You can probably guess what I’m going to say. I’m going to say that my day has not gone as planned. But that’s okay. A person has to be able to adapt sometimes. Here are the “highlights”:
- I had the same misunderstanding with Trey* that I did New Year’s Day. Urgh.
- I picked up a box of Cheese-its and it felt way too heavy to contain merely crackers. I thought I had the mouse, cheddar-yellow-handed, but alas, I went outside and pulled the plastic sleeve out of the box, no mouse! Damn you! I’ll get you yet!
- I am cleaning.
Yes, it’s been that kind of a day.
It seems to me that this blog is taking me inward. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing for an already highly introspective person. But I have something on my mind, and I must get it off my chest, because it’s pressing on me. A letter to my mother. For me, it’s usually wise not to send the letters I write. Because not everyone understands or even tries to understand when there is criticism implied or spelled out. I see both sides, the light and the dark, and who wants to be reminded of their shadow side and it’s effect? Furthermore, at this late date, I do NOT want to hurt anyone, especially my mother, any more than I already have. So this letter will not be mailed, unless it is rewritten without the negative stuff. You may think 48 is too old to harbor resentments against one’s mother, and you’re right. I’m hoping that once and for all, I can chronicle them, and then let them go for all time.
You are my true mother. Another woman may have given birth to me, and I may have her genetic code rather than yours, but this other woman I have never seen, though I know who she is and where she lives. She has not made an effort to get to know me. And I’m okay with that. She could never replace you.
I am so sorry that it took us so long to become close again. I am so sorry at what your life has become. I understand you. And I love you. We wasted so many years being at odds with each other.
I’m sorry that when I was a baby I wasn’t cuddly. I came into the world with a slightly effed-up gene pool. I didn’t know what I was doing when I wouldn’t let you hold me. If I could do it all over again, I would be the good cuddly, loving baby that you wanted, like Tena* was, your first baby. I would let you love me because I needed you to. Do you suppose that a baby knows somewhere in her heart that the woman who gave birth to her didn’t want her? Abandoned her? I don’t know why she gave me up, but I do know that I always feared it was because I was bad and unlovable. Perhaps she simply couldn’t keep me. I know she wouldn’t marry my birth-father, he offered, and she said she had tried marriage once, and it hadn’t worked.
But you did want me. You didn’t know who I was, so you didn’t want me specifically. You wanted a baby and you got me. And you loved me with all of your heart. I believe that.
Sometimes I say that my children taught me what love was, but actually you did. I never felt that you loved me unconditionally. I don’t believe I was mistaken, but you loved me to the best of your ability and still do. Even when I am not behaving lovably.
You always said I was so independent. I never really knew what that meant. You said I always wanted to do things myself, by myself. I think I closed you out from the beginning. Is this what you meant by “independent?” Do you think a baby’s heart can be broken? Sometimes I think so. I think that when a baby is separated from her mother, her heart can break. It was three months before you got me. I know that the people who fostered me took good care of me. But did they pick me up and love me? Did they treat me like they would their own? I’ll never know the answer to that question, and it no longer matters.
I was a stubborn baby. You said I was frightening because I could out-stare you. I was defiant at times. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. But in my pictures I look happy. I don’t know when I became sad. My school pictures show a sad-eyed child. I know I kept myself separate even then. I held myself apart from my schoolmates while at the same time wanting their attention. I remember feeling outside of myself even then, like I was watching myself live.
I’ve always thought that you squashed the sass out of me. Oh, it never completely dissipated, it just went underground. I’ve always thought that you taught me not to think too much of myself, not to be too pleased with myself. Or maybe that was Dad, I don’t know. All I know is that I really took that to heart, Mom. Only that little surviving spark ever thought very much of herself, and I now thank goddess it survived. You didn’t know what you were doing. You were parenting the way you thought you should, maybe the way you were parented. But you didn’t know how sensitive I was. Or did you? When I showed that picture to dad in kindergarten, and he looked at it and said, “Can’t you do better than that?” and I didn’t say anything, but the tears rolled down my cheeks, didn’t that clue you in to how easily I was hurt? When I tried to get in bed with you when it was storming, and you’d send me back to my room, and I would come back and lay on the floor beside your bed, didn’t you know I needed comforting? Didn’t you know how alone I felt? How much I needed you? You said I was afraid of everything, and you thought if you made me confront it on my own, I’d lose my fear. But I didn’t. It just pushed me more inside myself. Made me think I couldn’t ask for help and receive it, like I had to face everything on my own. I was just a child, Mom. Why did you make me act like an adult?
When I got older, that was when you wanted to comfort me. And it was too late. I’d already learned from you and Dad I had to be perfect and face life on my own. And my fear paralyzed me.
Dad made me choose between you, Mom. You and Dad are opposites (like I was with MCF*, but you two were not as extreme). I tried to be perfect like Dad strove to be. I tried so hard to make you both happy. But no matter what I did, if it wasn’t what you wanted, you didn’t support my efforts. So long as I was doing what you wanted me to do, we were fine. If I rebelled, you wanted to squash me, put me back in that round hole when I could only be a square peg.
So I chose. I chose to be like Dad, but in the long run, I couldn’t pull it off. I experienced my first major clinical depression when I was 20. And I had nowhere to go. I tried to get help from you, I actually asked for help, but you were in your own deep depression, without any help, and I fell through the cracks.
I think you thought all along that if I wasn’t saying something was wrong, there wasn’t anything wrong. But you don’t know how I held it all in. Tried to contain it. Be self-contained. And you were so fearful. You made a big deal out of so many things that weren’t one, but you never knew what was too much, too big for me.
You were so out of tune with the times. My god! I came of age in the 80’s, Mom, and when I became sexually active (after high school yet!) you acted like it was a crime! You told me I could come to you if I had a problem, but when I got pregnant at 20 and came to you, your first response was, “What will the family say?” You called me a whore and threatened to cut me off financially if I didn’t have an abortion. The next day you were all apologies. But can’t you see why I never trusted you with my feelings, thoughts, and problems? Dad was more circumspect with his words, but he was crushed because his perfect girl that he put on a pedestal came tumbling down. I don’t know if either of you ever thought about how I felt, what I was going through. All I saw was you thinking about how it would affect you. I don’t know if you ever had faith in me, I doubt it. If there was some trouble, you always assumed that I was the cause, not the other person. And you come of that generation that believes a person is what they produce, that they have no inherent value.
I was so happy to go to college. So happy to be around people who thought and learned and explored and were curious about the world. I was so relieved to be away from your pain, the assumptions you would make about how I thought and the guilt. I was terrified that I would be called home because you’d done something rash. I didn’t know how to tell Dad that you were in trouble, so that he would take notice. Looking back on it now, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. We did what we always do in our family. We swept things under the rug and pretended like there wasn’t an elephant in the room with us. I didn’t want to be like you, so afraid all the time. Your fear and your need suffocated me. I became an adult yet you still treated me like a child, like I was still supposed to be doing what you wanted me to do, when you wanted me to be doing it, and how you wanted it done. I moved a thousand miles away because I couldn’t be around you and Dad and be myself. I didn’t even know who myself was. I had lived my entire life trying to please you and Dad, trying to be the person you wanted me to be. But I didn’t want to be your carbon copy, and I couldn’t pull off being Dad’s carbon copy anymore. That I have Histrionic Personality Disorder possibly stems from worshipping Dad. And maybe because you have it too. That’s just a guess. I don’t really know. I know you came of age in the ’50s, when women were supposed to catch men as husbands and being pretty was more important than being intelligent. You taught me to look for someone to make me happy and take care of me, rather than teaching me to do that for myself, Mom, and that is a lesson I have to un-learn. And I am working hard on that.
I hate that in the family you were the whipping boy, the one who was made to be at fault for everything wrong that happened in our family. Our family was and is completely effed-up (you’ll never read this, but even so I know you don’t like that word). You responded to big difficulties with depression and self-blame. Is it any wonder when you really didn’t have anyone on your side? We all had to side with Dad, because he needed that approval more than he needed to be fair. He needed to be the one who was right and perfect. At your expense. I hate what we did to you, I hate that I participated. I hope you can forgive me, Mom. Because I’ve learned that you were really strong. Our growing up years you made sure we were fed and had clean clothes and that the house was clean even when you were depressed and struggled just to get out of bed each morning. You tried to teach us manners and instill in us the character you thought we would need to make it in life. It was a bit skewed, granted, but you tried so hard. I thought that my children were the first to teach me love, but I was wrong. I was short-changing you, as I have done for such a long time. You taught me that fierce mother-love (fraught with fear that I was defective), you taught me how to laugh and be light-hearted, you gave me my razor-sharp and dark wit, you taught me the ability to survive. You loved me when I hurt you and pushed you away. And I loved you back, Mom. Honest to god I did. I know I didn’t show it in ways that you may have wanted, but I loved you fiercely. And I still do. I wanted and still want to protect you, care for you, and hold you, and be your friend. I’m sorry that I wasn’t the daughter you wanted me to be. I’m sorry I hurt you and was so disapproving and cold. I’m sorry that my illness has hurt you so much. I wish I were in a position to do for you, as you have always done for me. I’m trying, Mommy. I still need you. I need you here with me, now that we understand each other and have done away with all the bullshit (it’s okay if I say bullshit, isn’t it?) I forgive you, Mom. I forgive you for the hurt you have caused me. I know if you could have done it differently, you would have. I know that you were doing the best you could at the time.
You are my hero, because you taught me the how to love and forgive. And you took such good care of me always. Yes, you made mistakes. I made so many myself. I’m working on forgiving myself, and I hope you are too.
I’m 48 now, Mom. And I can love you and Dad. I don’t have to choose anymore. I can admire the things about you both that are admirable. My love and goodwill are stronger than my pain. I’m trying to shed my pain, and be happy. And I know that I have to do that myself, that no one can make me happy, that’s my job and it’s my job to take care of myself, no one else’s. It’s my job to get what I deserve, and as Jim* says, peace and unreasonable happiness are my birthright, and I should exercise them. That’s exactly what I intend to do, and I will do as much for you as I can. I wish I had another lifetime to give you all you’ve given me. There’s a design flaw in the way the world works. But I’ll give you what I can and do my best to be the best parent I can be to my children, your grandchildren, who love you dearly. I never allowed our conflicts to come to their attention. They thought you hung the moon, and they still do. I’m glad to see you as a parent and friend these days, not someone I have to live to please, not someone who can crush me with her disapproval.
When you hit menopause, I always told people you were getting in touch with your inner bitch. And I was proud of you if a little uncomfortable because Dad was always pushing nice down our throats, though life doesn’t always call for nice. You started standing up for yourself, even if it wasn’t in a direct way. You’ve kept me going up until this point, and now it’s time for me to take over. You’ll always be my mommy, and I will always need you. I am terrified of being without you, because I love you and want you in my life. You’ve always been my safety net, because even when I thought I couldn’t come to you, I came to you. Instead of judging me I wished you’d helped me. But the past is past. I want to put it there and leave it there. I don’t know how, but I’m trying, I’ll find a way. I want to live in the present. I’m learning how be present. I hope I can do what I need to do in time to be of some use to you.
Your loving, imperfect daughter,
1.) L* for giving birth to me.
2.) Mommy, for all of the above, because had I not experienced the good with the bad, I would not be the person that has so much that is good, kind, intelligent, and lovable today.
3.) For Trey, because he’s a beautiful person inside and out (actually, he’s hawt, but shhhh, keep it quiet, I don’t share!)
4.) For my friends, and family, and today, especially for Sue* and Erica*.
5.) For my beloved dogs, and their warmth and love.
6.) For my children, coolest beings on the planet.