Saturday, May 16, 2015

i hate mother's day.

There is a Sunday that I dread as soon as the flowers start to bloom each spring and the Easter baskets get put away. I can feel the angst building in me as the calendar page flips to May and every message on the radio and internet seems to scream about how we MUST show appreciation for the feminine beings who gave us life. And I do appreciate my life, and the woman who carried me, for giving it to me. 

I've grown to loathe Mother's day and I suspect it is entirely out of jealousy for the colorful splashes of functional mother-daughter relationships that leap out in front of me at every turn in the week leading up to that specific Sunday each year. You see, my mother is an alcoholic. Our relationship at present is strained at best and probably closer to estranged. Make no mistake, I love my mother. I love my mother deeply and with a sort of directionless finality that settles over everything in my life. Every day, I find another way that I have come to mimic her in thought process or mannerism. And I only really shudder in horror about half of the time. She is liked by many despite her alcoholism and selfishness. And I love her. 

So no, I don't hate my mother and I accept that my aversion to Mother's day is probably because I can't stand to see other people flaunt what I don't have, I'm jealous. I'm jealous of trust and honesty and support and a sense of something sturdy, but I don't hate my mother over its absence. I'm also not pleased nor impervious to it, as I may have once convinced myself. I am so full of anger with my mother that I feel like I'm being poisoned from the inside. I am angry enough with her that I avoid her completely, I don't take her phone calls and I don't want to see her. While I may not hate her, I certainly have hate. I HATE our relationship- how it functions and how it feels. I am so furious with my mother for never owning up to her alcoholism and for having seemingly no awareness of her role in my life or the others who love and depend on her. When I think of the fractured state of my family unit and the role my mother's selfishness has played in it, I want to start gnashing my teeth. 

My mother is an unhappy person. My mother drinks when she is unhappy. Alcohol is a depressant. And around and around it goes. I have observed this pattern for years, shaking my head in a sort of befuddled disgust. How can she not see it? It never dawned on me that I may eventually take a few spins on the old carousel myself. 

About a year ago now, I thought I'd made some serious progress or at least a little peace with my mother. I took a class the last semester of grad school called "Forgiveness and Reconciliation," mostly because of my future clients' potential issues and because the man who taught the class was lauded as one of the best and most powerful teachers any of his previous students had ever learned from. I am a counselor, a helper; the subjects touched on and studied in this class would make me a better clinician, period. 

I walked into class with no intention of exploring my relationship with my mother and the subsequent fallout this has potentially caused in my life, because, to be honest, I'm more than a little bit of a sissy when it comes to confronting the depth of that pain. I always thought it was self-preservation. I really don't know what it was, now. Throughout the course, I skated through on my ability to easily grasp the theoretical pieces and then shabbily applied them to surface level issues in my real life when prompted. I took the easy way out, time and again, because for whatever reason I just could not make myself go there. Hell, I moved 2000 miles away from these feelings so that I wouldn't have to dig them up and look at them, why would I do it now in a class that I could easy skate through? 

One night I realized that I was doing myself a total disservice because I humiliated myself. Humiliation is a great motivator for me. Really lights a fire under my ass. What happened was that each of my peers shared an assignment where we'd had to write the apology we wanted from someone who had wronged us or write an apology to someone we'd wronged. One by one, the other students went around and bared their hurt, regret, resiliency, and forgiveness. We're talking big emotion. Tears. I was moved to tears just hearing some of their stories. Of course, I'd taken the easy way out, again. I wrote a semi sarcastic apology and felt myself blushing with shame as I rushed through it. I apologized to the class and went home feeling like an empty shell. Like something lacking depth or bravery. Ashamed. 

So I started doing some work, some real work. I started to let a little vulnerability creep into the fortress I'd built around my heart. First, I started letting myself think about my feelings toward my mother. It was pretty abstract a lot of rationalizing if I should be 'allowed' to feel what I thought I might feel. Then I started letting myself feel my feelings toward my mother, but just a little bit. Just kidding! I can't really only make myself feel a little bit. Naturally, my feelings for my mother pretty much detonated in my face and left me with singed-off eyebrows. Singed off eyebrows aren't peace, I'm finding. They're just undeniable. I used to be able to ignore my relationship with my mother, and now there's no escaping it. Naturally, when the class ended, so did all of my work. Grad school was finished, time to box everything back up until I was ready to drudge it back up again (never.) Part of me wishes it would have been that easy. That I could ignore it all once again- god knows I've tried to throughout the past year. 

I can't, and I have found it's a lonely place. I don't know a lot of people who have mothers like mine. Sure, I've met a few in passing over the years and I know there are many who hide it at varying degrees of success, like I once did. But maybe I've got this bratty, snobbish little person in me who doesn't want to be lumped in with the other people who have shitty relationships with their mothers, who, for whatever reason, were too selfish to notice or care about their child's suffering. The damaged. How horribly reductive. Having a shitty relationship with my mother doesn't define me or make me damaged any more than I let it, which I think a lot of people in similar situations have probably already figured out. But it's the point I'm not passed yet. That shitty relationship still holds a whole lot of weight in me. I don't know how to not let it take over my identity, now that I've admitted to it. 

Where I struggle now is with my fear. I never confronted my mother or tried to have an honest conversation with her during this process because, to put it concisely, I don't trust her. I don't feel safe. I know I will be denied, when all I crave is to be validated. I will not get what I seek, no matter which angle I come at it. So I am still doing the avoidance thing, but with a lot of anger and hurt just building up on my end. Which is where the other fear comes in, and it is the big one. You know how I deal with all the shit I'm holding? I drink. My most terrifying, paralyzing fear, is that I'm turning into a person that is deeply unhappy and drinks to mask and avoid and cope. I am scared in a bone chilling way that I am entering into the same pattern, the same life sentence as my mother. 

I will not have this. I can not have this. So, I'm outing myself. I'm outing my anger, the hate I harbor, the depression I feel, the wrong way I cope, the jealousy that gets inside me, and my mother. All of it. To keep me honest. I truly believe that opening myself to the real feelings and emotions I'd been denying for years was progress. Is progress. I know it is. The thing is, progress isn't completion. Maybe I'm even looking at something that will never reach completion and I will always have to work at. Whatever it is, trying to ignore it isn't helping me now. I have to figure out a way to continue to work and grapple with this and cope with it in a way that isn't going to ultimately destroy me. And it has to start now.

I am a mostly happy person. I have a mostly happy life, which I like to talk about in a pithy and sarcastic way because I want to make people laugh and because I like to laugh at myself. I have so much going for me that it seems like it should be easy to just tuck away the hurt and slap a smile on my face. But I can't, for the past year, I've been trying to shove all these feelings back into a tiny place where they no longer fit. They took on a size, shape, and life of their own when I admitted to their existence. The only way out of this one, it appears, is through. I'm ready to start working again. Or fighting for my life, as it were. 

1 comment:

  1. I started to leave a comment. It turned into a novel, so I emailed it...