Several weeks ago, my family and I visited my mother's home. I know, I know. But it was a necessary thing. And since it'd been almost three years since I'd visited her home, I figured it would knock of some of my parental obligation.
I plan to write some posts about some of the situations that popped up while there. I had hoped, by now, that I would no longer be writing such personal posts. That I might have "graduated" into more scholarly and educational posts (haha, that's a joke). But seriously, I still don't feel I have an overarching understanding of narcissism that would be necessary for me to feel legitimate in writing articles on narcissism. So, I'm going to stick to this personal stuff. It not only helps me, but I think seeing actual examples may help others. And because I DO have a much better understanding of the dynamics of what is going on, that may be useful. I do regret that I am exposing some of my mother's personal stuff, but I guess it is what it is. I really disliked in the last post transcribing the texts, but unless you really see the wording, it's hard to describe what is going on.
One morning, my son asked me to draw him a picture of an event that we'd participated in. He likes me to draw pictures and then he colors them and adds his own touches. Many times, I encourage him to draw his own things, but I find it fun for us to do these little projects together too.
He was quite happy with the result and brought it to NM to show her. She said, rather blankly, "Huh. I didn't know your mom could draw. Who knew she was such an artist?"
Seems pretty harmless right? And in NM's defense, artistic en devours were not my primary hobby growing up. I spent a lot of time involved in theater. I liked to act, dance, and especially sing. I often had the leads in school musicals or solos. I participated in academic teams. I wrote. A lot. I was always writing.
Plus, my sister was the "artist" of the family. She was the one who made the great art, drew well, and even went to art school for college.
But for NM to say she didn't know I could draw is complete bullshit. When she first said this, I felt a little ping. Sort of like being flicked in the brain. "Ping: that doesn't sound right."
It niggled at me and later, as I thought about it, I realized it was completely impossible that my mother didn't know I could draw. I spent many, many hours in my room drawing cartoon figures which I would design outfits for. I loved doing that. I spent tons of time drawing other things too. I still have many of my drawings.
And as I thought further, I remembered that I also used to win the contest to draw the artwork for the programs for all of those theater productions I was in. Every person in the audience, as well as my mother, received copies of those programs. So, while it's highly likely she had no clue about my drawing alone in my room (she tended to leave me be in there), I KNOW she'd had an opportunity to see those programs.
And then it dawned on me fully: my mother has a FRAMED portrait picture that I drew of my sister and I above her dresser in her bedroom. HOW in the world could she not know I draw when she stares at a picture of my art every. single. day.
I really could care less if my mother knows I draw or not. It's not about that. But it just stuns me at times how little she knows about me. How little sinks into her understanding of me. I am nothing but a bunch of labels. Like a magazine collage of pictures she's cut out. She does not see me. Like, at all. I am allowed a certain set of descriptors, as is my sister, assigned to me by NM. We are not allowed to share any descriptors, unless she sees fit. And anything that doesn't fit into her box, she doesn't see.
I spent a lot of time with NM listening to her blab on and on. It was enough negativity and drivel (much of which she repeated seeming to hope for a different effect or response) to make me want to rip my ears out. After the five day visit, I was recounting to DH all of the shit she had unloaded on me when I realized she'd only asked me ONE question about me. And even that had felt obligatory and rehearsed. I do not exist to her as a person and I often feel I am merely a place for her to talk "out loud to herself". She then feels like she is engaging in conversation, but it is truly like she's talking to her reflection in the mirror, not me. Even when I tried to discuss a similar situation I have with my SIL as to one she described with her stepDILs, she dismissed me, minimizing what I was saying, and clearly showed she remembered none of the history between SIL and I. All she said is that she found my conclusions about SIL to be wrong, and that clearly our relationship issues paled compared to the stepDILs and certainly she "feels (we) could be friends if (we) worked at it."
Since I've been home, she's used the "drip" form of communication, sending one or two pictures from the trip each day by email, to maintain that "contact" with me. Despite her knowing that several larger things have gone on in my life (she knows I lost my childcare, she knows that we had a minor emergency with my son - nothing big, no worries, he's fine) she hasn't called or asked anything about them. Not one thing, despite daily communication from her. I'm guessing this is part "punishment" (for not answering her texts) and part her devotion to all things herself.
Feeling invisible to my mother is nothing new, and so the experiences didn't pain me nearly as much as they would have in the past. Nothing I can do will make her take notice of me, and that's just the way it is. But seeing it, without the pallor of all of the emotional pain, helped me to see just how clearly invisible I am to her. It remains stunning, even without the pain.
My husband, when this song came out, said that it reminded him of how I always described my relationship with my mother and sister. The emphasis on the wording is mine: