Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Hallmark Panic Attack

UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY: I am not in contact with my mother.


EVEN MORE UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY (Judge me yet?) : She wishes to have contact with me.

THE MOST UNPOPULAR/CONTROVERSIAL THING TO SAY ABOUT THIS : I will continue to not have contact with her at this point. I may never have contact with her again, barring an act of God and a complete change in behavior.

Go ahead. Judge away. I get it. I've judged people for far less. 

Our society rewards parents. Birthing a child seems to automatically earn you status and respect. It's not considered acceptable to question a mother's choices, no matter how bad because it is always assumed that "she meant well". We should always be grateful to them, no matter what. 

I don't know if my mother did her best. I go back and forth on this thought. To be honest, I don't know which hurts more: that she didn't try, or that her "best" was someone who was publicly one way, but privately another. It hurts that she could successfully be a loving and charitable person to everyone in public, but not to me. The fact that she could turn it on and turn it off leads me to believe that she had at least some level of control on her behavior.

A court ordered counselor asked me to write a list of 10 things I liked about myself when I was a kid, and it took me almost a year to come up with only 2. I was ridiculed a lot. I was told that I once had a brother before I was born named Peter who was no longer alive because he wouldn't stop tapping on a table like I was cheerfully doing one night at the dinner table. That story was retold by her for years and laughed about. I went to bed every night terrified that what happened to Peter would one day happen to me, so I was a very good girl. I prayed to God to never let it happen, and I grieved a fake brother I never got to know. My extended family still talks about my good behavior, and that it was odd for any child to be that compliant and quiet. They just thought I was shy, and I let them think that.

I tried to have contact with her as an adult. God knows I tried. I tried to make things work as best as I could. I dealt with pulling the car over to have full blown panic attacks on my way to see her. I dealt with muscles so tense after a visit that I could hardly move. I tried to laugh through things that made me cringe inside. I controlled what I talked about with her and gave her less & less personal details of my life to criticize, until I had nothing left to tell her at all. I forgave so many unforgivable things I have lost track. I acclimated to hearing friends of mine tell me things they had heard about me: like that my marriage was in trouble, or that my husband was controlling, or that I couldn't pay my bills, or that I was angry that someone in our family was pregnant because I was infertile, or that I was completely crazy {ALL FALSE, by the way}. I've sat back and watched as she has attempted {and succeeded, in some cases} at destroying relationships with me and people I love with her lies. I could go on with all the lies and bombs I've had to diffuse, but I honestly can't even remember all of them because this is my normal. 

When I have confronted my mother about this behavior, she denies doing any of it at all. When she points out problems she has with me, I apologize and make amends, whether I feel like what I did was wrong or not. You can't fix a broken relationship if only one person is apologizing. Well, sometimes she apologizes but it's usually something like "if I said something you took too personally then I'm sorry." Usually, it's just denial from her. Often times her state of denial includes her thinking {and telling everyone she knows} that someone has poisoned me against her. There are many people she has accused of doing this. I turn 30 this year, so she must think I'm really dumb to have to be told what to think or feel. Or she tells me I have a "very active imagination" when I bring up a bad memory that we would have to work through in order to move on. There will never be resolution for our problems when there is denial that they even exist. 

I believed that she would want to do better by my son, and for the most part she did. She sent him gifts, she was attentive to what he was interested in, she wanted to spend time with him, and she was generally a doting grandma. I am always grateful when my son has love in his life, and I thought she had grown and matured with him, so I was better than fine with them having a relationship. I will never come between him and anyone who wants to love him. THEN that whole idea shattered when she tried to turn him against me. 


Nope, no ma'am. I will not sit back and let her drive a wedge between us or hurt him with her lies.

A few years ago, I was still in contact with her, and I was in the greeting card section at Target before Mother's Day. I was trying to find a perfect card to mail. The perfect one {in my mind} would 1) make her happy and 2) not be a lie. I couldn't find one, and I had to leave the store because having a panic attack in a public place is kind of frowned upon. 98% of the cards I found said "thank you for always being there". The other 2% were cards that were intended to be funny that would have just made her mad. I kept opening up card after card that said "thanks for always being there, Mom." 

Always being there?  I guess you were, Mom… Always. Always there.

Always consuming me with your anxieties. Always training me to live in fear. Always reinforcing that if something bad happened to you, it would one day happen to me. Always singing "Jesus loves me" but always teaching me to be leery of everyone in church. Always expecting perfect treatment, but never caring how you treated people.

You were always there to try to teach me that people couldn't be trusted. You were always there to try to sabotage my friendships by making me believe that you heard them say something bad about me, or that they would steal my boyfriend, or that they just weren't someone I should be friends with. I'm still friends with those people today, and they are like sisters to me.

You were always there to go through my trash and make sure I never threw anything away. I had to sneak my trash in my backpack to throw it away at school so I wouldn't have to live like a hoarder.

You were always there with a tape recorder in your pocket to tape things people said and twist them into something they weren't.

You were always there to reinforce the idea "blood is thicker than water", and trash everyone in our family every chance you got over the silliest little things. You were always there saying you wished your family didn't shun you for "no reason", when you were always extraordinarily difficult to get along with.

You were always there talking about karma and "what goes around comes around", and you made sure to act with spite and personally deliver your version of karma to people you felt wronged you. You were proud of your plots of revenge. If revenge were a crown, you'd wear it proudly.

You were always there to try to get me to hate my dad because your bad marriage didn't last, and then you stood back and watched in horror when I didn't. You had a magnet on the fridge from the time I was a toddler that said "I still miss my ex, but my aim is improving." I was always confused why I should hate him because he was good to me. You were always there to make me feel guilt for any love I had for him or time I spent with him. You were always there to make sure each handoff was exactly as the custody agreement said, without budging. You were always there at the house waiting for him to pick me up, never meeting him halfway on a six hour round trip journey. You wanted to make it more difficult on him, but he continued to show up and spent 12+ hours in the car every other weekend. I could feel you getting more & more angry that he didn't give up. You were there to tell me that I shouldn't miss a school dance I wasn't interested in going to, because I chose to spend the weekend with him. You were there to write an 8 page letter I recently found in an old box writing all about how you "weren't sure how you were going to make it "while I spent time with him. You were there to make false allegations that he was molesting me, and you subjected me to a pelvic exam at when I was a tween that was deeply traumatic. You were there to be disappointed that you were wrong because that meant that he still had parental rights. He has since said that he hopes you & I are able to work things out one day. He has kept praying for peace for us.

You were always there standing over me to make sure I cleaned the things you didn't want to, which was all of them.

You were always there in the teen years to buy me new clothes on credit, then guilt me for it because yours were old and falling apart. I'd love to say that you bought me new things out of love, but you did it to punish my stepdad after a fight with him. When I heard screaming, I'd put my shoes on because I knew you were dragging me to a clothing store to max out another credit card to punish him with it. Passing on these retail outings was not an option.

You were always there when I spoke, and you'd slap my mouth when you didn't like what came out of it.

You were always there to remind me of your single mom years and what you gave up for me. You were always there to remind me to thank you for those years. I sometimes secretly wished you had given me to someone else so I could stop thanking you all the time.

You were always there with an enormous and ever-changing list of expectations, and I was crushed underneath them. I was always chasing them trying to figure them out. I was trying to figure out how to make you happy, but that was like chasing the wind.

You were always there for school events of mine, but never stopped complaining about the time or money it took. You always signed up for tasks like painting a prop for the halftime show when I was in colorguard, only to hold it over my head and constantly need credit and appreciation. I stopped telling you when they needed someone to sign up to work on things. It just wasn't worth it.

You were always there in public, smiling and playing the role of a doting mom quite well, and I was always there to sell the lie.

You were always there convincing people you were a great person so they'd never believe me when I spoke the truth, that you weren't great to me.

You were always there to take me out of the house when you had a marital dispute and you were thinking of leaving him, and I was always there to carry burdens far too heavy for my age. I remember sitting out by the lake in an empty parking lot drying your tears more times than I can ever count. I never understood the negative things you told me about him, either. He is not only like another Dad to me, he one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known. You have made him believe that I don't want to see him. This is a lie. I have mourned the loss of my relationship with him. I simply know that you would punish us both if we tried to pursue a relationship without you in it.

I didn't know what kind of day I was having until I knew what kind of day you were having. If you were sad, I was sad. If you were happy, I was allowed to be happy. You were always there to silently dictate my emotions.

You were always there at home sleeping, so I took care of a lot of cooking, cleaning, and laundry on my own. Cooking still calms me to this day. It was one of the only things I had control over, so it always gave me peace.

You were always there, telling lies to people. Some big, some small. And I always had to be there to keep track of them. It was exhausting not knowing who could know what information and what story you had told to who.

You were always there promoting conflict in our family, yet expecting everyone to respect your authority. I still cringe when I remember the time you called and told me you were going to try to cut my step-siblings out of your shared will with their father because they didn't stop by the house enough to visit. I wouldn't go along with it and I told you this. You never liked hearing that someone wouldn't go along with one of your schemes. I'm sure you've had similar conversations with them now and I'm the one cut out of the will. I really don't care because your money doesn't matter to me. Honor does. Truth does. Love does.

You were always there to tell me to dream big, but not too big, and you were also there to be disappointed if my dreams weren't exactly what you thought they should be. I had to make sure you were OK with my dreams before I would allow myself to dream them. Those dreams had to be big enough to support you, but not big enough to leave you.

You were always there after school, but I never once remember you helping me with my homework or even asking if I had any. You were never there before school to get me ready. I woke myself up and got myself to school as far back as I can remember.

You were always there to make fun of me for the same things over & over. You had 5 or 6 stories you'd retell about something embarrassing I had done and use it for dinner party conversation to belittle me for decades.

You were there when I had a minor squabble with my husband one day, and once he was out of earshot you told me to "take his credit card and teach him a lesson" by maxing it out. You wanted me to hurt the man I love most. You wanted conflict in my marriage because you had it in yours. I think that you want me to fail in life so I'll need you and come back to you in some way. My counselor agrees.

You were always there to ask me to get things for you. To change the channel when the remote died, to bring you a snack, to bring your many, many medications. I could pronounce Carbamazepine and open a childproof cap before I was 10. You just called it your C pill. "Bring me my C pill", you'd always say. And then of course there were your "mac daddy pills". I still don't know what those were, but I brought them to you a lot. I took my duties seriously making sure you were OK. When you were sick, I took your temperature. When you were sad, I tried to cheer you up. When you were fighting with your husband, I tried to neutralize it. When I did something that hurt you, I apologized until I cried. I cried a lot. 

Whenever you try to reunify you always say "but we were so close before". And we were. Living another state away from you and not taking your calls hasn't stopped me from feeling you there…. needing something else from me. We were close, Mom. And it took me many years and way too many panic attacks to see it wasn't normal. 

Hallmark doesn't make a Mother's Day card for people like us, Mom.

Happy Mother's Day. 

I was always there for you.

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