Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bridging the gap

I am so frustrated.

I have been trying all year to reconnect with my mom and sister.  After our Christmas dinner, I came to the realization that I don't really know them, they definitely do not know me, and I don't trust them.  If we're ever going to have a relationship that's not hollow and irritating, we are going to have to get to know each other.  We need to find common ground.

I have been really intentional about calling my sister weekly, and I've been involved in my mother's medical care for a couple of months now.  I talk, text or email with each of them at least once a week and I've seen my mom several times recently.  (Previously, I'd call a few times a year.)

We had my family over for Easter this past weekend.  It was really pretty lovely; except that I ended up sharing something with my mom that I wasn't quite ready to share.  Because I don't trust her.  Because I don't know her.

Once the words were out of my mouth, there was no putting them back.  She knew.  And she wanted to talk about it.  Initially, her thoughts were all about her.  About how a bitter disappointment and closing of a chapter in my life affected her.  Then her thoughts turned to me...and how I surely need my mother at a time like this.

The thing is...I don't.  I don't need her to mother me in the way she would like to.  Sure, it would be ideal to have a loving, reliable mom, but the truth is that I'm more of a mother to her than she's ever been to me.  And I'm okay with this.

I'm not so okay though with her insisting that surely I must need her the way any daughter needs her mother.  For advice or babysitting, to confide in, to cry to.

(Insert hairs standing up on the back of my neck, quickening of pulse, taking two steps back, feeling smothered by the tight hug that she's insisting on holding for two full minutes.)

I need a minute, Mom.  I need you to understand that this relationship you are ready to dive into as if nothing ever happened is too much to ask.  Unreasonable.  Bad things did happen.  Horrible.  I have never known you to be loving or caring.

I do not trust you.

My impulse is not to lean on you.  Not yet.  You are pushing me away by pushing yourself on me.  I need you to let me come to you as I am ready.  Stop forcing yourself on me.  Stop putting me in a position where I have to say no.

Mom was so convinced that I needed her yesterday (two days after our discussion), that she called me asking if she could leave work early to frantically come to my house to talk.  (She presented it as if she needed to talk.)  I told her I had an appointment in two and a half hours, so my time was quite limited.  She showed up two hours and five minutes later.  She left her work, drove all the way across town, did who knows what for the extra 1 1/2 hours it took her to get here, only to put me in a position to tell her I really didn't have the time anymore.  She insisted though, so we talked.  She left while I went to my appointment, returning to finish our conversation an hour and a half later. 

I was less composed than I wanted to be.  I was frustrated that she was so late, that she didn't call to say she was going to take 2 hours to get here, that she had left her job for this, and that I had a very important meeting that she was now tinkering with.  I was frustrated that when she finally opened her mouth, the words were "I just thought you needed me."

She called it her "Mother's intuition".  I managed to keep my eyes from rolling and my jaw from dropping, but I was thinking, "WHERE WAS YOUR MOTHER'S INTUITION WHEN I TOLD YOU I WAS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED AND YOU LET IT CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT 7+ YEARS?"  I didn't say that, but I did say other things I wish I hadn't.  I want so badly to let the past remain in the past, but I totally snapped and reminded her of some of the reasons I don't trust her.

I clearly snatched my anger and frustration back up in that moment.  What I have worked so hard to surrender and set aside, I picked right back up when I was feeling pressured.  I felt like I needed to defend my position, and I presented a relentless case.  I beat her into the ground with the ugly (old) truth, giving little recognition for the recent progress she's made.

I am disappointed in myself.

This reconciliation thing is not easy...  Saturday - our family Easter - was a beautifully blessed day that I will forever cherish, but now it seems marred but what happened yesterday.  I know that all my mom wants is to be my mom, and that I hurt her deeply by reminding her of the ways she blew it in the past.

When she looked me in the eyes and said, "I miss you.", it occurred to me that she once knew me as a happy child.  There are good times that she remembers.  A pleasant, loving, cheerful little girl who called her Mommy and asked her to come outside to watch her do cartwheels.  A pre-teen who needed help with homework or wanted a ride to a swim meet across town.  A teenager who asked on occasion for her mother's opinion, or needed gas money.  There are times that she remembers me needing her; and she wants that back.

But I remember the times she failed.  The days-on-end that she was locked in her bedroom depressed.  The times I begged her to drop bad habits but she wouldn't.  All the times she didn't show up when I needed her.  I remember her as a woman who always put herself first.  I remember being alone, unimportant.

There is a huge gap between how she sees me and how I see her, and it will take time, patience and tremendous effort to bridge that gap.

I owe my mom an apology.  I pulled out old baggage that I wish I had left alone.  There is surely a better way to handle the situation.  A way that I can be honest, without being brutal.

I would also like to ask Mom to celebrate the relationship we do have and wait patiently for it to grow.  I am honestly beginning to like her, and trusting her may come in time.  I never expected we'd be here, so who knows where we might end up?  We are headed in the right direction.


Kaila said...

Thank you so much for your openness and truth, Tonya! You are an inspiration!

mile191 said...

likely the LONG comment that I just wrote was more for my disappeared.

You are very brave in your writing here and I think you have expressed your feelings, very validated feelings well. I read courage and see you so strong to know your needs and stand up for them.

I have written a TON lately about my mother and my relationship with her. She passed away a few weeks ago and I was daily involved in her declining health. She was 65, and her dying came very sudden. Anyhow-- I have written a lot about trying to understand this new loss, after her neglect, the abuse and would think that I would not be grieving so much. My husband said that her dying didn't create a magic pill that made all the problems go away, and maybe some of my grieving is that. I never had a nurturing protective mothers love. I sometimes wondered what was so broken about me....anyhow, I still struggle with that but separate her problems from what I can and can not control. When she came last summer she suddenly wanted to protect me from something and it angered me so much (I thought forgiving her would make all that go away...) I couldn't understand why she wanted to protect me now but had done nothing of the sort when I needed it as a child. Vicious.

I wish you the best. I will keep reading.

How did your paper go? I haven't been able to follow up with it since...well, being so consumed with my mom. I hope well.


Johnny Shi said...

I was especially touched by your story about wanting to reconnect with your family after your experience. A really long time ago, a good friend of mine went through a similar experience, and she found a lot of strength leaning on her mom. It's amazing to me that you can find healing and peace through others' comfort and love. Through her experience, she was able to heal, and find an attorney to take care of the legal process for her. She wouldn't have been able to find the attorney without the support of her family and friends. I'm very impressed by the things that you've said, and I hope you continue to pull things back together.