Let It Go (Let it Go)

At a recent family gathering I said something about the way my mother would have handled some sort of issue (I can’t even remember the exact circumstance we were discussing now!) and it was said, “You really need to let that go.”

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The fact that I write about what I dealt with growing up, or continue to deal with now, with regard to this relationship I have with my mother, has nothing to do with harboring any sort of ill will. As I stated before, I love my mother — in that sense that I want what is best for her. But, I don’t have a huge amount of affection for her. She doesn’t have much affection for me, either.

Stating that doesn’t mean I haven’t let anything go.

Flashback 16 years ago: I was expecting my first child whom I had learned was a girl. It was kind of a shock to find out I was having a daughter. I had always pictured myself having a son first. Maybe that was because growing up I had an older brother and always took a bit of pride in the fact that I did (though our relationship varied on the closeness). Regardless of why, it simply is what it is (as they say) that I felt a bit uncertain and even a some fear at having a daughter.

It was at that time that I started to think about my relationship with my mother more from my mother’s point of view. I wondered if I had been unfair in my judgments of her and her lack of attention towards me in my life. As I began viewing the relationship we had from her end of it, I  gave her quite a bit of credit: She was a single parent (wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy); She was tenacious about her schooling and her future career as a nurse; She was a single parent TO FIVE CHILDREN; She was alone in life — obviously not by choice, so that had to be difficult.

From the time I had Sarah even through having four of my children, I made a conscious effort with regard to my relationship with my mom. I made sure to call her regularly. I found a Mother’s Day card or a Birthday Card at the appropriate times, or I sent her flowers. While pregnant with Dani, we even spent a WHOLE WEEK at her home in the mountains, far away from anything to entertain us — isolated and at her “beck and call” so to speak so she could talk and talk and talk at us. (Side Note: at that visit, I found where she had pictures from my youth. there were pictures of my siblings, some pictures of us with our Dad. I spent an entire afternoon looking at them. i asked her if I could take them with me. She refused. She had them all thrown haphazardly into an end table, most likely the way they had been for years, never been looked at, sorted or shared — but yet, she refused to allow me to take them. I was angry about that for awhile.) My years of conscious effort included many phone calls of me getting off the phone curtly and with frustration at her telling me negative things about someone in my family — usually my father, but sometimes a sibling — that I simply couldn’t bear to allow her to do. I believe during that time is when I was gathering my strength to set boundaries. I had small children and was learning the value of setting boundaries for them, and abiding by the boundaries set by them and my husband, and it is then that I began to realize the fault in most things with my mother lies in her inability to identify, set, accept and abide by emotional boundaries we all have (or should have).

I’m not sure what happened that caused me to realize that all my conscious effort was never going to make a difference. I COULDN’T MAKE HER INTO THE MOTHER I WANTED AND NEEDED. So, I have not ever cut her out of my life entirely, but I stopped making the effort that I had for those 8 or so years.

During those 8 years of effort, I let a lot of things go. And honestly, I’ve never taken them back on. I’m not angry with my mom anymore. I’m not. I’m sad. I still long for a mother-daughter relationship that I’ll never have. I mourn it in my own way. I cherish every wonderful (breathtakingly wonderful sometimes) moment I have with my daughters.

I think I am glad I heard that: “You really need to let that go.”

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Hearing that helped me think about it and realize that I’ve let everything go.

Letting something go doesn’t mean you excuse the behavior or explain away the results as “nothing big.” The results of bad behavior exist whether or not we “let it go.” The chasm in a family relationship still exists when one person hurts or neglects another. Even when we “let it go” we learn and move on from it and act accordingly.

When trust is broken, “letting it go” helps us heal, but it doesn’t rebuild the trust. Trust is a two-way street and one person making a conscious effort for eight years will not rebuild that trust when only that person is making the effort.

I find it interesting how I am able to work through these sorts of things now. Over time, emotion has emptied, and I often am able to view both memories and current events with a matter-of-fact-ness not possible when angry or hurt. Sure, I am still sad at times for not having the sort of mother-daughter relationship of many people I see. but I don’t wallow in it — I’m busy cultivating my relationships I DO have in the present.

I think the best way to describe how I view my relationship with my mother is that it “just is.” I love her, but I don’t have affection for her. I know people who have wonderful relationships with their parents would read that and possibly think I am ungrateful. But they don’t understand — and they should feel grateful that they don’t — what it’s like to have a mother who is simply more interested in herself than anything or anyone else.

 

This and That

Mother’s day came and went. It was actually a nice one. I ended up talking to my mom the Friday before, so no obligatory feelings to call her on the day. We had a nice time and my kids all gave me the most wonderful hand-made gifts! But honestly, just having them here with me in my life is the best gift of all.

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The school year officially ended. My children have all been “promoted” to the next grade. all the report cards have been viewed.

I’m declaring 2016-17 a resounding success.

The summer has begun with gusto. Memorial Day weekend was spent cleaning and purging this house in which we so clearly live. As I worked, I kept thinking about all the times I have told people, “Well, we live in our house…and it looks like it.” And then I chuckled every so often because it is TRUE to the very depths of all meaning.

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A meme I thought was funny…and true!

Sarah chose to enroll in an online class this summer to get her required Personal Finance  class out of the way. Of course, she’s making way for a horrendous (read: quite difficult) Junior year. She piled on so much work for herself that I insisted she enroll in a study hall. She fought me on it all the way until…one of her favorite teachers mentioned that it would be a good idea. Hey, I don’t care who convinced her — simply that she was able to be convinced.

Dani chose to enroll in health/P.E. this summer to get that requirement out of the way and make way for Art classes. This is also because choir and theater have become priorities for her, so getting required health/P.E. done in the summer is a smart move. Probably a move she’ll duplicate her Freshman and Sophomore year for similar reasons. She was excited to see friends in her class when she arrived on Tuesday. Dani is such a social kid. She ensured she got a Worlds Of Fun pass by offering to pay for it through giving up her monthly allowance for 6 months. Her motivation: being able to hang out with friends there this summer.

The younger three may not have chosen to go to the summer program offered, but I signed them up anyway. Actually, the boys were excited. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get Helen on board with it, but I think we’re all good now. It’s four weeks of stuff for them to do, gets them out of the house, doing engaging activities.

The great news is that once summer school is over, I am off work for a week (vacation!! yes!!) And that week will be followed by two weeks off work for Craig to hang with the kiddos. And by then, we’ll be on the downhill slide to starting another school year and will be bustling about buying school clothes, shoes and everything else.

We found out some sad news a few weeks ago: a family that houses some of our very best friends of all of our ages, is moving away. It’s only about 3 hours away, but we’re all feeling the loss pretty acutely. They haven’t moved yet, which means the kids are looking for all sorts of opportunities to get together and using the upcoming move as reasonable motivation (“But mom!! they leave a in a few weeks, we HAVE to go do XYZ before they move away!!!”)

The good news is that since it is only 3 hours away, perhaps we can still see them once or twice a year with some good planning. If there’s anything I am good at, it’s planning road trips!

So that’s all that’s going on these days. Oh and I am still going to weight watchers, though I changed meetings and decided to go to the center by my house. I just couldn’t do Wednesday at 12:30…at least, that’s my excuse for my inability to stick to stuff. One week “back on the (accountability) wagon” and I was down 4.2 lbs at my meeting today. So that’s nice. I’ve also been taking an extended break from Crossfit. I was missing my sleep in the mornings. Now that I’ve been sleeping in until 6:00 a.m., I am having a hard time getting back to getting up early. But, what the heck…weight loss is 90% what goes in my mouth anyway, so I’m getting that part under control. I’ll get back to the Crossfit…or maybe I won’t and life will be fine either way.

A-Ha!

Some things all came together for me the past few days.

I’ve been struggling with the weight thing (again, some more and still).  No surprise there, right? It’s the story of my life.

But that’s what helped some things click! I thought, “Why am I only happy with myself if I weigh less than I do now?” Because I think that is a critical question that I need to ask myself and find the answer.

Lately, I’ve listened to my thoughts as I speak with and encourage my pre-teen and teenage daughters through life. I like the things I say to my daughters and the things I think about them. Of course, I love them all very much, so there’s rarely a negative thought that goes through my brain about them.

One thing I have always said about my daughters is that God blessed me with three unique daughters inside and out. Not only are their personalities as varied as the stars in the sky, but physically, they are unique, too. I have never been able to use much in the way of hand-me-downs among my girls because their bodies are so different! And I’ve always expressed that to them in this manner: You girls all have different body types, God makes us all different, and you’ll find that you all have your advantages (thinking about whether one of them might be taller, one might have more muscle tone, etc). So when it comes to hand-me-downs, there’s never been pressure to wear big-sister’s clothes. Ever. Because 1) most of the time it didn’t fit and 2) almost just the same amount of time, they don’t like the same things!

Now flash back to when I was about 7 or 8 years old and a box of hand-me-down clothes arrived from a cousin. A cousin, by the way, who was a very different body type than me — and hers was a body-type preferred by my mother. I tried on a pair of pants that were too tight, but I got them hooked and zipped. “You look like a sausage, Michelle.” And she laughed, but then tried to stifle the laugh as I figured out she was mocking me. Then she said, “Yuck. Just take them off.” Then, I couldn’t get them unzipped and off and basically, the pants were ruined as my mother ripped them off me. I think the ripping was done mostly in annoyance and anger at least that was how it felt.

I relay that story to give you an idea of where my lack of love for myself and my displacement of worth started. With my own girls, I have never told them they look like anything other than who they are and whether clothes fit well or not. And it’s never their body type’s fault that clothes don’t fit well — it is because the cut is not for their body type or the sizing was off.

As I have thought about how I discuss this with my daughters I have wondered, “Why can’t I do that with myself?” Why is it that there is something WRONG WITH ME when I can’t wear a certain size. Why can’t I say to myself, “Oops, wrong size, get the size tha fits!” Or why can’t I say to myself, “That style/cut doesn’t flatter your God-given body” instead of killing myself with diets to make my body look different than it does?

I have NEVER looked at my body and simply said to myself, “That’s your body.” and left it at that. There has always been a negative adjective as long as I can remember. And even if the adjective was positive, it was still an objectification, not a true appreciation for my gift in my body.

Oh sure, I’ve stated how wonderful I believe my body is, that it’s strong — but only in the context that I can lift heavy weights, or birth big babies. Because then being strong is USEFUL, not beautiful, USEFUL. But I’ve always had this lurking issue with my body not being “delicate” or “feminine” however beauty was defined for me growing up. Because beautiful people have small, delicate bones. You see…my whole idea of what is beautiful — when it applies to me, personally, anyway — is completed messed up!

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Let me share with you my psyche on any given day. What follows are scenarios that occur every day and most likely at least one thing that flies through my brain in that moment.

While getting dressed: I wish these pants were size 8. I used to wear size 8. I loved myself when I wore size 8. Size 12 is ugly. Ugh.

While thinking about eating something for breakfast/lunch/dinner: If I eat bread, that’s a sure 2-pound gain on the scale, even though it’s the first bread I’ve eaten in 10 days. Damn, I wish I could eat something more than an apple for breakfast. If I drink 2 24-oz tumblers full of water before I leave the house, then I won’t want the diet coke. I wish I didn’t want diet coke. Man, I love bacon…I wish I could have some bacon for breakfast. An Italian sub is my favorite thing to eat in the whole world — especially when it’s been two weeks since I had one. I want to eat what the kids are eating.

While walking by any window where my reflection is possible: Ugh, my butt is so big. Why can’t I lose this weight? I wish I weren’t so fat/big. Why does my butt stick out like that when I walk? Why do I take such big steps, it make me look fatter than I am. No, I’m really that fat.

What’s come together for me is that I do not like myself very much.

I have also begun to think about whether I need to change something. Now, obviously, some kind of change is needed, but I think — for as long as I’ve been trying to change things — I’ve been trying to change the wrong things. I try to lose weight so that I will like myself more, like my appearance more, like my clothes more, etc. I workout because it makes me feel good to “win.” But at my age, I’m not going to win all that much, so I’m left wondering WHY I do the things I do and I’m left with the fact that CrossFit and the workouts help me like myself more. It gives me something to “brag” about and make myself feel better about how I look (which I don’t like) when I can do really cool things like back squat 200+ pounds or do a chin-up. When I changed jobs a couple years ago, at the root of that decision was the fact that I wanted to like myself more because I thought if I could sell lots of newly constructed homes, I was going to seriously bring in some money. And when I did that, it wasn’t going to bother me any more that I hadn’t escalated to the higher levels of management in Corporate America. Because I was tired of seeing men and moms-of-two-or-three-(not-five) get Vice President after their name, while I sat there as a front-line operations manager forever.

The common theme to all of this is that I attach my self-worth to things that are not intrinsically ME. In my screwed-up brain, I’m a better wife and person when I wear a certain size of clothing. Or I’m a better person when I don’t come in dead-last at the workout. Or when I make a certain amount of money I’m a better person than I was when I made another amount of money and I think I’ll be a better person when I have a certain title after my name at work. The way I see myself, I project onto the world and think that is how the world views my worth, too.

All of this started somewhere, obviously (and I bet you can guess where…I could give blog post after blog post detailing significant memories). No matter what, though, as a 43-year-old wife and mother, it is my decision to make in order to stop this nonsense.

But how? How does a 43-year-old woman learn to like herself after spending most of her life loathing herself and feeling as though she is loathed by others, especially people who are supposed to love her unconditionally?

I know I’ll get there. My wheels are still turning in this brain of mine. I think recently, I finally got them all turning in a more positive direction.

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WW Weeks 4-5

Last week, I missed the meeting and the weigh-in due to attending a funeral during that time. I also happened to eat some Chipotle that day. Oops.

The good news is that at weigh-in today, I was the same weight I was two weeks ago. anyone who has done Weight Watchers knows that a week off the weigh-in can be death to the plan. And honestly, for me, it kind of was still. I didn’t do so hot with the eating plan and only recently got back on track. Back on track enough to have not gained anything when I weighed in today.

Because…

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This week they were talking about Self-Compassion. they talked about that a few months ago, too. I am terrible about this. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection recently (not just about Self-Compassion and my lack of it) and of course, i can see my lack of self-compassion (i.e., giving myself a break every now and then) take root at a very young age.

We had an assignment to come up with two ways we would be kind to ourselves this week. I have such a hard time figuring this out because I’m gonna be honest, my first thing I think of is a splurge in the food department. Now, that’s gonna go directly against what I’m trying to do. Because a splurge in the food department means a night out at a restaurant, or partaking in one (ahem, too many) of Dani’s decadent desserts (Dani has become quite the baker/chef).  So, that’s really not the best way to be kind to myself.

I usually don’t budget money to buy myself anything. I need new clothes for a LONG time before I finally just buy myself something new. For example, I am in SORE NEED of some new workout pants, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Because — well, a kid in this house almost ALWAYS needs new shoes or something. speaking of shoes, it’s time for new running shoes…sigh.

Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe the goal isn’t a TREAT — like food or new clothes. Maybe I should be looking deeper and yet, more simply. Obviously, I shouldn’t do the negative self-talk that I inevitably do when I don’t weigh what I would like or don’t fit into my favorite clothes. so I suppose I could really try to be mindful of the negative self-talk and nip it in the bud when it starts. I don’t know. I know that having a little compassion for myself is important. After all, when I don’t do as well with the eating-thing or the tracking-what-I-eat-thing or the weight-loss-in-general thing — I’m way harder on myself than I would be with my friends.

Any ideas?

Purpose

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There are a few things I have noticed in writing this week that I thought I should mention in a separate post and they have to do with how I process this information and what I think about after I publish. I mean, I’ve had some of these posts in my drafts for 4-5 years. There’s this side of me that worries that if I write something, my world will turn upside-down. Because for almost all of my childhood, if I had ever told anyone even a slight hint of what I was experiencing, often times, there was some of that disbelief (“that sounds odd, are you sure?”) and if I even tried to push back directly to my mother, there was the reaction that I was “a liar” or I had grossly misunderstood — “how can you even think that is what I said?” or perhaps my sharing with someone outside of the family led to embarrassment of her, and I would definitely pay for that. All of that led me to stay silent on the issues going forward/for the majority of my childhood.

First and foremost, I deal with some anxiety. I have it under control, so it’s not all-consuming. But the reason I’ve been reserved regarding this part of my personality on this blog is because it’s not a comfortable thing to put out there. I’m not going to lie, for all the years that I’ve been inspired to share this information about myself, my family, my life, what has held me back is this nagging question: “What is the purpose?” Secondly, and to continue on the anxiety train of thought, I have worried about whether it’s all too personal to share with the world — after all, I am one of five children who lived this life — though we all took different paths through adolescence. I’ve tried to focus only on MY experience and MY feelings and tried to avoid projecting that onto my siblings. But, there’s the worry that it’s not enough. Finally, (and this is my torment), I think about what my mother would say to me, or what she will say to me, the next time we talk.

Most of my conversations with my mother are one-sided — she usually spends time talking about my two siblings and their families that live close to her. She will tell me how awesome of a family my sister and brother and their 6 (#7 due in a month) children are. She intersperses it with, “I just don’t know how she does it with all those kids!” and then she usually inserts some comment about how she relates so well to us kids since she raised five “all on her own!” Then she’ll gush about my brother and his wife and their four boys. Most likely, she’ll remind me of the miracle of their 4th child and how she was there to stay with the other three while my brother and his wife stayed at the hospital through a procedure designed to mitigate/eliminate the damage from lack of oxygen during childbirth. At some point, she’ll say how she just can’t keep up with the number of birthdays for all the grandkids, “there’s just so many of them!” finally, she’ll wander off in the conversation explaining the newest computer or gadget she has purchased or the litany of reasons that she hasn’t been to see us since Dominic was about 11 months old (he’s now 8), or how they are planning to attend this or that reunion for her husband which will require quite a bit of travel — but that travel to come this way is just too difficult for them. A few years ago she changed up their diet to eliminate sugars and processed foods and I got to hear how the weight was just melting off of her, she just can’t believe how thin she is and how great she looks…yada yada yada. Additionally, she will search for affirmations from me — whether it is about what a good mother she was/is, or that can I believe that her sister is so mean to her, or that even her husband was not impressed with how so-and-so was treating her, and (I could go on, but I won’t).

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So having written a bit more personally this week has had me wondering how our conversations might change and I realize that they probably won’t change one bit.

And now, I ask myself again, “What is the purpose? What do I hope to accomplish?” (with this particular string of writing/posts)?

I’ll admit that part of the purpose is self-serving — it makes me feel better to write about it. Why publicly, though? I mean, I could write about this in a journal that I keep entirely to myself. I would be writing about it. So what is it about writing it here for others to read and share the experience?

  • Validation. I think in my heart of hearts, seeing it written here — taking the action of sharing and writing it here — helps me remember that it is real, that what I experienced actually happened and it wasn’t just “in my head” and I am not overreacting or overly sensitive.
  • Support. On my Blog’s Facebook page for my most recent posts, I had 9 “likes.” That’s a record, by the way. And every person that “liked” it helped me feel as though it was okay and even good that I wrote it.
  • Call it out. How many times throughout my life have I excused away bad behavior? I could not tell you. I still do it. I still excuse people for their poor choices in words or actions, even (and especially) when their poor choice in words or actions hurt me. (Interesting side note: I never seem to excuse it away if it hurts my children.) But writing here helps me call out the bad behavior — name it, process it, assign my reaction to it and finally file it away or gain closure.
  • Finally, I think using this space helps me heal. Writing in a journal where no one can see would continue to keep it hidden, in a way. I’ve hidden how I feel all of my life. I’ve ignored it. I’ve berated myself for not feeling more affection for a woman for whom all the world tells me deserves my devotion and abiding admiration.

So, this helps me to heal. It helps me to remember that I can’t change anyone. It helps me to move forward with proper expectations for my relationship with my  mother. Maybe the fact that it matters to me is all I need.

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There’s a level of abuse that is sometimes the byproduct of going through something like a divorce. Then there’s the level of abuse handed out by a person who never learned how to love her children at all. An abuser who only knew neglect and abuse in a dysfunctional family growing up only knows how to abuse, but doesn’t see that behavior as abusive in the least. What’s unfortunate about the timing in my situation was that I became a full-time recipient of bad behavior at a point in my life where I had not learned to set boundaries.

Speaking of boundaries…as an adult looking back on my upbringing, I can tell that my mother did not have a concept of boundaries. Based on the limited knowledge I have of her own family unit, I’m pretty certain she didn’t learn about boundaries. My parents divorced when I was young enough that I don’t remember if boundaries were set within our family unit. My experience growing up with my mother and also in dealing with m y mother as an adult leads me to believe that if anyone tried to teach her about boundaries or set them with her, she did not learn and/or she overstepped on a regular basis.

Therefore, beginning at age 7, the dominant parent in my life was one who had no concept of emotional, physical, intellectual boundaries. And of course, being 7, it wasn’t like I could actually set or enforce boundaries. I think that’s important to understand when thinking about my life at home after the divorce of my parents.

I grew up not knowing how to set boundaries, not learning to respect the boundaries set by others and not having any concept of boundaries myself. The relationships I entered into in high school and college were not healthy. And much of that can be traced to the fact that I didn’t understand boundaries. First and foremost, I dated boys/men who took advantage of the fact that I didn’t know to establish boundaries. I couldn’t make decent friendships with other girls because I didn’t recognize the boundaries they set and I didn’t know that I put them off with my behavior. when I did enter into relationships with people who set boundaries, I didn’t know how to respect those boundaries and those relationships were not successful. Ultimately, when I did start to establish boundaries and respect those set by others…I still didn’t understand that these were boundaries, per se. I just started to take some cues in my relationships and through trial and error, finally started figuring out how to behave.

This epiphany about boundaries took place about 2 years after I broke off my final “long-term” relationship with a man when I was 22 years old. That particular relationship was rocky from the start. I spent four years of my life in a relationship that was never going to go anywhere. The biggest reason it would never last was me and my inability to understand boundaries and that I was worthy of more. However, it never would have lasted four years if I had nailed down the concept of boundaries. yes, having a little higher sense of self-worth would have helped, too, but I really think the baseline issue was boundaries.

When I think about the years growing up after the divorce, there are the years BEFORE the move to the east coast and the years AFTER. During all the years before the move, my mom was attending nursing school, I was going to a small Catholic school where I was protected from some things, but where my siblings and I were bullied relentlessly. During those precious formative years, the lack of boundaries set and/or respected by my mother set me up for my missteps after the move.

Part of me wants to detail for you the lack of boundaries between my mother and my brother and my mother and me and my mother and each of my younger siblings. But, I think it should suffice that when I say my mother does not seem to have any understanding of boundaries — I mean that fully. There was nowhere in the house that anyone could feel was private. Even the bathroom, where a teen should be able to feel s/he can “escape” to for a few minutes alone, was not safe from invasion without a even a moment’s notice. Discussion of private matters was unheard of — everything was discussed — everything. I would imagine I’ve even blocked out some of the more painful events from that time. As an adult, I can recognize a lack of boundaries and see in the memories the blatant lack of respect for the personhood of each of us, and it’s easy to see how it led me where it did. It also makes me sad for the friendships I screwed up because I didn’t know any better. And it makes me regret the dating relationships I entered into, while at the same time angers me because there’s no way I would have entered into those with proper understanding of boundaries and if I valued myself.

The lack of boundaries, and the resulting lack of respect and devaluation of us in our own home/family is a sad state of affairs. I remember growing up believing I was ugly and that I was fat. Those were the usual adjectives I would have used to describe myself from age 8 until about 15 or 16. I was ugly because my hair was short and a crunchy, dried-out mess from it’s daily chlorination during swim practice. I was ugly because I had the most hideous glasses. I was ugly because I dressed in frumpy clothes. I was ugly because my dad didn’t want me. The thing is, my mom would try to tell me she thought I was pretty, but usually only after I had stated that I thought I was ugly. My mom had always obsessed about my weight. At the age of 2, my parents put me on a diet because I was “chunky” and when my mom started me on the swim team when I was 10, she said I was “chubby” and needed the activity. I often was subject to “conversations” with my mother about how much she ran (3 miles at least 3 times a week!) and in the locker room at the Y, she would weigh herself and show me how she was less than 130 pounds. She was very proud of that. I can’t tell you how many times she would say, “I think I look good for a woman who’s had five kids, don’t you?” Or, “I don’t know any other women who run three times a week, take full-time classes and raise five kids all by themselves!”

Those statements are just more examples of her lack of understanding about what a person should and shouldn’t say or talk about with their children. Back when I was trying to make my mother into someone she is not, I used to explain it all away with the idea that she was lonely, she didn’t have a husband anymore to share these things with and was forced to share them with her kids. But now, as an adult, I don’t say stuff like that to my husband…I mean, I rarely talk about myself when I see friends, and I think it’s poor social form to continually talk oneself up about how much one does, good or bad.

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That brings me to one of the most important realizations of all of my life: My mom will never admit that anything she has ever said or done is wrong. And my mom will never be someone different than she is and has been. I have begun to accept that the relationship I will have with my mother will always be limited. I can’t make her into the mother I want her to be. She is who she is. I love her, as I mentioned before, and I care for her and want the best for her. But that doesn’t mean I have to listen to her say negative things about me, my father, my siblings or my children. Ever. I started putting a stop to it years ago — I set some boundaries. Every now and then I have to remind her of my boundaries. She will try to run over my boundaries with some sort of “No, you NEED to LISTEN to ME ON THIS…” or “YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND…” And I have, in the past 10-15 years, been able to say, “No, Mom, I don’t and if you insist, then this conversation is over.”

Thank God I finally figured out what boundaries were and also built up the strength to enforce them.

 

 

Flash Forward and It Really Is All Okay

After writing the other night, and also starting another post hashing through my “issues” it occurred to me that I should insert a little bit of reassurance. My life is okay. I’m not angry or depressed over these “issues.” Not right now, anyway. They are what they are and I deal with them as they occur (as my self-induced counseling throughout the years indicates).

While I didn’t have the proper parenting examples or relationships growing up, ultimately, I made good adult choices that have ensured that I have a stable marriage and provide a loving and consistent example/relationship for my children. I may even write sometime about the Grace of God evident in the lives of my siblings and me based on how life has evolved for all of us.

It is strange to write about parents who behave badly. People who do not have parents who behave badly often do not believe what is said about parents who do behave badly. I can’t tell you how many times I have softened a message about my relationship with my mother when I say it aloud because I don’t want to hear someone say, “Michelle! That’s your mother. She’s the only mother you have!” Or something to that effect. So I often say something like, “I don’t have a close relationship with my mother.” when what I really want to say is, “I don’t like my mother much.”

Throughout my life, I was told that my mother “did the best that she could.” And I don’t doubt that. The hard part is that for us kids, the “best she could” was nowhere near good enough. I’m sorry to have to say that, but it’s true. My own mother will talk over and over again (and over and over again) about how much she sacrificed for us kids. Over the years, I’ve learned to agree with her and just move on because there’s no way she’ll see it differently. And yes, she did sacrifice, but the thing about true sacrifice is that, when it’s a true sacrifice, you don’t continue to remind everyone about your sacrifice to serve your own self-interest.

maternal-narcissism

As I explore this new term I have learned recently (narcissistic abuse) in my writing, I want to be able to share without apology.

I want you to know that yes, I love my mom. There are many times I don’t like her very much and there are scars that run deep. But I love my mom the way Christ loves us all, I want the best for her and I have compassion for the fact that there is hurt inside of her that causes her to be the way she is.

I want you to know that I can only take my mom in small doses. I don’t talk with her all that often. Eventually I guilt myself into calling her to check on her. Honestly, it’s easier if I just call when I think of it because she never calls me at a time that I want to talk with her. So, to keep it more on “my terms” I call her sometimes.

I want you to know that Mother’s Day is the most horrible-confusing-wonderful (because of my own kids)-torturous-sucky-notfun day for me.

I want you to know that even as I am able to write a bit about my relationship with my mom now, that I am still working through it every day of my life. I don’t get to have a mom like most other people have one. I have recently started to think of myself as an orphan of sorts. The things my daughters come running to me to talk about and work through are things I had to do all on my own and there’s still some anxiety and anguish about that.

I also want you to know that even though words I may write could sound whiney or ungrateful — the fact that I even write that is a symptom of my own abuse survival — I am still glad that my mom was able to do “the best that she could” and that I was able to emerge from the firestorm that was my teenage adolescence into a life that honors God, my parents (however unworthy they may be), my siblings, my husband, my children and myself.