Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Get Out of My Dreams

Everyone seems to be writing really emotional posts this week. I caught up on my blog reading this morning and almost every blog I visited had me in tears! What's funny is that I started this post yesterday. There must be something in the water!

I would like to cordially invite author Emily Giffin to get out of my head. Or at least stop mining my life for tidbits to put in her books. It's never the main point of the story, but in each of her four books, there's been something that hit a nerve with me. In her first and second books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, it was the character of Darcy that made me realize that in some ways I have been a selfish brat and not the best friend I could be. (See this post.) Then, in her last book Love the One You're With, the main character is a professional photographer, which is totally my dream job. The character talks about being afraid to to go for a career in photography because she was afraid that she'd suck at something she loves so much. That is totally where I am right now about photography. I adore it, feel like I have a little bit of talent at it, but am almost paralysed by the fear that if I quit my job to go back to school for photography, what I will find out is that I'm nowhere near good enough to make that a career. And in the third book, Babyproof, it was an aside when the main character was thinking about cutting her mother out of her life. The character expressed that she thought that breaking off contact with a parent marked both the mother and the daughter. It marked the mother as being unbearable, but it marked the daughter as "being hard, unforgiving, and self-righteous". That quote hit me like a ton of bricks. I have certainly never wanted to think of myself as "hard, unforgiving and self-righteous", but am I? In thinking about it, I've realized that I'm still very angry with my mother for things that she did when I was a kid. I'm FURIOUS with my mother for manipulating me and putting me down when I was too young to realize what she was doing. I'm FURIOUS with my mother for the fact that I'm still hamstrung by insecurity and self-doubt from years of being treated as dismissible. I'm FURIOUS with my mother that I still, in the back of my head, don't really feel worthy of love. So, why haven't I forgiven my mother for all this? Because it's never been honestly addressed. Oh, I've addressed it. Time and time and time again. Yelling, screaming, crying, even bending over backwards to try to please her - I tried everything I could think of. But she has never once addressed it. Her responses have been, "Oh, you're SO sensitive, I can't say anything to you. I have to walk on eggshells around you." "Well, whatever I did, I'm sorry." (said in a really snotty tone of voice). Since what I want is to taken seriously and to have my feelings addressed and to have an actual, honest apology, no, I haven't forgiven her. I guess that does make me hard and unforgiving. Hmm. As for self-righteous, well, I guess it takes an element of self-righteousness to keep this up. To keep believing that you're right and the other person is wrong. And I would add that I really don't want her around my children. I feel very strongly that it is my duty to protect them from people and situations that I know to be dangerous. My mother inflicted more harm on me than anyone else in my life. I definitely consider her dangerous. So I don't want her around my kids. That probably qualifies as self-righteous. It's certainly a justification for what I'm doing. So there you have it, kids. I am "hard, unforgiving, and self-righteous". Yuck.

19 comments:

Shelly Overlook said...

Oh honey. I would guess that the longer you hold on to the fury you have for your mother, the more of an energy drain she'll be for you. Maybe you'll feel better about yourself if you can let go of the anger and move forward. You aren't going to get a satisfactory response/apology from her. Ever. You need to let go of that dream and realize she is not the mother you wish you had, and that really sucks, but you cannot change her. Of course, I am not a shrink, nor do I play one on tv, so what do I know?

I recently watched some crime show where this creepy pedophile guy stalked some family in a campground in the 70s. One night he slit open the tent where he knew the youngest daughter slept, took her, abused her, then killed her. The family was there on vacation and it was their last night there. The mother was consumed by grief and rage until she knew if she kept it up, it would kill her and rob her surviving kids of their mother. So she decided to forgive the guy. Not forget, never forget, but just to forgive so she could live her life. One year later on the anniversary, the killer actually called her to taunt her. She talked to him for over an hour (the police were expecting the call, so they taped it) and in the end, the thing that got him was when she told him she prayed for him and that she had forgiven him for what he did. (at this point he was claiming the girl was alive and well, the mother did not even know what had really happened to her, other than she'd been missing for 1 year) The forgiveness so surprised the man, he hung up on her, but he couldn't forget the mother. Eventually he kept calling her and the mother was instrumental in his capture.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this other than your story reminded me about this woman. I don't know if I could actually be the kind of woman that mother was, but it's something I aspire to.

d e v a n said...

Oh. :(
I'm so sorry she won't talk to you like adults and give you what you need. I do not think you are self-righteous or hard. You are human.

Alice said...

that's not hard and inhumane. not if it doesn't carry over to other parts of your life. but it's not like you treat your kids like that... so why not be hard and inhumane to someone who deserves it?

(i know i know... it's better to forgive and move on... but we're human)

Shelly said...

Shelly - Thanks so much. I really have come to the realization that she isn't the mother I wish I had and that I can't have the relationship I want with her by myself (I actually meant to put that into this post, but forgot.) I am still really angry, though, and that's probably the part I need to work on. I loved your story. That woman is an inspiration and I would definitely like to be more like her than the way I feel now. Thanks again.

Shelly said...

Thank you, devan. I really needed that.

Shelly said...

Alice, thank you. You're right - it doesn't bleed over into other parts of my life. Thanks for understanding.

Jess said...

I think some things aren't worth forgiving. It sounds like you've evaluated the situation and realized that you don't have anything to gain from forgiving her. There's still too much pain and rawness there, and she is still too similar to the way she was, for you to have a positive relationship with her moving forward. So yes, if that's what unforgiving is in this instance, fine. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the right decision.

Shelly said...

Jess, you totally nailed it. Thank you. There's also a real sense that I didn't get mad about this as a kid. I just took what was dished out and believed that I deserved it. So I'm strangely proud of myself for HOW MAD I am, because it's about damn time.

Jasmine said...

some people are toxic and it is best to not be involved with them.

Shelly said...

Jasmine, I totally agree. Thanks for visiting!

Princess Extraordinaire said...

I know how anger toward a parent can fester and build inside of you until you feel completely and untterly bankrupt. I knwo it sounds cliche but I really think if you somehow were able to process through all the ills from your Mom you'd somehow be able to find forgiveness...how about in writing? You could let her know just how hurt you are and what you need from her - not that she'll deliver but it's worth a try..if only for your sake and not for hers and your childrens.

Shelly said...

Princess - welcome and thank you for visiting! I have thought about writing my mom a long letter that explains my side of everything. But she's never listened before, so why waste my time? I still toy with the idea, mainly because of what you suggest - that it might make me feel better.

lucidkim said...

I'm late to this party and this is my first time to your blog so maybe I'm not grasping it all as well as I could, but this post reminded me a lot of myself.

For a lot of reasons I won't go into here - the last year has included a lot of refection for me, thinking about why I am who I am (making stupid choices, etc.) and a lot of it goes back to my mom. I've been angry with her for a long time, but not in a way I could really express (oh, by the by mom, I'm 42 and I need to get to the bottom of why you treated me like *this* when I was 10...) so for a long time I've resented her and yet maintained a 'friendly' relationship with her on the surface. It was just easier.

My mom is not one to want to revisit the past and has loudly stated several times that she believes no matter what a person goes through in childhood, when they are an adult it is time to just get over it and move on, end of story. It's her way of not only saying she isn't going to talk about any of it - to me it also feels like she's saying she isn't going to take any responsibility for how any of us (I have 3 sisters) turned out (unless it is positive and then she's all about taking credit for that).

I've finally made peace with it (ok, maybe not completely, but I've come a long way) in my head. My mom did not have a good childhood either - an emotionally vacant mother and an alcoholic and abusive dad. I do think my mom tried to be a good mom but didn't know how - her failures weren't mean-spirited attempts to make me feel worthless - I think she just didn't have good parenting skills.

I've done things and made choices in my own life that I truly regret and one thing it's taught me is that even when people are in a mess they made by themselves, it doesn't mean they don't need help getting out of it - and they still need compassion. The way I translate that idea to my mom is in thinking that yeah, she screwed up a lot raising us and the fact that she can't or won't acknowledge it(let alone apologize) doesn't mean I can't forgive her and accept her for who she is today - not dwell on and hate who she was 30 years ago.

It's still not easy and mostly all I can take is a short weekend with her - and live 500 miles away. :)

kim

Shelly said...

Kim - thank you so much for your visit and your very thoughtful comment. Yes, your mother sounds a lot like mine. And yes, my mother did have a rough childhood. I don't really know the details, but I can guess at a lot of it. You ARE a lot like me, and I have felt a lot of the things you describe, especially feeling stupid for brining up things that happened so long ago. And also the feeling resentful but keeping up the "friendly" front. I had the added dimension that my mother was divorced and didn't really have any friends, so I felt very responsible for her happiness. I like your theory about forgiving her and accepting her as she is now, but the problem with that in my situation is that my mother hasn't changed. So I forgive her, then she does the same thing over and over again. I let her back in and she hurts me again. I just got tired of that pattern and cut her off.

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