I’ve heard women of all ages say that their mother was their best friend. I’ve heard women say they have a great relationship with their mothers and they enjoy spending time with them. Oddly enough, I’ve never heard any woman talk about a bad relationship with their mother. Maybe I just don’t know the right women or the ones who don’t have a great or even good relationship with their mothers just don’t talk about it.
There is no denying that any relationship is complicated. Even on my best days people tend to annoy me and the only thing I want out of life is to be left alone. I know I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, but to have someone constantly criticizing me and judging me is not helpful. In fact, it’s a good way to get me to never talk to you again.
You see, that’s the way I was raised, with a good dose of guilt and condemnation. If I performed or behaved perfectly then maybe I was left alone for awhile. I didn’t have to be pushed quite so much. But heaven help me if I showed any emotion, personality, or individualism.
Please, please don’t misunderstand me. I know that on the spectrum of bad childhoods mine was certainly not the worst. I am very thankful that I survived mine relatively unscathed, but I think it’s important for people to start understanding that even though the abuse they suffered (and make no mistake it was abuse) didn’t leave physical scars the emotional scars are real.
The spectrum of abuse is real and not just for kids. People abuse other people every day – at home, at school, at work, online and off. I wish I could say I didn’t so my fair share of abusing, but it’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken when someone is self-aware enough to recognize and admit the behavior.
It took me years to recognize that I was behaving just like my parents. Well, maybe not as bad, but if I had let it go my behavior would have become even worse than theirs. My weapon of choice was my words. I am ashamed to say now that I used to be proud of the fact that I could reduce people to tears with my words. I was especially happy when the person I left broken was someone who was for the most part, on the surface happy, healthy, and whole. My opinion was that if anyone seemed happy and content they were just denying the awful truths of their lives and I was doing them a favor by exposing their weaknesses.
I’m still not sure if I learned that behavior or if I was born that way. Did my parents’, especially mother’s, refusal to give love and acceptance harden my heart? Did their abandonment cause me not to trust people? Did my mother refusing to touch me cause me want to lash out at acquaintances and co-workers? It’s the whole nature vs. nurture debate, but then I realized it doesn’t matter anymore. That’s just a rotten way to treat people.
Of course people are trying to deny the awful shit in their lives, but what right do I have to try to bring it all up – just so they feel as bad or worse than I do? Do you know what I would give just to be able to forget some of things from my past? I’m sure most people feel the same way.
So no, my mother and I were never best friends. She was – is – the coldest, hardest person I’ve ever met. Funny, my friends never saw her that way. I used to say that hugging her was like hugging a tree – think about that for a minute. She was firmly into doing what was right – at all costs. Not that she put on a show for people. I will give her that, she was consistent in her denial of her feelings. Then she had me…
I was brat. I have always had a strong personality and I’m not afraid to cry. I feel things very deeply. I was – am – the exact opposite of my mother and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what to do with me. I used to catch her watching me with this look on her face like I was some kind of alien and she had no clue where I came from.
She taught me things, though. She’s still teaching me things even though she refuses to even speak to me still. As I’ve gotten older I started to realize that I was reaching the ages she was when big events occurred in our family and I tried to put myself in her shoes.
That’s when I started to understand – we’re not so different.
I started to understand what her being emotionally stunted cost her, what her beliefs cost her, what perfectionism cost her, and what kind of pressure she must have lived her whole life under.
Trying to live up to the impossible is probably the worst thing any one of us can do. I’ve been at this for over 15 years now – learning, growing, forgiving. It still amazes me that I can still learn something new about my relationship with my mother. Will we ever have a relationship again? Can we learn to get along? Will she ever accept me for who I am?
I wish I could say yes to any of those, and that tells you how far I’ve come. For now my only hope is that she knows – somehow, someway – that I am finally starting to understand. I am finally able to give her what she was never able to give me – unconditional love.