Thursday, November 02, 2006

My mother... the diplomat!

Those who have been reading for a while might remember that my mother and I are giving the best shot possible at reconciling after a long estrangement. It's a challenge for both of us, no doubt, and we still tip-toe around the landmines and hope one doesn't detonate under our feet.

We have always had a difficult relationship. Neither of us were openly abusive but the tension was always there, hanging around us like fog. She had some very definite ideas about what she wanted in a daughter and I never measured up. She is a woman who resented the rigid gender roles of her youth and wanted to see me "succeed in the world". I often quip that she wanted Hillary Clinton. She got Thailand Gal.

Over the years, we just drifted apart. There are many reasons for that, the primary one being that we can both be stubborn women. We don't like to give in. She believed I was a perpetual flake and I thought she was .. well .. a judgemental bitch. Each time we'd talk, I'd feel put down, dismissed and diminished. My mother can be very critical and she doesn't realize the impact of her words.

She probably felt frustrated, scared and angry. How could I not live up to her dream? How could I be someone who was ... damaged?

It wasn't in her script.

Recently, we decided to give it a go and try again. We're still going through a "getting to know you" phase. After such a long separation, we don't know each other anymore. She is 76 years old this year. I am 55. We've both done a lot of changing since the mid-80s which is when the estrangement occurred. Still, some old habits of relating die hard.

We're holding each other at arm's length, with our fingers still in the air. Neither of us wants to be disappointed or hurt again by the realization that we just can't get along. I give a little. She gives a little. We try to avoid any possible conflict.

I bought a digital camera last week and mentioned it to her in an email. She naturally requested some photos. Now, I hate photos of me. I don't mind photos of the garden, photos of the dog, photos of the house, photos of my housemates, photos of the house next door ~ whatever. Pictures of me give me the creeps. I don't like mirrors, either. It must be baggage from a previous life or something. My reaction is very strong. But I knew she wanted one.

I asked V. to take one before he and his girlfriend left yesterday. He sat me in front of my computer and snapped a few. As it happens, it was a few days ago. Sunday, possibly. I sent it to my mother via email.

This morning, my cell phone rang. Usually I ignore it and let it go to voicemail but her number appeared in the display so I answered.

TG: "Hi, Mom."

Mom: "Hi.... is that a picture of you?" My mother is not one for lead-ins.

TG: "Yehm."

Mom: "You've lost weight. You look good."

TG: "Thank you."

Mom: "Were you getting ready for a Halloween party?"

TG: "Um. No. I'm not really much of a party-goer. Why do you ask?"

Mom: "What are those clothes? Is that some new style?"

TG: "Not really, Mom. It's Thai."

Mom: "Tied where?"

TG: "Thai. Like Thailand. You know. I've adopted it." I gave a very brief recital of my reasons.

Mom: "What the hell... Why are you doing that?"

TG: "It's just a style, Mom. Just clothes. Don't take it seriously. I don't."

Mom: "Third World Chic?"

TG: "That isn't very kind." Remember. We are trying very hard to stay away from landmines. This was my effort. Meanwhile, silently, I'm muttering f-words. Third World Chic, indeed.

Mom: (long, heavy, painful sigh)

TG: "Take a long, deep, healing breath."

Mom: "Well, you aren't going to show up at my funeral like that, are you?"

TG: "I won't. If you want me to, I'll wear something else."

Mom: "I want you to. (long pause) Your jewelry is pretty."

TG: "Thank you."

Do you suppose we stand a chance? :)


Thailand Gal


Lucia said...

Oh, dear. The key is probably trying not to take anything she's saying personally (which is very difficult) and accepting her as she is.

I, too, was a daughter who didn't turn out as expected, but my mother, although she did not understand me, never pushed me away either. She didn't understand my interest in different cultures or my traveling around the world to "dangerous" places.

But, here's the thing. You have your mother. My mother died at 65. And I sometimes feel like an adult orphan with both my mother and father gone. People talk about their parents (and, complain about them, which just breaks my heart), and in the end, if you've still got a parent or parents, I think you really do need to be the adult and work it out.

Jay said...'s a start, I guess. I know it's probably hard to let her in after all this time, and especially if you're not sure you can trust her not to hurt you anymore.

But it sounds like you're trying your very best. It's sad when we have to strain to be civil with our own parents, but like I said, it's a start. I wish you the very best.

Pam said...

I read your words, so well expressed, and it was deja vu. Only my mother and I have no hope. I wish you patience and perserverance and if it doesn't work, I wish you acceptance. Moms and daughters can be a treacherous road.

Gobody said...

You made my day, I LOL at "third world chick" ;). You can at least see the comic factor in a conversation like this and ignore the irritation. It might be hard but it's worth the try.

PS: regarding you hating pics and mirrors; my 6 y old son hates pics because he believes that they steal his spirit, beat that ;).

Disclaimer: No one else in the family hold primitive believes!

Thailand Gal said...

Lucia, I hear you. I don't intend to just blow my mother off, no matter how easy that might be. One of the choices that came with adopting the culture I chose is that I would do my best with all of it, not just the "cute" parts or the fun parts. Thai culture values family above all else so if I am to do it honor, I have to give this my best shot. "It makes me uncomfortable" isn't an option. :) We'll make peace with each other, even though it might take some time - and lots of patience (on both our parts).

Jay, you make a good point. I am not throwing all my guards down. That will be a while.

Pam, right on! Mothers and daughters perhaps have the most complicated relationship of our lifetimes. With my mother, I try to remember that she is doing what the culture taught her to do. It taught her to control, to own and to overpower. It's not entirely her fault, which isn't to say she isn't responsible for her behavior. But... I hope you are able to find a small space for your mother one day. Family is perhaps the only "guarantee" we have.

Best to all of us :)

Thailand Gal

Thailand Gal said...

Gobody, yes, I was definitely able to see the humor. "Third world chic". That's sooo *my mother*. It is a reflection of the way she thinks, the way she views the world. Once I got past being irritated, I had a good laugh, too. (The thing is that my style isn't all that outrageous. As I've mentioned, I am not the deepest person in the world and my young life was practically devoted to fashion. I know where the line is between unusual/eccentric and ridiculous. I don't cross it! LOL)

Best to you! :)

Thailand Gal

meno said...

Sigh. Why do moms think it's okay to comment on their daughter's personal appearance.
There's hope i suppose, but it will take all of your sense of humor and some amnesia.

Anvilcloud said...

Ah, parents and kids, eh? The minefields abound. Sounds like your Mom will never quite get it that parents have to learn to hold their tongues.

jen said...

honestly, i absolutely do.

i spent time in therapy once. at one point, the therapist said to me "when are you going to realize you did not get and will not ever have the mother you need?" that somehow forced the puzzle piece into place, and while i can grieve the above, i've moved on from the trying. not sure if that helps or not...

ps. you are welcome at my house on Thanksgiving.

Thailand Gal said...

Meno, I think we never grow up in the eyes of our parents and some parents are narcissistic. Everything we do as their adult kids is seen as reflecting back on them. That is basically my situation with my mom. She has never seen me as a separate person.

But I understand it ~ and I'm willing to work with her anyway. That is part of my own growth, the part where I know I am separate and I can show her compassion... even when she's so annoying that I want to swat her. :)

Anvil, you're right. I don't expect my mom will become another person and suddenly begin to respect my personal boundaries. On the other hand, my part of the exercise is to enforce them. That is one of the hardest lessons I ever learned.

Jen, absolutely. I know I can never have a relationship with my mother if I am not willing to accept that *she* is also a separate person with her own challenges, her own damage and things she needs to learn in this lifetime. Without that, there would be no chance in pluperfect *hell* that I would subject myself to her at all. It's all about compassion for her, too. She wouldn't be unkind if she was a happy person.

Thank you so much for the Thanksgiving thought. You exude kindness, even through the cyberwires. I am an extraordinarily quiet person (believe it or not, even with all the blathering I do on-line) and am not comfortable in social situations. Still, your graciousness is very much appreciated. :) Having a peaceful day is always a positive thing for me.

Peace to all of you.. and thank you :)

Thailand Gal

Stephen Newton said...

Dear TG, At least Mom is still alive and worried about the clothes you're going to wear at her funeral. That's a start. Very funny post. (I know it hurts but remember to forgive them for they know not....) My long journy to understanding and being understood by my father was only recently rewarded. Hang in there. You are worthy of a mother's love.

Pam said...

Thank you for the good thought, but my mother is a land mine I need to stay clear of to stay healthy. And it's OK, I've been through the turmoil figuring it all out entails and have come out whole. I agree you need to try and am hoping you find your way.

I agree about family, and that I have in spades.From my daughters and their families to my husband's kids and their's.

And a post script...I too found some humor in your dialog when she asked "Tie what"?

Annie said...

Before I read anyone else's comments...I'll leave my initial reaction to this blog. First, I wish I'd dropped by here earlier when I had time to really read everything. Later.

My initial comment to you is "Oh, YES!" Is there hope for you two. Oh my, yes. Yes and more yes.

I have a sibling that was like a thorn in my side and we didn't communicate for nearly twenty years. Time passed. Now we are entering our tenth year of healing and it is wonderful.

Proceed with care; care about what you say and don't say, care about the other person and care about yourself. It all works out.

The most important part is that you BOTH want it to work. If both individuals want it -- it happens.

If she doesn't like your clothing...okay! She probably never liked what you wore. And that-is-okay.

Time is so fleeting. If you can just agree to disagree and then find what you DO agree on -- you will be fine.

I am happy for you! Keep us posted. And thanks for sharing.

Thailand Gal said...

Stephen, thank you for such a kind comment. :) I've never been one to think about what I "deserve" or not... but I do agree that it is definitely worth it to continue trying. These things take time, just as it did with your dad.

Annie, thank you. I know all you say is true. Focusing on the positive things we can find with one another is far more productive than getting upset about the petty and small. My mom and I will grow into this eventually. :)


Thailan d Gal

Cuppa said...

Oh my yes! You stand a chance for sure. You have a sense of humour - that's a huge plus.

I laughed out loud when I read this post. Loved it. "Third world chic" and asking you not to wear something like that to her funeral. Oh dear.

Mama P said...

You absolutely must stay in touch with your mother for no other reason than supreme Helen Fields comedy material. I can see the book title, one your mother would love I'm sure. "Mom, I Like to Be Thai-ed Up" Think about it. But not too long. I want to see more posts! How do you say "heelarious" in Thai?