1 January 2010. I try to think of it as momentous. Maybe there is something different about it for me, I can’t be absolutely untouched by all the hype.
I woke up angry. How’s that for a start to a new year? It’s been happening for a while now, months maybe. I’ve been thinking I’m backsliding, but today I realized it’s forward movement. Waking up aware that I’m angry is better than waking up aware that I’m depressed but can’t figure out why, which is what I’ve done for 30 years.
God I’m a slow learner. I joke, but it’s the tears of a clown syndrome.
Depression is repressed, depressed, suppressed emotions. If they’re repressed, you can’t do anything about them, can’t identify them. You stay disempowered. So this is a big progression. I remember when I first learned how to identify and release my anger in general I thought it would never end. 8 months of perpetual rage. Backlog. Then I thought it was over. Well, it wasn’t. This is rage of a much more focused, informed kind.
How many more blogs do I have to write about how my mother slaughters me emotionally with some seemingly trivial words or actions? More to the point, how many times do I let her even do it, let alone get away with it, before I shut the door and
One of my sisters once said she could forgive my Mother for what she did in our childhood if only she’d behave differently now, but she doesn’t, so it’s impossible to build a healthy relationship, and for the old pain to heal. She also said don’t accept help from her because you’ll pay for it. I heard the words, but didn’t believe her, I was so caught in my mother’s web, so conned by her exceptionally creative and effective PR.
I’m not conned by the PR any more, but everything she does and says causes an atomic conflagration of hurt and rage in me. There’s a song about a woman who can’t see that the man she’s in love with is no good: “…that I’ll go on playing with fire until I have learned my heart has been burned”. Same with my relationship with my mother, but the learning isn’t just about knowing it in your head, you go on playing with fire long after that’s happened. We all do.
You stop when you can face the truth of the damage that’s being done, let yourself feel your desperation and hurt with the intensity and reality that it happens. I’ve reached a point with my mother when I feel all the hurt that happens all the time. I used to just feel the real big things. Now I feel everything. Somebody said to me once you can’t live with that intensity of feeling. Well, she was wrong. You can’t live with it if you remain where the abuse is. But the more you let yourself feel, the more you empower yourself to finally leave. The only way you leave is to feel the pain of what it is to stay.
Still, how do I really face the truth that my mother sacrifices me to her interests, exploits my vulnerability and needs with no compunction, remorse or awareness? How do I face the truth that she’s an accomplished liar and fantasy builder who has no compunction about bullshitting to avoid personal responsibility, that she’ll hurt herself so that she can punish somebody by blaming them for being responsible? How do I face the truth that she is a classic passive-aggressive narcissist who has no consciousness of how much hurt and damage she’s caused to the people who’ve loved her? How much she continues to do it.
I feel like that fly struggling in the web still, while the spider just hangs out until it’s hungry. Truth is, it’s not my mother’s web I’m caught in any more, it’s my own, and I’m the one who lets her in.
I know I’ve been burned, I know I fell for her con. I’ve had periods of clarity when I’ve tried to walk away, but I’ve always come back because my knowledge wasn’t complete, and because I keep wanting her to love me selflessly. The times I’ve challenged her she’s responded in the way she does to anybody who dares challenge her: she tells me there’s something terribly wrong with me, and I need help, and my therapist doesn’t know what he’s doing. If he did, I wouldn’t need to challenge her. Right. She trashes me with not a backward glance.
It’s taken me ages to realize she does it with everyone who challenges her. Did it to my father, my siblings, her neighbours, anybody who works in her garden for her. She’s the sane one, we’re the fucked-up ones. She doesn’t care that it hurts, that it’s unjust, untrue, why should she? She doesn’t have to, she’s more special and sensitive than anyone else in the world. Why should she take responsibility for her actions and broken promises and the things she says? She doesn’t have to, because she’s the good guy. Why should she have to live by the harsh, judgmental and rigorous standards she expects of everybody else? She’s too important, too sensitive, too special.
She’s very powerful is what she is. The victim’s PR. She’s so good at it. She gets away with it by having no awareness of it. If anybody tries to confront her she denies, then breaks down and cries and says I try so hard, look at everything I do for you, nobody appreciates me, I don’t have to take this from you, you don’t know how guilty I feel, you don’t know how hard it’s been for me. And pretty soon she’s on the “you don’t know what your father did to me” tack. It’s such a good tactic. It raises so much dust, makes the other person feel like hell, it exploits their own self-doubt, their own goodness and willingness to try and forgive, to take personal responsibility. And it elevates her and places all the attention on her.
She’s a master at it. I see now why my father shrivelled up and died inside. It was that or go beserk. Oh my father.
So what triggers off my own rage? The myth she propagates that she’s meeting my needs at great cost to herself, contrasted with the reality of her constant refusal to notice that I’m there when we talk, to remember she’s the mother, I’m the daughter. The way she bullshits about my childhood and never thinks to herself – Oh I can’t say that to Jennifer, she was there, she’ll know it’s a lie. She forgets I was there. She forgets I’m right in front of her now. I feel as if I’m behind a one-way sound and vision sheet of glass. I can hear and see her, so she can benefit from my listening, and she can dump her anger on me, but she can’t hear me, can’t see me. Won’t. That’s what I don’t want to accept: I want to think she can’t, but it’s not the truth. She can. She just won’t.
The way she lauds my brother, forgets how much it hurts, even though I’ve told her hundreds of times. The way she refuses to listen to what he did, the part that he played. The way she tells me with such pride how she loved and protected him as a child, and moved heaven and earth to make sure he went to university. She tells that to me, the child she delivered to a pedophile, the child she didn’t care about. he didn’t know I wanted to go to university. And much later, when I tried to get in to study music, she didn’t care. I was living in her house and she didn’t notice. Wasn’t going to let me compete with her. Imagine if I proved successful?
Oh oh oh this isn’t rage.
It doesn’t occur to her to think about how unbearable it is for me to hear her talk about what she did for my brother, considering everything she did to me.
She doesn’t notice me. He’s like that, too. When I came back from Italy, I looked like death. I thought I was dying. He told me he thought I was, and he didn’t care. He actually told me that. What is it about this family? They speak to me as if I’m not there.
The way my mother refuses to listen to the whole story of my bankruptcy, brushes it away as if it were nothing, and reduces it all to being completely my fault – I shouldn’t have used the credit (“I never do, darling.” Well Mom that’s because somebody else has paid all your bills all your life) – and her perennial explanation for all my problems, namely that I just don’t have enough confidence. Doesn’t matter that laws were broken in the part other people played, doesn’t matter that I worked like the devil to try and stay afloat, that my brother withheld information from me that would have saved my business – and ensured that his loan to me got repaid. Doesn’t matter that when that business went down after all because I couldn’t access the backup I needed, that he destroyed the next business I tried to create. Passively and actively.
But he’s the conquering hero. Right. He destroyed a fledgling business of mine and his solution to my ensuing financial crisis was to bankrupt me.
None of that matters to her. It’s too uncomfortable for her to listen to the truth because it may mean she has to get angry with my brother. What’s it all about anyway? Power. Meal ticket. He plays the hero with her, pays for things, is charming, loving, tells her he loves me. He’s her backup if she somehow loses her income – which comes from my Dad, by the way. She can’t afford to piss my brother off. He might walk out on her. He might do to her what he did to me.
And here’s the rage again. Back and forth like a yo-yo.
I think about how easy it is for her to dump anything on me and not notice that it’s hard for me to hear. It doesn’t enter her mind, not even in retrospect. She constantly tells me I’m so intelligent and talented, that she has total confidence in me and believes I can make it. But it’s an accusation, the unspoken part being I’m just downright lazy and stubborn, and if I tried harder I wouldn’t need to take money from her, I wouldn’t inconvenience her so terribly, she wouldn’t have to make such incredible sacrifices for me. It’s all my fault.
Well, she doesn’t believe in me. When I wanted to create a business out of my singing, she said who’s going to bail you out when you fail this time? And hey, if she believed in me, she’d have known when my brother my brother wasn’t telling her the whole truth when he told her his cleverly biased version of my situation when he suggested bankruptcy as a solution. She’d have said what aren’t you telling me, because I know Jennifer, I know you’re leaving something out. Why?
If he’d told her the truth, anyway, he wouldn’t have had the balls to say I fucked her over, and now I’m going to use your money to bankrupt her, which is what he did.
She doesn’t even realize that her lies and self-justifications are flimsy and easy to penetrate for me. Lies always are. Compulsive liars never realize it.
Oh I don’t want to do this any more today. I don’t know if telling the story over and over helps or makes it worse. I guess it helps, it keeps the reality in my face, so I don’t slip back into denial.
If only I could be as unconscious of her as she is of me, but I’m not, and maybe that’s where the problem lies. I’ve learned to place her before me, and it’s just so hard-wired into every fiber of my being. Even when I’m conflagrating within in the face of her abuse, I fear that I’ll hurt her, I shove myself into the corner as effectively as she does, I make her more important than me. I keep her in my mind, I try to not hurt her, to show her consideration, try to take responsibility for myself so that I don’t dump on her.
I remember her. All the time. Everything she’s ever told me I remember, all the small details, the large ones. She takes up more space in my being and my mind than I do.
There you have it. That’s what the problem is. The power of the mother is like the power of the Catholic Church, only magnified a gazillion times. When a mother emotionally voracious the child learns very very young that it has no rights, and that the mother is more important. That message gets entrenched at the most important learning time in a person’s life.
Then there’s also the need. When the mother withholds nurturing, the child stays needy, carries on doing what the mother requires.
It continues right on through adulthood, until you root it out. I know of lots of women whose mothers still control them. And the mothers present as very sweet little old ladies.
Sweet little old ladies my arse. The PR of the victim.
When I talk to my mother I slump inside of myself, I give up, I don’t challenge her, because I know what the result will be. She’ll shut the door on me, and my deeply rooted fear of that still resonates to such a degree that I become as helpless and compliant as I was when I was a child. Well, the good thing is that I’m seeing the truth of how, when my need for unconditional core love isn’t met, I let myself be hurt. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It hurts, but it’s good.
There’s also that I’ve tried being aggressive, assertive, gentle. I’ve tried being so careful of what I say, speaking so lovingly and non judgmentally so I don’t hurt her with my words, tone or energy. Nothing works – simply because
she doesn’t want it to.
That’s so hard to accept. Some part of me keeps going back to that place of believing the problem is with me, it’s with the way I approach her, or it’s my own bad anger, or that I can’t let go of the past, or it’s just because I’m not enough in ways that can’t be described. If I try harder she’ll see me, she’ll love me, notice me, she’ll say I’m so sorry for what I did to your father, for how I lied to you about him and deliberately tried to make you hate him, I’m sorry for what I did to you, and for the way I’ve been treating you these past 6 years, I’m sorry that I singled out your brother and left you abandoned, molested, raped, ravaged, unnoticed.
Every time I speak to her, that small child in me breaks free and runs towards her, “this time it’ll be different, because I know what I did wrong, Mom, and I’ve changed! You’ll see, Mom, you’ll see! You’ll like me now!”.
I don’t know how to explain the pain of it. Intellectually I know who she is, I know what she’s done, I even know the why of it, and I know she’s never going to change, because it works for her to be the way she is, she stays in control. It works for her to sacrifice everybody to her interests and pretend she isn’t doing it.
It didn’t work so well for my Dad. It crushed him, it broke him. He’s dead now.
I have to get out of this jail, I have to break the bond. I have to. She’s eating me alive. I can’t let her do to me what she did to my father. Correction: I can’t let her do it any more.
I will not let her die with me in her grip. I want to do it while she’s still alive. I want to do it today.
I have to find work, have to stop being dependent on her in every way. I have to stop that small child in me from running towards her. I have to stop turning to her, hoping she’ll want us to have a healthy relationship. She doesn’t. She’s not going to release me from her web, she’s not going to facilitate me claiming my life from her.
And it’s not about the money. It’s playing out in the realm of money, but if I got a great job now, it wouldn’t change things between us, she’d find some other reason to dump on me and manipulate me.
I have to be the one to walk away, close the door. I have to close my ears to all the arguments and justifications that support her, and listen to those that support my own need for a life of no emotional abuse. Maybe it’s just a discipline thing at first. I’ve been hoping one day it’ll be easy, but I realize now that it won’t. It’ll never be easy. It’ll be very easy to walk away from the abuse, the subtlety of her tactics, her machiavellian way. It’ll be a relief to say it’s over for ever, I never have to talk to her again, never have to give her another chance to hurt me in even the smallest most insignificant way.
It’ll be hard to deal with everything in me that says I’ll hurt her irrevocably, I’ll destroy her, I’ll cause her to collapse, to have another nervous breakdown.
Hardest to deal with is the primeval fear, of having no mother. It defies logic, defies even the pain of abuse. That’s the fear I have to face. Existential angst.
If I knew how to protect myself enough from her I could stop the hurt from happening when we talk, I wouldn’t have to walk away. But I can’t. I’ve tried exceptionally hard and in every damn way I can think of. I have to forgive myself for that, I have to say it’s okay that I can’t do it. It’s okay to walk away completely. I can’t give away any more of my life. I’m 55 for god’s sake. It’s enough now.
She sets the rules of engagement and absolutely refuses to see that she does, refuses to try and change, to try and take responsibility. I’ve tried understanding her, adapting, changing. It’s enough trying now. I don’t want to wake up angry every morning. I’m glad and proud it’s graduated from depression to anger, and so long as it presents I’ll do what I need to do with it, express it, get it out of my body, pay attention to what caused it. But like my sister, I see the truth. It’s not the past that’s causing the anger and hurt now, it’s the present. I don’t want to put myself in situations where that anger and hurt keeps getting triggered.
I want to wake up happy and excited about my day, the work I’m going to do, the people I’m going to interact with.
I want my freedom. It’s mine to take. You can’t wait for somebody else to hand you your freedom. Well, you can, if you want to, but you’ll wait forever.
I haven’t had a fun history. It’s time to move out. Time to let go of the main author of it.
I know it’s unhealthy to let her help me financially, ludicrous even at one level. I know that no matter what anybody else did to me that led to my bankruptcy – and does now, even – my disempowerment in the face of it is my business and I can do something about it. Am doing.
I do have to walk away from her in every way. I can’t let myself be hurt like this any more. She’s like a poison in my system. The energy I sink into that twisted, distorted, very unhealthy relationship, I can, want to and must sink into my own life.
That which I need from her I must get elsewhere from a source that gives it willingly and with real pleasure. I will make my own money. I will forge my own way.
Sobering way to start the New Year! I guess there is something momentous about this one after all. This one I can celebrate in future. 1 January 2010 was the day I said to myself I’m willing to do what I need to do to claim my life.