Friday, December 22, 2006

Mothers and Daughters.....

Sometimes it seems in the blogging world that particular topics come up in abundance in a concetrated period of time. Over the past week, there have been a few posts about mothers and daughters. Mad Hat, in a recent post, talked about grieving her mother's death.

It got me to thinking about my ill-fated relationship with my mother, one we recently tried to reconcile and failed miserably, and I wondered how it will feel when she passes. She is 75 years old this year so it is possible that it won't be that far off.

I really do not like grown people who carry on about having been abused as children. It's something that seems kind of "stuck", rather unhealthy to voluntarily assume the identity of "victim". I do not choose to be a "victim".

So, for that reason, I do not like to say that I was abused as a child. I will say it this way instead:

My mother was an abuser.

She did not abuse me with physical force. She was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She didn't scream and yell or call me filthy names. She just sucked the soul out of me instead.

She was extremely critical, narcissistic and the price for a relationship with her is to meet her expectations with complete compliance, never disagreeing or, heaven forbid, not being the person she wanted me to be. She wanted something I could never be. Typical of children in that position, I bent and shaped myself into what I thought she wanted ~ and it was still never, ever, good enough.

Not too long ago, in a spirit of reconciliation, I tried to begin a new relationship with her, understanding that it would never be fulfilling. It would never be a warm, loving mother/daughter relationship but I still believed we could find some common ground and have, if nothing else, a friendship.

It didn't work out. We both tried in our own ways and ultimately discovered that the "old stuff", the sick dynamics that defined our relationship when I was young, came back full force. Even a ten-year-plus estrangement couldn't break the pattern. My mother gives new meaning to the old phrase, "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile." The phone calls I made to her became increasingly abusive and I made the decision that a relationship with her would not be possible. If I want to remain healthy at all, I can not have a relationship with such a toxic person.

Our final conversation was particularly contentious with her reafffirming once again what a disappointment and embarrassment I have been to her. She said, "and, furthermore, those goddamn clothes are ridiculous and make you look like an idiot. Why don't you just straighten up and get a job?" While that statement may seem rather benign on the surface, it is power-packed with a whole bunch of old stuff, the primary message being "you are not perfect and if you want a relationship with me, you'd better be what I want you to be. I only accept the best.. and I define what 'best' is... and you just don't meet the requirements" She absolutely can not accept that I will never be anything other than what I am, a wounded, imperfect human being, trying to find my way ~ just like everyone else. The second problem with the statement is that she did not respect me as an adult, a middle-aged, mature woman who owes her no explanations for the decisions I make in my life. My mother has always had a significant issue with boundaries. She doesn't have any. Her statement said it all..

In that moment, I realized there would be no reconciliation. I said, "Well, one lesson learned again. The more things change, the more you stay the same. I can't have a relationship with you. I'm sorry. I wish you well." I hung up. It is probably the last conversation she and I will ever have in this lifetime.

Grieving comes in many forms and someone doesn't have to die for the grief to begin. It's hard to say what I cried for more that day. Maybe it was for what might have been or the utter finality of knowing such a primary relationship would be non-existent in my life. I even cried for her. She is mean-spirited and bitter. She has no friends. She pities herself constantly for the life she believes she deserved and never got. She is a very unhappy, empty person. She is entirely without compassion for other human beings. I truly do wish her well though. I wish her peace. And when it comes time for her to go, I wish her a peaceful passage. But I can not be a part of her life.

And, yes, that causes me grief. For the reasons mentioned above and for the damage we all do to each other when we don't acknowledge the damage that's taken place in our own lives. It is very hard at my age to admit that I was an abused child. An adult child of abusers. One of those. It sounds so damn trendy, the latest bandwagon and fodder for endless TV talk shows. I hid it for 40 years. It was like the dust under the rug, the ghost in the closet, the shame I hid from others. But eventually those ghosts start rattling around in the closet, and the carpet wears thin, exposing the dust. I have carried that shame for 40 years ~ and I'm done. Grieving allows us to let go. It allows us to put some perspective on experiences and relationships. Hopefully, it teaches us how to build new ones.

In that respect, I will grieve my mother when she dies, just as I grieve the death of the relationship we could have had while she's alive.




Girlplustwo said...

wow. i am sorry you never had the mother you needed. i truly am.

years ago, someone said "when are you going to understand that you will never get the mother you wanted? once you do that, you can accept her for who she is and move on" that made a huge difference for me, just hearing that.

this is a really beautiful post, chani. thank you for sharing it. Mad's post moved me as well..very powerful.

dmmgmfm said...

Thank you for allowing us another glimpse into your soul.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm so sorry, Chani. But I do not think of you as a victim. A victim stays stuck in a damaging relationship, never questioning it, out of fear and a lack of self-esteem. You have not done that. You have grown into who you really are despite extreme discouragement from the one person who should have wanted to know your soul and treasured you.

I believe we attract the situations we need in every lifetime to become the person we are meant to be. Sometimes, that means being hurt badly by our parents. Perhaps without having to rise above such abuse, we would have settled into complacency and never examined our values as you have done.

I feel sad for your mother because even from this distance, I know how beautiful you are, but her own fears and shortcomings have driven away a daughter she should be proud of and love with all her heart. If she had one.

Thank you for sharing this.

Anvilcloud said...

I remember you blogging about your mother; it must have been at the end of your attempt at reconcilliation. I'm really sorry that it didn't work out. There was possibly an abuser in her life? Nevertheless, that doesn't help anyone to deal with the present situation.

LittlePea said...

I'm usual you've made me stop for a moment.

Ginnie said...

Chani, I've come to realize that there are people in my life that are just too toxic for me to continue having a relationship with. It is sad when it happens to be within the family but I believe that if I keep my side of the street clean either it will mend in time or it will fade out.
If I don't do that the toxicity will consume both of us.
You are brave to let us get to know you and I hope it helps to write about it.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, truthfilled and painful post, dear Chani. One many of us can relate to. For me the estrangement is with my sister, not my mother, but it hurts just the same.

There comes a time when we can say we have done all we can and it still doesn't work. Then the healthiest thing to do is walk away, in love and sadness.

Learnings all. And your example is especially powerful because in saying "No more!" to your mother, you are saying "Yes!" to your Self.

Bob said...

We are more than the sum of our experiences, for if we choose to we can learn from them and grow. I'd say that you've achieved much.

urban-urchin said...

you know i was thinking about parent child relationships recently and I came to the conclusion that parents- even bad parents don't want to be bad parents- i believe they want the best for their offspring the same as good parents. so where does it all go wrong, and at what point along the line do you realize you've mucked things up?

I'm sorry you and your mother don't have a relationship but you have to protect yourself and take care of yourself. Even if it means removing toxic parents from your life.

Grieving is a natural part of this seperation- I'm sorry you have to do it twice.

KC said...

As usual, so insightful, reflective and wise. I, too, am sorry that your mother was not there for you as you needed her. But glad that you are not stuck and not a victim of this.

You are truly empowered.

thailandchani said...

HI Everyone...

Thanks so much for these responses. :)


Jen, I agree that it is important to understand that we will never have the mothers we wanted. Sometimes we get the ones we need. More metaphysical stuff. :)


dmm, thank you for taking the glimpse. :)


Susan, I agree with your metaphysical take on all of this. We choose our parents for a reason. They offer us the environment we need to learn the lessons we need to learn. And, no, I'm not excusing child abuse. I am saying that perhaps the lesson is simply learning to let those abusers go. I'm sure there is a lesson for them, too.


Anvil, my mother was the last of eight children. Her father died when she was very young. All of her older brothers and sisters spoiled her rotten. She truly is just a spoiled, selfish woman.


Ms Pea, I hope in a good way. :)


Ginnie, I had to deal with a lot of this when I first got sober as well. I was so filled with rage that without facing it, I would have stayed drunk. Like most "adult children", I continued to make excuses for her though. Cutting anyone out of my life is very difficult because I want to see the best in everyone. In this case, you're right. She's just too toxic. I've finally accepted that she is not going to change and it is not my job to "fix" her.


Patricia, "amen" to all you've said. It is sad, of course, to be estranged. I am also estranged from the rest of my immediate family. Still, we can't look for orchids in the desert.. and I gave them too many years already. I forgive.. definitely.. but as Patti Davis said in her book "Homebound", "sometimes forgiveness means we don't do well together."


Bob, thanks. :) I have tried. That's not to say I haven't hit my rough spots ~ but I try to learn from my experiences. :)


U-U, thank you. I wouldn't have been okay with being me if I hadn't given it at least one more shot. My chosen culture and way of life requires that of me.


KC, I'm not sure about "empowered" but at least I know no further damage can be done. That woman broke my heart more than once. She will not have another opportunity. Yeah. I guess that is an empowerment of sorts. :)


Peace to all ~ and may we all find forgiveness in our hearts for past wounds.


carlsbadsue said...

OMG !!! I also have an abusive mother and it is becoming increasingly painful, especially as we approach xmas. I try to keep busy and not think about having to spend a few hours with her and a few other family members that I am not close to, at all. I have tried to develop a relationship but I have a sister that closely resembles my mother.

Stephen Newton said...

Chani, Thanks for your post about your mother. (That photo looks amazingly like my first wife when she was young) anyway, I wanted to tell you that my mother was a rager, raging against everyone around her. I left home the day after my high school graduation and seldom returned. Before she died of Parkinsons in 1996, I visited my mother. She sat alone in the room, shrunken and misshappen from the horrible disease that imprisoned her within her frozen body. I sat before her and held her hand and told her how sorry I was that we had never known each other, that I was fine and that I loved her. She was unbale to move or speak, but she squeezed my hand twice and a tear rolled down her cheek. She had heard me and I was thankful that we had that moment before she left. My brother and sister agree that she paid the price for all of those terrible years we knew her, she paid in ways that even I think were cruel and unusual punishment.

thailandchani said...

Susan, just remember this: you don't *have* to go there. You don't *have* to be around people who suck the life out of you. You don't *have* to be around people who don't treat you with respect and love. Please excuse my being so presumptuous. Intuitively, that is what came up for me to tell you. :)


Stephen, I'm really glad you were able to do something to make your mother's passing easier. She must have done something right to be deserving of that? :)


Peace all,


meno said...

I am so sorry that your mother could never accept you for you. You did what you had to do. I am just sorry that it hurts so much.

Mad said...

As I said in my post, my relationship with my mother had its troubles. What I never questioned from her, though, was her love or honest sacrifice for me just as I have never questioned my love for her.

I am sorry, deeply sorry, that you did not have that kind of relationship with your mother.

anonymous said...


I am in tears reading your blog as it sounds too familiar. I am finding strength from your words. I have recently ended the relationship with my mother because I can't continue to take the abuse from her anymore. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the grieving gets easier as time passes.