I have started and saved, edited and deleted “The Mom Post” for two or three years, never knowing how to proceed and not sure what to share or how much, feeling like a small slice could never properly explain and a larger portion would be complete overload. For the first time in ages I feel some kind of…comfort? Closure? Distance? Freedom? I don’t know, but I feel something strongly enough that I can finally write this down and hit “publish.”
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There is a spectrum for almost everything which covers a wide range of possibilities with a pretty good distance of “extreme” on each side of a more moderate “normal.” We’re all familiar with bell curves, right? And to some extent we probably know where we personally fall on any given spectrum, with a least a relative amount of certainty.
The Mother Relationship Spectrum:
A Super Scientific Explanation
Extreme Pro-Mother/Mothering: Those who call/email/text/Skype their Mom or child every day, or multiple times a day, and consult on all major and minor decisions, offer advice both solicited and unsolicited, and experience positive feelings of happy co-dependence and interdependence.
Normal (or, at least how I perceive “normal”): fairly regular phone calls/emails, perhaps 2-3 times per month, maybe more, visits on major holidays, distance and funds allowing, and general feelings of positivity and warmth and love going from mother to child and back again.
Me: I can go months and even years without any motherly communications whatsoever and be a-okay; I very much prefer that route. There are general feelings of nothingness surrounding the relationship with my Mom which at times can involve strong negative emotions and can swing heavily towards dislike or disdain (hate?) but with a general sense of indifference.
For the last five-ish years this lack of relationship has been the norm for me, I can count on one hand the number of birthday, holiday, or Mother’s Day cards I have sent and despite a one-hour commute the visits have more-or-less been limited to a few hours on major holidays, but nothing more, and sometimes not even that.
About a year ago that not-really-a relationship became…well…non-existent. She said things and I had very, VERY strong, very hurt, and very negative reactions; both to what she said/thought and how she communicated it. I cried. I yelled (a little). And I walked away feeling misunderstood, angry, hurt, incredulous, and baffled. I felt like I’d been smashed flat yet again by a truck filled with Teh Crazy and I just…I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it anymore. I made an active decision to cut her out of my life completely.
Insert twelve months of absolutely nothing. No communication. No visits. No Christmas card. Nada. I was content and happy and did not miss her or our always volatile relationship in the slightest.
About a month ago (ish) it all started over again. She said All The Horrible Things, she levied All The Horrible Accusations, and she made All The Crazy Non-Factual Assumptions on my character and my life choices. Only, this time I didn’t walk away. I responded to her very long, nasty email with a much shorter, more concise argument that, in no uncertain terms, told her that her behavior and communication was absolutely unacceptable and I would not be part of whatever it was she was trying to do. She could be kind and polite or she could shut the fuck up. I also told her she needed therapy. Lots of therapy. With a few swears. I added a few swears…in an email…to my Mom. In my 32 years I don’t think I have actually cussed her out in person, not even once, so a “bullshit” and a “damn” and a “hell” seemed like a REALLY big deal. Kind of like lobbing a missile, actually, and waiting for the inevitable explosion and ensuing shrapnel.
No explosion. No shrapnel.
At least, I thought.
A week or two ago my mother sent an equally horrendous email to my older brother with an incredible set of unfair and untrue accusations–Unimaginable Accusations–levied against him, and all somehow relating back to Me, My Character, My Life Choices, My Marriage, My Innate Problems, Etc., Etc., Infinity, Ad Nauseam. I was literally sick to my stomach reading her words about me. This was a Friday evening. My brother was fuming, I was livid, we talked for 90 minutes about Teh Crazy without any real resolution except to steer clear as much as possible, no matter the cost.
And then I stayed up all night thinking about it, having arguments in my head with my Mom about how wrong she was, and how misinformed, and how presumptuous, and how twisted her thinking, and how WRONG (I won all those arguments, obvs).
And then repeat all day Saturday.
And all Saturday night, no sleeping, lots of teeth grinding.
And then continue the pattern most of the day Sunday.
By this time I was not so much fuming as literally (figuratively) foaming at the mouth. I hadn’t eaten for almost 48 hours and was so twitchy inside my arms and legs wouldn’t hold still.
I wrote down a list of what I wanted to say, hoping it would help me get rid of all that angst.
So, I did what any rational, well-rested adult would do: I drove an hour to my hometown, pounded on the door, and yelled and screamed at her for two hours until I finally felt like she heard me. Until I felt like she understood me. Two. Hours. I brought a clean notebook and made her write down what I said so she would for sure remember it clearly afterwards. I yelled at her until she wrote down how I felt and why. I have not lost my temper like that for probably 12 years, since my very early 20’s, and despite a truck load of “what the fuck!?” and “that’s bullshit!” and “who the fuck do you think you are!?” and “BULLSHIT!” and “YOU ARE WRONG! YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG!”…yes, even with an enormous quantity of in-person, ragey swears, I have zero regrets.
For the first time in over fifteen years I feel like my Mom finally saw me, not as this very messed up child and adult that existed in her head, and not even as a ragey, furious, cursing feind (which I kind of was at the time). I feel like she finally saw me a grown woman who had a rough childhood and had worked for years to escape those clutches, I feel like she saw me as a human who had been consistently misunderstood and hurt, as a girl who more-often-than-not felt bullied by her parent, who had been unfairly judged and unfairly criticized (by her) for a lifetime. And I finally feel like she truly saw how that background shaped who I am now, a relatively well-adjusted and happy adult, but one who was no longer willing to lay down and be run over by her, keeping quiet and retreating to lick my wounds. I feel like I was finally able to say what I needed to say without any fear of how she would react; she couldn’t possibly have been more upset or angry than I was and I had nothing to lose in the first place. I feel like I was able to correct a LOT of misunderstanding and set the record straight. She learned a lot about Adult Harriet that afternoon, perhaps even more than she had learned in the previous decade. I learned a little about her too, and I feel like I understand some of her choices and behaviors, I may not agree with her, but I truly tried to see the available options from her perspective. And if it took two hours of serious feist and swears and an incredible amount of adrenaline, then so be it. I do not regret clearing the air, even if it took a damn nuclear bomb to do so.
I don’t know what will happen next, I’m still trying to unravel all my feelings and emotions and look at them with some level of objectivity. I feel less animosity towards her than I have felt for the last five (or fifteen) years….but I also am not actively perusing Hallmark for the perfect warm-and-fuzzy Mother’s Day card. To be honest, anywhere outside of the far end of the “No Relationship With Mom, Thank You” spectrum is pretty new territory for me and I am still trying to figure out what it means to be two steps closer to the middle. This relationship took years and years to implode and crumble to nothing, so I’m not suffering from any delusions that it will magically be “normal” after one lengthy conversation. I’m still kind of shell shocked at my own verbal violence and how firmly I stood up for myself–they don’t call me Feisty Harriet for nothin’. But more than that, I am baffled that she actually sat there and listened to me, really listened with the intent to understand. I didn’t think that kind of communication would happen in my lifetime.
I also…don’t really have anything more to say about it right now. I guess I don’t really know what my expectations are, or what a normal next step would be.
That was so brave. As someone with a sometimes tumultuous relationship with both of my parents, I know how hard it is to stand up and say “IM AN ADULT NOW AND I DONT NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR BULLSHIT ALL THE TIME ANYMORE” Three cheers for standing up for yourself and what you need! Big huge hugs lady! xoxo
YES! I guess I hadn’t really ever put together that one simple sentence/idea. “I don’t have to put up with this.” Full stop.
So completely freeing to be able to verbalize that!
On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 7:18 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
Wow. I’m glad for your own well being that you got all that out. Otherwise it would be really unhealthy for you to live with, bottled up inside of you. I remember when I was in high school I was dating a HORRIBLE boy, he was never physically abusing (thank god) but was definitely emotionally and mentally abusive. And the day I broke up with him I yelled at him and screamed and got everything out – and it was one of the best days of my life. And I felt so free afterwards.
Your relationship with your mother may be strained, but at least you cleared the air like you said. And hopefully it’ll stop that behavior coming from her end towards you and your siblings. You may not have a good relationship with her, but you will be at peace. <3 <3
Honestly, I kind of feel like even if I have zero relationship with her I will at least be at peace, and I’m still okay with that. If she was another but my mother I would have cut her out completely years and years and years ago, I guess I don’t feel that she can get away with horrible behavior just cuz she’s my Mom, ya know? And likewise, I shouldn’t be allowed to get away with being a terrible person just because I’m her child.
I’m still sorting through this. Clearly. Thanks for your support!
On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 7:18 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
Wow, first of all, I want to give you a big hug. I am so sad that your relationship with your mom has been so difficult for so many years. It breaks my heart to know that there are so many friends out there who have a less-than-ideal relationship with their parents (and I feel extra-blessed for my own relationship with mine). My husband has a very strained relationship with his parents, too, and I see a lot of what you’ve been describing about your Mom in his Mom… no willingness to listen, no clue about the person that they raised, a lot of assumptions and false interpretations.
I am so glad you worked up the courage to drive to your hometown and talk to her in person. I always think that is the only way to get through to people (as much as I love the written word, words still get twisted when not delivered in person and it’s so much easier to say things in an email than actually talk with that person… so kudos to you for chosing the direct route. Even if nothing comes from that (in re: to a more normal relationship with your mom), I think it was extremely important to get this off your chest!
Thank you. I hope your husband can get to some kind of relatively peaceful place with his parents.
On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 10:07 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
I’ve always kinda wondered about your mom. You’ve never really mentioned her before, at least to my recollection, so it was always one of those things that those of us that sorta know you but don’t know you were curious about but always afraid to ask.
I find it ever fascinating that you’ve got so many layers. What I mean by that is through your blog, you share a lot of personal information. Even to the point of TMI at times. One would feel like they know you pretty well by that alone, but the stuff you post online is barely the top surface of who you are. You are a delightfully complex person. I envy.
I’m glad that you finally got a chance to do what you had to do. You are ever better for it.
I’ve got layers like an onion. 🙂
Oh, wow. Big hugs, friend.
I haven’t written anything online, just shared photos of our visit, but after the blowout with MY Mom four years ago, things are on the mend.
Before then, after the blowout, I just tapped out. I left the occasional message and it was never returned. When her husband fell ill and passed, she accepted my call and we started with a clean slate.
Again, hugs. xoxo
I think as adults it is so important to both give and allow a clean slate, and I also think it can be so incredibly hard to truly let go of all that past hurt/anger/whatever and start again. I’m learning, slowly. And I hope that my Mom can also learn a little about that too.
On Sun, Apr 26, 2015 at 8:35 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
I want to stand up and cheer for you after reading this. I’m so glad you stood your ground, and even more glad that your mom listened and understood you. I hope whatever the next step is, it’s a positive one for you.
Thank you, I hope so too. 🙂
On Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 3:23 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
Wow! I actually relate to a lot your mom troubles. My own is relationship not nearly as extreme as what you describe, but it is comforting to hear another persons story in that ‘other’ category. Your writing is great.
Thank you! It can be isolating and super lonely over in the “other” category, it’s really comforting to know that there are more people there than just me. (You know, in a twisted sort of way, not like I’m wishing and hoping there are lots of people with major Mom/parent issues…it’s just nice to know they exist…Imma stop talking now. Ahem.)
I’m sorry you’ve had such a difficult relationship with your mom. I admire you for standing up for yourself. I probably would have just ignored her calls and emails for the next decade or so.
I did the ignore thing for years, and it worked well enough. But after the pages and pages long emails to both me and my brother about how terrible I am and how I am just so broken I decided to take action. (I say that like it was a rational conscious choice, really I was just so pissed off I couldn’t do anything else.)
On Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 6:17 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
I keep waiting for this moment to occur for me. 3,000 miles is a big old down comforter, but sometimes I find that boundaries get really fuzzy. Adulting is so, so hard. And I’m so proud and impressed by you!
Adulting is the worst. But, I find that I am at least getting better at it. Meaning, adulting for myself instead of feeling like I need to step in and do the adulting for other grown-ass people; not my circus, not my monkeys.
On Sat, May 2, 2015 at 11:19 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:
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