Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I'm feeling ungrounded lately.  Our of sorts and cranky.  Thoughts and feelings and emotions are swirling around like leaves in a hurricane.  I can't seem to grasp any of them long enough to make sense of them. 

I'm tired, overwhelmed, and lonely.

Making new friends had been hard.  I'm trying.  I've been sorting out friends.  Figuring out who to let go, who to keep.  Realizing that not all friends have to be everything.  Learning to be more patient and less needy.  I'm not really good at that.  I have so few people I can count on that I overwhelm the people that I do have.  I'm feeling horrible lonely.  Mainly because I feel so disconnected.  So on the outside, looking in. 

NM, I've realized, relies on me WAY too much to "fill" her up.  She expects me to be her best friend, therapist, and sounding board all in one.  The woman contacts me almost every day, often several times a day.  She doesn't call (I've written about this, but two years ago I told her that I couldn't spend as much time on the phone.  She quit calling and so I enjoyed the peace and quiet.  And it's been this way every since.  I know she is now PURPOSELY not calling me to make a point: you don't call me, I won't call you.  Fine.)  BUT, I get text messages and FB messages and emails.  And when I don't respond immediately she puts out a search party.  Seriously.  A few weeks back we went away for the weekend.  Her messages got increasingly frantic.  In the past, when she can't get a hold of me, she's called my father, my in-laws, searching for me.  It was very embarrassing.  She's called my sister's co-workers.  I always used to "check in" so she wouldn't "worry".  But I felt controlled and infantilized.  So, I quit.  But, when she can't get a hold of me on any given day, she panics.  It sucks.  And it makes me feel tethered  to responding.

And I know it isn't because she's really worried....about me....she just loves to be worried.  And she's bored. 

I think about all of the people she has in her life.  Just today, she posted a truism on FB about sisters and said how much she loves her sisters.  Good for her.  Then lean on them too.  Quit making me be EVERYTHING to her.  And the truth is, I know their relationship isn't great.  Some of that is her fault, some theirs, but it could be better.  How about her  "soul mate" husband?  How about my sister whom she has a "close" relationship with?  She also has step daughters and step daughters-in-law, some of who have made an effort to get closer to her.  And my step father's aunt wants to hang out more too.  She seems to have WAY more family interested in her than I do in me.  Yet, there she is demanding my time.   I have little to no support.  And it pisses me off how much she depends on me.  Expects me just to be there when ever she texts her fucking pictures documenting her day. 

My youngest's birthday is coming up and their will be the yearly drama.  I hate that this celebration has to be tinged with negativity.  And a lot of that negativity is on my part.  I wish I was stronger and that I could let this all not get to me.  That I could look forward to the celebration and ignore all of the drama mongering. 

I'm anticipating an attack from NM.  She's been acting weird for the past few months.  And then, she posted lots of "my mom the saint" paragraphs on FB (her mom was a grade A narc).   Then, she pulled shit about trying to get my sister and I back together (so she could be the "hero").  Then, she posted pictures of her and my kids together and talked about how much she couldn't wait to see them.  When I couldn't take anymore, I quit responding to 90% of her texts/emails/ posts.  In her eye-for-an-eye mentality, she has quit "liking" any of my pictures.  While I could care less, it is a HUGE red flag that a storm is brewing.  This is a woman who routinely goes through all my pictures a million times and comments and "likes" everything.  She's up to something. 

My oldest finished preschool and is on to kindergarten.  While I'm so happy to see him grown, and I don't want to hold him back, it's painful to think how quickly the time has gone.   I just wish he could spend a little more time being little.  More time being all of the things. 

I'm angry that I spend so much time working through all of this.  I'm angry that it makes me angry and grouchy and that I haven't always been a great mom to my kids.  That time is flying and I don't know if I've enjoyed/appreciated/been present enough in my kids' lives.  That it is so hard to "heal" me while trying to be a good parent for my kids.   It can all be so exhausting and emotionally I can be raw.  And then somebody spills something or won't nap or I haven't slept in a week because someone is sick.  Time has gone SO fast and I haven't been nearly the mom I want to be.  I don't want to cling and hold onto my children, but I do realize sometimes that I don't have many other people in my life.  I don't want to make them the center of my life and overburden them, but I want to enjoy them and fully immerse myself in my family.  It's a hard line to walk. 

I want to be happier and more in the moment and able to ignore all of this shit.  I want to be able to enjoy my kids, be present, and not let the outside weigh on me.  I want to make the best of the relationship I have with my kids and not let the problems I have interfere and strain us.  I want them to have extended family and people who care about them.  Which, let's face it, they didn't have anyway.  My in-laws are supposed to "love" and "care" so much and everyone buys into the fantasy of a happy family, but no one is really there for anyone.  They couldn't even think about their grandson on his birthday and make him a priority. 

Then, you add all the other stressors of life.  Working on your marriage.  Worrying about money.  Thinking about how old I am and how old I'm getting.  (I know, I'm not THAT old, but it still just seems to go SO DAMN FAST.)   I'm trying to make friends.  My grandmother is very sick (but in true dysfunctional family fashion, I'm struggling to get information from anyone.)  I'm sad about that and her (very possible) death soon is bringing up all kinds of memories.  And the issues with my sister (who is always hovering on the periphery it seems) hang over my head too.  There was no finality to our relationship, so it just sits there.  But as  I look back at the extreme fucked-up-ness of our relationship, I don't even know where to begin to fix it.  And it doesn't help that she isn't interested in "fixing" it, but that I just be who she remembers me being.  That's like telling the chicken to get back in the egg.  Even if I wanted to, I'll never be that person again. 

It's just been one little thing piled on after another.

I'm feeling very much like throwing a tantrum on the floor sometimes.  Kicking and screaming that it isn't fair.  That it isn't fair that I have so few people to depend on and am so lonely.  Screaming that I can't deal with it all.  That I'm overwhelmed and tired and just plain sad.  I want to let the tears stream down my face but that's hard to do when you've got two kiddos running around.  I don't want to scare them. 

And now, I need to put down the laptop, get my ass off the couch, and get back to work.  There are clothes to fold, and laundry to do, and party favors to prepare.  There is no time for a tantrum.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

NM Rides in on Her White Horse

“You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”
John Rogers

I ran across this quote on Pinterest and it stuck.  You know how some things just get to you.  You read them and your brain shifts.  Something hits you and you just know that you've stumbled on a truth. 

It's been important to me to understand NM.  Not so I could excuse her.  Not so I could somehow lesson what she did.  But I felt I couldn't fight against NM, if I didn't understand her.  If I didn't study what went on to make sure I knew how to keep it from creeping further into my life.  You can't fully defend against that which you don't understand.

And what I didn't understand about NM was how she justified what she did.  How she could look me straight in the face and lie....and then actually believe her own lie.  How could she be so out of touch that she believed her own bullshit?

This picture of NM has been coming in hazy for awhile, but getting clearer and clearer.  It had never occurred to me to think about who NM believed herself to be.  Who she had convinced herself she was.  But NM thinks she's the rescuer.  The fixer.  The one with all the wisdom.  She wants to be the one everyone comes to for the answer. 

At my wedding, NM did very little to get me ready that day.  She complained a lot about not having enough time to do herself since she was so busy "taking care of everything" (this included tasks she assigned herself.  I didn't ask her to do ANYTHING that day, and everything she did was something she chose to add to the wedding.  I had a planner for the day and he was taking care of everything for me, as far as REAL work went.  She also had over an hour to shower and get ready.)  When she finally came in, she made a huge deal about putting me in my dress.  And after my makeup was finished, I asked her how I looked.

Of course, she had to "fix it".    I know that there was nothing she could've improve on.  Nothing.  But she had to grab the brush.  Very, very lightly pick up smidge of powder and pretend to fix my makeup.  Like I was a teenager whom she was fixing before a date.  She knew better than to actual screw with my makeup (she knows enough to know that she would've have been able to do anything but take away from what I've done) and possible risk being held accountable for anything.  But she puts on a production of correcting me.  Fixing me.  The photographer even took pictures of the "moment."   I remember feeling a bit embarrassed.  A bit infantilized.  I know there wasn't a thing she needed to fix.  But she needed to make sure everyone. including me, including her, thought I needed her to fix me. 

NM loves to fix things.  NM loves to play the part of the rescuer.  She loves to be needed.  She twists and convolutes everything to make herself the hero of the story.   To be needed is to be loved.  To be needed makes others indebted to you.  To be needed tethers people to you and guarantees they won't leave.  She loves the feeling she gets from being the "stable" one.  The one with "the money".  The one people need favors from.  The one who can then spew her wisdom on those whom clearly have their lives far less together. 

On the surface, it looks benevolent and generous.  It looks kind and thoughtful.  She is always, always helping.  And that's the story she tells herself.  How she gives and gives and gives and no one appreciates her.  How all she is doing is trying to help.  And no one sees the good she does.  How selfless and self-sacrificing she is.  This is the story she tells of her life. 

The other day, NM emailed me about my aunt.  How sick my aunt is and in so much pain.  She detailed how awful things are for my aunt.  And then she told me about how she "used her lunch hour" to run over all kinds of things for Aunt so that aunt would feel better.  She indicated that Aunt had refused her phone calls (being in too much pain) so NM then figured she better SHOW UP IN PERSON.  Because that would show how much she cared.   In NM's narrative, NM was the caring, concerned sister.  So concerned that she spent time and money to take aunt things.  It almost seems to be the thoughtful thing to do.

Yet, NM can't help but search for the credit for the nice things she does.  She likes people to acknowledge what she gives and how kind she is.  She wants, needs, everyone to know how nice she is and how much she gives. 

And also, somewhere deep down, I think that NM likes that Aunt needs my mother.  She likes that Aunt is in a "subordinate" position and not ranking so well in "life" as NM is.  Poor Aunt.  Benevolent, generous NM.  My aunt provides a place for NM to release her pent up need to give.  NM likes when people suffer because it gives her something to do.  If she had to choose between people hurting, and her never being able to "help" again, she'd choose the suffering.  NM uses this helping to "show" how much of a "good person" she is.  And if she didn't have that, how would she prove it?

And more than that, I don't think NM is above creating situations of drama in people's lives so that she can rescue them.  I think she purposely causes chaos she can swoop in and fix things.  (A couple of years ago, she insisted that she babysit for a big, important event so that DH and I could both attend.  But two weeks before, she started saying she didn't think she could drive all this way.  She hemmed and hawed and wouldn't commit.  But she also wouldn't accept that I would just schedule another babysitter.  Whenever I told her I'd find someone else, she suddenly decided to come again.  This went on for two weeks, until she finally decided to come for good, because, she always likes to "keep her promises."  She created the drama so she could end up still coming and look like she sacrificed.)  I think she encourages my sister in unhealthy ways because she likes to fix her.  I think she enables my sister and doesn't force her to grow up so that she can rescue her. 

And then, she can complain to everyone, behind my sister's back about how she has to rescue her.  About how much time and money and LOVE she has invested in trying to save my poor wayward sister. 

And my sister is actually screwed either way.  Because I often refuse NM's help.  And my lot isn't much better.  I'm called ungrateful and stuck-up and stubborn and proud because I won't take things from NM.  It enrages NM that she doesn't have anything to "fix" for me.  So, she creates problems.  She screws with my kids so that I feel inept as a mother: she implies I'm raising spoiled, selfish children (by creating situations in which she clearly favors one child and then calls him spoiled when he is upset by the unfairness).  She tries to create drama in my little family because it annoys her that I don't need her, have thrived without her, and have pushed away from her.  Needing my mother is just as harmful as not needing my mother.  It's always damned if you do, damned if you don't.

She'll offer me something.  Beg, almost, to buy something for me, give me something, provide me with something.  But if I refuse it, I'm ungrateful.  I don't appreciate her generosity.  If I take it, than I'm greedy.  I'm taking advantage of her generosity.  There is no right answer with my mother.  You are beaten down whatever you chose, but chose you must. 

Because she always has to be the martyr, the victim, the rescuer.  The one who gives while everyone else takes from her.  She has to convince herself that I am her enemy.  That my kids, her husband, my sister, her sister, everyone is out to get to her.  She has to be the white knight swooping to save everyone while all us heathens attack against her righteousness.  And she's not only going to defeat us, but she's going to save us.

At least that's the story she tells herself. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Motherhood is a Bitter Pill to Swallow

The other day, I made my trek to Target for my annual attempt at the impossible: find a card that sends the right message to NM (and MIL, although I've relinquished this task to DH.  He can figure it out.)  I've done the photo card (but didn't feel like making the effort this year).  I've let myself off the hook a lot when it comes to Mother's Day (I give a simple them something to "care" for) and a card.  And done.  Oh, and the damn phone call. 

Anyway, the man who stocks the cards was perched in the aisle, watching me.  He asked "Can I help you look for something?"  I told him no, that I was looking for a card for a "difficult mom".  He told me he understood.  But he continued to give me weird looks as I paced the aisle.  Pulling card after card out.  Reading it, rejecting it, putting it back.  Plain cards?  Nope.  They'll antagonize her.  Sentimental cards?  HAHAHA.  Like what?  Thanks for being a great mom?

The guy finally looked at me and complained "You're making me nervous going around and around like that!!"  Well, too damn bad.  How do you think I feel?  Clearly, this is no treat for me. 

I was watching a preview for a Mother's Day show on Ellen this week.  And a bitter and bitching feeling came over me.  I was so sick of hearing the "She's the woman who has always been there.  The woman who you can always count on." bullshit.  Sick of the advertisements and TV commercials pushing to "honor" Mother's: the Greatest People in the World.  It just made me want to vomit.

I've felt this bitter feeling before.  Hearing about how other people drop their kids off with the grandparents for a night (or weekend) so they can have a break.  Seeing grandparents involved (and not making it about themselves) at baseball or preschool programs.  Today, Sesame Street had a "Grandparent Festival" (or something) to honor grandparents.  I got that same bitter feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Not quite angry, not sad, must pissy about the whole damn thing. 

I'm not jealous either.  I mean, sure, I wish I had that.  But I'm not angry that other people are fortunate to have lovely parents or grandparents.  Good for them.  But I do think I get bitter when parenthood or grandparenthood is elevated to this esteemed place that makes the rest of us feel like our families don't measure up.  Or that all these "honor days" and sugar coated ideals put pressure on the rest of us to feel the same about our families...even if our families don't deserve to be "honored".   I'm bitter that there doesn't seem to be any room for people who aren't one big happy family.  I'm bitter that society forces us to all feel exactly the same way about our moms. 

But I realized the other day, I AM a mom too.  That this bitterness seeps into my own feelings about my mothering.  That I've become so tainted and bitter against "motherhood" that I've forgotten that, for a lot of people, a mom really is a good thing.  I see those commercials about a great mom and think "yeah, right.  I'm sure your mom is just wonderful."  I've become a bit biased in thinking that all moms are horrible and that the relationship with between mothers and children is always nastiness disguised as love. 

It struck me as sad that I think that.  I don't want to feel that way about my relationship with my children.  I don't want to feel that I'm doomed to eventually have the same shitty relationship I have with my FOO and in-laws.  I want to have hope and be positive and feel good about my relationship with my kids.  And I really struggle with how to reconcile the two relationships: mine with my kids, and my mother's with me.  It's hard to separate my feelings about "motherhood" and find a different definition, when my narcissistic mother had been the definition for so long.


On a side note, NM sent me a Mother's Day card this year.  It arrived on Monday (MONDAY.  She certainly wanted to make sure it arrived in time.)  We haven't really talked since I called her out on being negative about my son (she did manage to call and my son accidentally picked up - he's not supposed to answer the phone for this reason.  She was all giddy about getting to talk to him - unsupervised - which pissed me off.  I also felt a bit violated, as she has mentioned all the things he "told her".  Stuff that was not really a secret, but that I haven't told her, as she doesn't ASK about us.  I try to be very limited in what I tell her as she turns it around and, either, uses it against us or tells everyone she knows in order to get NS for herself.  I don't like her gossiping about me.  She's mentioned this phone call three times now.  I think she thinks that she's being positive by saying nice things about talking to him, but the whole thing annoys me.  Especially since, behind his back, she was basically saying he was spoiled and greedy.)  Anyway, I went on "break" from her and quite responding to things (and went out of town with no cell coverage so she couldn't get ahold of me.  I got several "are you getting my messages?" before she gave up.)

So, to get the card seemed like a narc olive branch.  A way to look nice with minimal effort.  She hasn't sent me a card in years past.  I think she did the first year I became a mom, but I know she didn't last year (she was pissed at me).   The card was actually a nice sentiment and described our relationship well.  It said that I'm a good mom.  It talked about how she knew me as a little girl but has not fully begun to understand all that I am as an adult woman (or something to that effect).  It almost, almost, made me feel she understood me.  And maybe she does.  But, despite all of that "understanding" or attempts to understand, she doesn't follow through by treating me like a grown up.  She doesn't make any attempts to really work on our relationship.  She just offers greeting cards and sentiments written by someone else.  So, I guess it is what it is.  I read the card, didn't allow it to move me in my feelings about our relationship (something that was huge for me), and dropped it in the trash. 


For all my friends out there who are moms, Happy Mother's Day!