Mother’s Day was celebrated yesterday by many people. I try to think of those people instead of myself, because I seem to have some issues surrounding motherhood, my mother, and the way she chose to raise me and my brother, and how she was towards our father. That’s putting it very mildly.
I try not to think of those particular issues all year round, and I fail constantly. I know it has affected me and how I perceive and behave towards people, mainly women, a lot of whom are older than I am and who hold some sort of position of importance. It’s not fair to them or me, and it frustrates me. When I get that frustrated, I generally shut off or distract myself. Yesterday I had that luxury because I’m surrounded by loved ones who are very close to my heart, but now of course, in the dead of night, I’m picking that scab. I’m going to stick a (preferably gloved) hand into that cobwebbed baggage. I’m ripping that box open because I can’t seem to help myself, even though I swore I wouldn’t. Anyway, I have a vague hope that I’ll find something good I may have previously dismissed. Maybe I’ll cover my nose just in case. I have a sensitive gag reflex and it’s probably about to get a bit gross up in here.
This is the Boxing Day of Mother’s Day, and I have some serious leftovers.
Thank you Mum, for spending so long giving birth to me. I know the whole story surrounding it; how many hours (way too many, Jesus Christ), how stressful it was to deal with professionals who you felt didn’t truly understand you, and how close you came to dying and leaving Dad alone to raise me. I know how uncomfortable pregnancy was for you, and looking back, I feel you may have dealt with postpartum depression on some level. I will never dismiss you when you want to talk about this, because I feel it may comfort us both. Whenever I imagine myself in your position, I find it hard to breathe. I imagine how hard it was for you to breathe. Or move. Or stay still. Or anything, really.
Sadly though, I am now left with an intense fear of pregnancy and childbirth. I know that many women survive childbirth every single day, and many go on to get pregnant again and it doesn’t kill them, but I feel that I’d either die or end up wishing I had died. I’m too scared of things not going right that I sometimes feel I’d rather die. Yes, I know. That’s fucked.
The above point brings me to control issues and the need to either assert dominance by any means necessary or completely disconnect from the situation. Mum, you have some serious control issues, by which I am repulsed when I sometimes see them in myself. While I am grateful for the fact that you did what you could, I still can’t get past some of the things you did for the sole purpose of making sure you always had the upper hand. I know I was a handful, but I was born innocent and unsuspecting as we all are. At times, I felt that you thought I came in as some kind of opponent. And I grew to see you as a weird sort of loving villain whose moods were like the weather. Sometimes quite nice, but mostly far too cold, even getting so bad as to destroy me and my surroundings. I would get excited when I saw the sunlight but I could never get used to the nice weather, because that shit could flip on a dime. I can’t seem to forget how much it hurt to see the sun shine on everyone but me sometimes; honestly, that really hurt me the most. I saw you loving them and not me, and I would question why I’m so unlovable and what I did to deserve your hate. Don’t tell me it wasn’t hate. I may not know a lot about love, but I definitely know what hate is.
Speaking of hate, I remember hating you for inflicting Mormonism on us all. I no longer do, but I held some bitter hate in every fibre of my being towards you for not only bringing those delusions into our lives, but also how strict you were in enforcing your favourite rules from your favourite book. I wanted to burn that thing so many times; thank God you beat enough of the fear of Hell into me to keep me from doing it. While New Zealand’s watered-down LDS stuff hardly holds a candle to some of the truly vile things happening in other places in the name of Joseph Smith, you still knew how to throw the book at us. Sometimes literally.
Which brings me to my least favourite part – the abuse. Mum, how did you bring yourself to do some of those things and still sleep at night? I don’t even know where to begin with that, but here goes. I understand that you were abused on multiple levels while growing up, but what type of legacy is that to pass on to David and me? While your strict nature yielded some good results in the short term, I dare say in the long term, you damaged us so badly that I feel it is permanent and I lose hope sometimes. I lose hope for us as a family and for myself and it is sometimes very hard for me to want to face the next day. I hold it together most of the time, but I often fear that I’ll never be OK. My biggest nightmare is to find that none of my adult life really happened and I was just in a coma from the last beating you gave me for giggling about something in the back seat of the car or something equally minor. If I woke up as a child in that environment again, I’d kill myself. Or maybe you, and then myself. The physical injuries and the mind games scared me that much.
You were so shitty to Dad too. I witnessed on several occasions your unrelenting emasculation tactics and general disregard for him and how he felt about things. You would actively encourage David and me to take sides in your disagreements, and I always seemed to take the wrong side at first (i.e. not yours) until I learned it was easier to pretend I agreed with you. I let Dad down in the name of self-preservation, and I still feel so much guilt about that. My childhood seemed to be all about the fact that we all couldn’t get along with each other, and that fucking burns me. There was no effective communication in that house unless someone outside the family was around, because you’d never risk looking bad in front of people you actually respected… except sometimes you did. People knew how you treated us and they let it happen. Actually, fuck that. I’m not going there right now, because this is about you. You always liked it best when things were all about you. Oh yes, I’m still extremely fucking pissed off about that shit.
And the best part? I know this won’t mean anything if I say it to your face. I’ve already tried so many times, only to have you (and sometimes Dad) laugh in my face. Face-to-face between us is not the way to go considering how angry I can still get and how good you are at avoiding accountability. I had to break the cycle years ago by getting out from under you at a relatively early age, and I still wish I did so sooner than that. We all know I tried; all of my running away from home, trying to get you to kick me out (and sometimes temporarily succeeding), gradually giving up on making excuses for you and the bruises and cuts on my body and the behaviour I exhibited in response, notifying the police when I finally realised that was something I could do (and not just something you could do to me out of spite), those were all ways I cried for help from others. None of it worked, so I made a plan. And like you, when I make a plan, I will achieve my goal or die trying. I was finally prepared to die trying to get away from you.
Thing is, I got away and lived. I’m alive and I’m not sure what that means. I think about how I would be as a mother, and I panic. I’m sure you never meant to do anything bad, but you did. So like the earlier nightmare about waking up again as a child in our family home, I also have nightmares about being a terrible and evil mother. Sure, I can be a very considerate and caring person, but do I really have what it would take to be a good mother to a child? I don’t think so. Whenever I wistfully imagine myself as a kind and loving mother in the future, I remember the example you set and I deem myself not worthy of the privilege that you abused. Twice. I have too many hang-ups to even fathom being a decent role model and good provider to anyone you could call a grandchild. My child would deserve a better family than you, Dad, David and me. This means that while I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust you either. If I ever gave my child a savage beating because of my own fucked-up brain, or casually ignored them when I knew they would need my reassurance, I’d want to die. No baby deserves a shitty mother. Ever.
I set out to thank you, but this all turned out quite differently. I tried back then and I try now to remember the nice weather, but the storms took so much from me that my own survival is somewhat unbelievable. Fortunate, but still painful. I still want to speak to you sometimes, but a vague and deep-seated fear stops me. I find myself feeling tired for days after spending time with you or even talking with you on the phone. I find myself instantly thrust back into my many childhood roles:
- Diplomat – I developed a keen sense for tension, and an intense need to resolve it before anyone got (too) hurt. I am very good with my words and jokes when I want to be. This is good for me now, but it was stressful for me as a child. I love that I am somewhat confident in the English language, but I got to this point through some gnarly shit, for want of better words. I’m also quite good with irony, but not always with subtlety. Whatever. That’s fine. Sentence fragment; consider revising. At best, I was impressing you and showing some sort of value. At worst, I was lying my little head off in order to avoid trouble.
- Aggressor – When I got to a certain point, I realised that I exceeded you in some ways and I can admit that I enjoyed putting you in your place when I could. While I feared you, I grew to disrespect and therefore disobey you, sometimes in very spectacular ways. You wanted supremacy, I wanted justice. I wanted a mother, you wanted a rival you could crush. If I wanted to, it’d be very easy for me to win that sort of thing now. I sometimes feel that you wish I’d fuck you up just so you could complain long and hard about it to whomever you see fit, crying all the while about how I was always so horrible, right from the beginning.
- Victim – The angry bitterness sometimes gives way to extreme self-pity, and I find myself doing the stupidest things to alleviate that kind of sorrow. Rebellion, addiction, violent outbursts, terrible communication, denial – all of it’s on the menu, served by me on a silver platter with one hand, playing the world’s smallest violin with the other hand. I become the small child I was, but with all my adult abilities to let you know how hurt I truly was, and all I can do is cry and go on about how unfair it all was and still is, forever hinting at your role as aggressor as I die a soap-opera death, again and again.
I can’t keep going on this carousel of emotions and still feel OK with myself. That’s a circuit that wears me down with every cycle, and I’m already dealing with enough without having to factor that in as well. I tried for a while, and we got nowhere. My weather can be just as unpredictable as yours now, except it now rains on me too.
Unless your weather was raining on you from the very beginning? That said, all I can offer you is a towel. I made my own umbrella out of what you threw away and it’s not my fault that I make it look good sometimes. I wish I could thank you for who I am and all I have, but none of it is because of you. It’s all in spite of you. You swear you did your best and horribly enough, that might actually be true. Sadly, knowing this, I can’t bring myself to thank you like how I wanted to earlier.
Happy Mother’s Day.