When you were younger

I have a tumblr that’s fannish and full of pop culture nerdery.  It is not connected to this blog, for various reasons.  But one of the things I do blog about there is the idea that we each get to choose ourselves, even if it runs against what convention would tell us is “right.”

Recently, I reblogged someone’s tweet that said “be the person you needed when you were younger,” then added the comment “and tell your friends and family to fuck off if they don’t like it.”

I meant that and mean it still, though defining the contours of what I needed (someone to say yes, to listen, to tell me that I was great, to not criticize, someone who didn’t expect me to mediate their adult woes, those are all just starters) is an ongoing journey. 

Anyone who’s been patient with me here long enough to read my family posts over the years knows that one of my persistent struggles is my relationship with my mother, on and off again as it is.

She’s not a bad person, but she is not a whole person, either, and she is capable of inflicting great damage on me simply by being herself– and because of who I needed when I was younger and did not get, I haven’t yet found a way to turn off my reactions to the crazy, entitled ways she needs to interact with the world in order to make it feel safe for her.  Sometimes, therefore, I need to just turn off my interactions with her.  I feel badly about it because she doesn’t understand and won’t ever– even though there is a part of me that believes that she should but is in such deep denial and such a narcissist that she would rather suffer a non-relationship with me than actually admit to herself that she has often just sucked as a human being and mother.  But my entire life, it has always in the end been about her, and reflecting back to her that she’s a good person, a good mother, a good whatever-it-is-she-needs-to-hear and I am– or was– her child.  I shouldn’t have had to be the person who validated her existence for her, and she should never have put me in that position, never mind that she is deeply crazy in a profoundly sad way.  She can’t listen to anything anyone else suggests to her when she is complaining about her problem du jour, either, because everything has to be her brilliant idea, plus she is fundamentally passive– it’s what led to her first several psychotic breakdowns, despite my telling her accurately that she should be seen for the same manic depression I’ve managed to keep under more moderate wraps.

It’s a problematic situation, because when she doesn’t want to deal with a situation, or is being some weird passive martyr about whatever ailment is troubling her, she will call looking for sympathy, but won’t take advice– or will only do it months later, or only half-assed in some weird new-age twist she’s come up with on her own.  With her in CA and me in MA, and me living hand to mouth most of the time, it’s easy-ish to avoid her and turn conversations quickly around to whatever she wants to complain about, offer some sympathy she wants and some advice she won’t take– because I can’t help myself, and sharing actually useful information is a compulsion, even if being completely ignored about it is a huge slap in the face.  But when she’s visiting it’s just truly awful.  She won’t take care of herself because she expects someone else to do it, but she wants to be in sunny CA where none of us want to be.

I haven’t initiated any conversation with my mother at all since she was here at the end of October, and between her and my brother it was a passive-passive fest of bullshit epic proportions, and me the only one without a car or money was somehow supposed to organize all the activities.  I walked out, regretfully let my brother foist my mother on me for a “birthday” “celebration” “dinner” near my work that I ended up having to pay for and then had to pay to put my mother back in the cab to my brother’s– and I haven’t talked to her since except for once, when she called my brother on Christmas and I happened to be sitting right there.

She has called my phone a few times since then.

I have not called her back.

“Happy” isn’t the word to describe what I would feel to never talk to her again.  “Relieved” isn’t it either.  I just want her to leave me alone, because I can’t get from her what I want (an actual mother) and I don’t think I should have to give her what she apparently wants, which is some kind of affirmation that she’s a good person or a good mother or something.  I don’t want to have a conversation with her about what she wants from me, because I don’t want to know.  Whatever it is, it won’t be realistic, or fair.  And I am hair-triggered to hate her for asking for it.

This is all a really long preface to saying I got a voice mail from her Sunday– sounding shaky & plaintive & saying she hadn’t talked to me in a while & wondered how I was doing & that she loved me.  The whole tone of it set my teeth on edge, and I did not call her back.

Sometimes I call my brother and sic him on her when she sounds bad, but I didn’t, this time.

Tonight, while I was downstairs making supper she left me another voice mail to say she was going to the local good hospital for a set of symptoms that are a concerning and potentially surgery-involving acceleration of things she’s been dealing with for a while and which I’ve been telling her to get checked out for almost a year.  I’m so angry at her I just want to scream– block her calls from my phone– burn all her pictures– just– never interact with her ever again.  And of course, because she’s been ignoring this for so very long, that just might forcefully happen.   My brother has spoken to her and will keep me updated, but for now, I’m not going to call her.  I can’t– the idea makes my stomach turn inside-out.  I am literally revolted at the idea of having to talk to her, she’s such an emotional vacuum.  I’ve just– got nothing for her, that’s what it feels like these days.

The person I needed when I was younger is torn– between mutely wishing her quick-healing resolution & not too much pain, and continuing to protect myself from people who hurt me, whether they mean to or not and staying the hell out of the way– and saying what she wants to hear (It’s ok, I love you) even though it will inevitably mean another fucking emotional kick in the teeth down the line.

I don’t know if I need her feeling like she’s forgiven– just in case– as much as I need to just stay away, permanently.  Maybe the problem is I never was young to begin with, and adults’ needs are far too complex to parse.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m afraid to be a person in the first place.  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll find out.

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6 thoughts on “When you were younger

  1. Casi

    I have a good friend who has made that permanent break with her mother. It happened when she had her daughter –she realized that she needed to protect her daughter from the toxic nature of her mother, and cut off all contact. Sometimes her mother figures out a way to contact her, and she has to make the decision all over again, but she’s found the strength to do it. I’ve always supported her in that decision, and I know that it is a really hard thing to do. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. She Curmudgeon Post author

      Thanks very much. I feel badly for her, because she won’t ever understand and will always be confused and hurt, but at the end of the day, that noncomprehension and lack of interest in learning is why, in the first place.

      Thanks for reading & commenting.

      Reply
  2. Dawn

    I wish I had a good solid answer for you (guys aren’t the only ones who want to fix things!). I know the decision to (mostly) cut off your mother was NOT an easy one, even though you do eventually have to think of number one, as they say–which is not always the negative thing people like to think it is. I imagine you still hope she comes through OK and are hoping that she might learn something too. I know that from what you say, the latter is extremely unlikely, but stranger things have happened. And look at it this way–at least you aren’t going to be involved in her recovery. Sad for her to be alone, but that was her decision to move where none of her family are, you have a job you can’t up and leave, and I presume your brother is likewise bound to his home by family and job.

    Know, however, that you will manage. I know you will. You’re strong–after all, look at everything you’ve done! All that you’ve told us, and you’re still here! You’re still a functioning adult member of society (no matter what you feel like inside) no matter what has happened. And we’ve got your back. Make your call and your friends (virtual and otherwise) will support you however you need. ((((hugs))))

    Reply
    1. She Curmudgeon Post author

      (hugs you back) I do hope she comes out ok, and I don’t want her to suffer, but at the end of the day I have absolutely no hope that she will ever listen to anything except her own crazy, and I’m just done competing. It was her choice to move away and I’ve told her several times I would help her move back (even as it would suck for me, big time) but she doesn’t want to. It makes me sad, but not sad enough to try again to explain it to her, because the definition of insanity is doing something repeatedly and expecting a different result, knowing all along you won’t get one.

      Reply
  3. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    This is a tough spot indeed. I know for my relationship with my father (probably easier because I hardly lived with him), choosing to keep contact just so I don’t have to have big thing about no contact has been the route I’ve taken. Whatever you end up doing, making peace with it is probably the most important thing.

    Reply
    1. She Curmudgeon Post author

      Jenn– I’ve done the no contact thing before and very reluctantly allowed her back in. It was pretty much a mistake, because she hasn’t learned & doesn’t care to or doesn’t know how. I’ve done the limited contact thing the last couple of years, but it isn’t sustainable and I just explode and end up being mean– because she can’t understand and I can’t be rational around her. It makes me sad, for me and for her, but I don’t feel guilty, not any more, and I’m not so sad that I’m willing to trade it off against the aftermath I feel everytime I have to deal with her. You’re right, though– finding some zen about it, no matter what the result, is the key.

      Reply

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