I wanna be big and let go of this grudge

Don’t you just hate it when you spend years helping someone you love escape an abusive relationship (and protect her, and care for her kids, and scoop her off the floor and dry her tears) and just when she starts to feel whole again, she reconnects with her abuser? I would hate that too…if it wasn’t me who did it.

In the fall, I dropped by my parents’ apartment one day while I was driving by. I hadn’t seen them in 3 years. I was in a deep depression, feeling very alone and really needed someone to be really happy to see me. They were.

Since then, I’ve met my mom for coffee, introduced her to my kids, and started talking to her on the phone once in a while. At first, I was able to set and maintain very clear boundaries with her. I just ignored the potentially hurtful things that she said and focused on the positives. But I feel that my boundaryis beginning to slip. I feel I am being pushed too close to her spider’s web.

The borderline witch persona inside my mother peaked her head out last week. I shouldn’t have been surprised… but it really gets me every time.

I was hurting and asked her to help me in a way that I needed, rather than the way that she wanted to be seen helping. This triggered her rejection sensors. From there, she went into survival mode and (as always) kicked me when I was down. #storyofmylife.

I desperatly want to repair my relationship with my mom. I want to help her feel less alone, less lost. But she hasn’t changed. The behaviours that pushed me away (and tore me apart) are still engrained in her. I know now that it’s not her fault, that she has a serious mental illness and that her motivation is self-protection and not directly intent to hurt, but that doesn’t make the slaps sting less.

By going back to my mom, letting her into my new life and into my head, I think that I may have hurt the people who have really been there for me throughout these impossible years. I imagine that they feel frustrated, used and see me as ungrateful. They all worked hard with love to help me escape my abuser just to have me turn around and jump back into the lion’s den.

The people who were there for me- I can count you on one hand and I don’t thank you enough. IJ, HB, SA, SJ and (of course) OA, you kept my life together while I fell apart. You all became a team with a mission to save my kids and protect me from myself. You made sure that I had a life to come back to. For that I am eternally grateful. Thank you.

I didn’t mean to choose between hurting you and trying to heal my mother. But at first, it felt so good to see her. It felt good to be kind to her. It helped me see that there were good things that I learned from her and could share with my kids (reading, academia, traditions, cooking badly). Her superficial good lured me in and I forgot why I had pushed away.

I began to feel guilty for abandoning her. I began to feel responsibility to help her heal, to teach her to be the person she thought she was. I felt a need (an urgent, pressured need) to ‘fix’ our family and bring all of my siblings back together with her. I thought that they were all just waiting for me to come around (they weren’t).

I see now that the strength and empathy that I felt towards her was actually only possible because I had cut her out of my life and my head for so long. Her absence made me forget that she is a dangerous and manipulative person to be around.

I want so badly to be a good person who can be kind to her old, sad mother. But she just won’t let me – she can’t keep the witch at bay.

As always, Alanis Morisette articulates my deep feelings:
“I want to be big and let go of this grudge that’s grown old. All this time I’ve not known how to rest this bygone. I want to be soft and resolved, clean of slate and released. I want to forgive the both of us.”

maleficent makeup

Damn stupid voices

Someone (possibly Ani Difranco) said that her songs were letters to herself.  My blog is like that. I need to write letters to myself because I can’t remember things. Like an old woman with Alzheimers who writes “You are 80 years old.” on her mirror and still questions if someone forged her handwriting.

My husband and I have been together for 16 years. He is a really really great guy. I chose him because I loved him and he made me smile and taught me how to have fun.

But as I become aware of all the mistakes that I made in my teens, all the masks I wore – even to myself… I don’t really believe that I was ever capable of hearing my own heart. So how could my feelings for him have been real? How could I know that he was in love with me and not the holograph that I projected? This is the part where my memory fails me. When I talk to him, really talk to him, he reminds me of all the fun we did have together. All the love we both felt. On a clear day, I can remember that. I know that wasn’t a lie.

Amidst all the repression and numbness and hurt in my youth, he was the one thing that was actually truly good. He was the one person who actually meant it when he said that he loved me and would be there for me. He is the one person who is still here beside me.

So, why am I so mad at him?

I think that in some way, as the only remnant of the past that I am running away from, I imagine that he is in some way keeping me tied to the person that I once was. He just won’t let me throw out the baby with the bathwater. (not our baby, just metaphorically…)

Over the past few months, every time I lose my footing (ie. have a bipolar episode), he takes care of the kids but he seems to run away from me. I was convinced that I finally broke him. That he just couldn’t handle my crazy. I think that this validated me in some weird way by proving that he could only love the holograph of me.

But then finally, yesterday (with encouragement from many friends), I came to him with an open heart and open ears and we spoke. I learned that it’s not my crazy that scares him away (though I’m sure it would have scared away many a weaker man), it’s my anger and rage. (anger? i have anger?) Apparently, I’ve been raging at him every time I lose my footing. I say apparently because I don’t exactly remember it that way.  I don’t remember coming into the kitchen after we have both had a long day at work, where he is rushing to make dinner, feed the kids, bathe them and put them to bed (on his own because I’ve checked out) and hassling him because he left the tomatoes on the counter and used an extra bowl. Railing on him for not respecting me by keeping the kitchen clean, wearing a shirt that doesn’t fit, not getting a hair cut, grumbling that he is oppressing all women with his carelessness (as he cares for his children with gentleness and love).

I don’t remember it that way but I remember feeling incredibly justified in my feelings of being wronged, of being abandoned. I remember feeling hurt that he said he would help me when I got down but he isn’t helping because I’m still drowning in myself. I say that I don’t need him to help me feel better, but it’s not true. I resent him sometimes for not curing my bipolar. But really, he has done more to help me face it than anyone in my life.

But I know this man. I trust this man. and I believe him.

I believe him today when he says that he is here for me. I believe in him with my open eyes and my ability to really hear my heart. I hope that if I write that on my mirror, I won’t question the handwriting.

Growing up, I could tell when my mother’s mood had shifted and I knew that if I didn’t get out of the way, I’d get hit with her rage. She would randomly pick on any imperfection – for example, leaving a dirty dish – and it was as if the world rested on that dish. My entire self worth was in question because I left out a dish. I’ve spent so much effort trying to heal from this toxic environment. and now, I’ve been doing it to the one person who never deserved it.

I’m sorry babe.

I haven’t figured out exactly how I’m going to stop doing this, how to reign it in, where to put that anger, but I understand that it doesn’t belong on you. I understand that it is my anger and not my crazy that is driving you away. I think that this understanding will protect you…and us.  I owe you gratitude for always helping me when I feel down and for always always protecting our kids from my crazy.

Thank you. and I love you.

Wonderful father