot, every sheet that lost its elasticity, and every garment with a hole or stain was tossed out.
She said she felt great to sit in the emptiness and purge the bad memories so she could start over. (I was listening to all of this on the phone. I had called her to let her know I had finished painting my mural and somehow I wanted to share my joy with her. One day I will learn this is not possible.) She also said people driving by were stopping and taking her items, and that made her feel good to be helping others who needed the things.
So what happens next? I bet some of you can guess, some of you know how dysfunctional families work. Who has always been the hero for my mother? Yup – my brothers. So for the next week I got emails and phone calls about everything my brothers were buying for her. They bought her a cherry dining room table with the chairs she always wanted. They bought her a new recliner, a new vacuum, new sheets – new everything. They swooped in and saved the day. No one was phased by her selfish temper tantrum. Not at all. This was normal to them, they all did what they always do, because it feels safe that way.
But wait – I’m not done yet. Here’s the real clincher, the whole point of my story today. In that phone call, my mother blamed me for her troubles with my father, and that it was my fault she had to associate with him and have all of his stuff in her house. I don’t remember verbatim, but I’ll try to quote her here.
“I’m done pretending to get along with that man. I don’t want to ever see or think about him again. Even if it is what my children want. For years I smiled and put up with him because it was what you wanted, because you insisted he should still be a part of our life. Well, no more. I’m done”
So if this isn’t clear, she is obviously referring to a 16 year old me. When I was finally brave enough to tell her what he was doing to me, and asked her for help. I wanted to be safe, but I could not bear the thought of ripping my family apart. And my father still had control over me. I was terrified of him and did what he asked. Oh yeah – and I was a kid. Don’t forget that part mom. It was supposed to be your job to take care of me, to lead the family, to show us what to do. So yes, I am fully aware that while I was living in denial of the horrors of my first 16 years of life, you added the burden of saving the family on me too. So kudos to you for blaming the 16 year old me for ruining your life. Mighty fine of you. And sadly not that shocking that you could create an entirely new delusional world to fit your needs and have you blameless and saint-like. Again. All is right in your world again. You cry and your sons buy you stuff.
I explained all of this to my therapist last week, and her jaw dropped. When she recovered, she asked me to say what I want to say to my mother to her. I thought for a bit, and I thought I would have so much. I thought I would have tears, but I only have anger, a sense of injustice. All it comes down to, then and now is a simple –
Where were you?
Where were you when I needed you? Where were you all those years? Where were you when we needed a mom? And now, still now, you choose to hide in your delusional world, and force those around you to see you as the victim and use their love to get what you want, feed your need. I’m sorry, but I won’t play along. I will never board your pity train. I wish you well – but from a distance. So many years I looked to you and my big brothers for clues on how to behave, how to survive. I find it amazing that you say you were all looking to me, and that I steered you wrong. That now, after all these years, it is still my fault in your eyes. But I know better now and won’t be falling into that trap again. Ever.
So I am moving on here too. I have been able to pull myself up from the abysmal pit of despair – without the support of my parents. I have been able to overcome fears and phobias instilled by my parents. I have been able to feel love and share love – despite my parents. As much as I may long for a supportive hug from parents like I see on TV, I know that is not mine to have. I also know that I am strong enough to succeed without it.
It really isn’t about them any more. This is my story now. They may have written the first book for me, but now that I have the pencil, I’m erasing the twisted side-plots before they take over. The first book was about pain, isolation, sadness, abuse, depression and despair. This book I’m writing is about family, friends, hope, goals, hard work, progress, and growth. This book is about life, and all of its beautiful imperfections. Mostly though – it is about love – true, unconditional, spirit soaring love. And everyone knows that the powerful, cold hearted characters never win in a love story. Nope, the pure of heart underdogs are the winners, every time.