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.”

letitgo

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.”

soundslike

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.

 

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2 thoughts on “Let It Go (Let it Go)”

  1. Michelle, ever since we reconnected a few years ago, I want to let you know that I am so impressed with the poise and grace you exhibit. Growing up (well when we were in HS) for us was lets just say “unique”. I was the one with the strict parents, the family oriented, go to church, say your prayers, etc. You were largely left in charge. You had freedom that I envied ( yes the 16-17 yr old me didn’t realize all the other junk that went along with that so called “freedom”). But I wished I could be like you. Now I look at us, and the roles are so reversed. You are the one that is family oriented, your involvement at church, your beliefs and your convictions. And I am here, the single mom (3 girls, 1 in college, 1 in HS and 1 in MS), church is very hard for me to go to, I do but “not like I should”, I’ve gone to other christian churches just to see what they are like, but I am not sure of my beliefs and place in the church. So here I am wishing I could be like you again. I know how hard you and your husband must have to work at it, when I was married and we went to church, kids did CCD, the whole nine yards, it consumed my life. Now that I am on my own, I’m lost and I am trying to find me again. Therapy is helping, and I have a very good idea of what caused my stumble. Reading your blog has helped me to realize we all have “something”, But I just wanted you to know that your writing is excellent, and while cathartic for you, is inspirational for me. TY!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kelly, thank you for your kind words and for commenting. 🙂 I believe therapy is helpful for so many, if they have access to it. And, you’re right…I knew we were “the envy” of teenagers everywhere, probably, with our freedom. But that freedom did come with a cost — many things that I did with my freedom were self-destructive. That sad part is that I knew it was self-destructive, but didn’t know that I should stop it or how to stop it. I’m so glad I had the sense to get out of the environment when I graduated high school and simply retreat to a place where I could fix things. I still did some self-destructive things during college — nothing drug-wise or anything like, but unhealthy relationship-wise. it was a long road out, that’s for sure.
      For the record, I love to see your posts on FB about your girls. It’s so crazy to me that you have one in college! But then, it’s so crazy to me also that I have one that’s only two years away from going to college.

      Like

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