Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all. These holidays can bring about love and memories and the pain of loss or what may have been…or what never was. It’s a difficult day for sure for anyone who has lost their mom or for a mom who has lost a child. And it can magnify the relationship with your mom ten-fold on such a day.
My brother gave our mom a box of chocolates and a box of chocolate covered strawberries for Mother’s Day. He gave those to her on Friday. I was over there on Sunday. “Where is the chocolate?” I asked. “Gone,” she told me.
Gone? May or may not have been the truth. My mother watches my weight so she may have hidden stuff. But she told me that she went through the box of candy piece by piece and opened each one to see what was inside, eating the ones she wanted and tossing the rest…which I guess was most of the box. And, knowing my mom, she removed the chocolate off of the strawberries. She offered me some plain strawberries in a bowl.
I got my mom a heated back massager because she loves the heated seats in my car and said they felt so good after working in the yard. She tried it but said it was too rough…after all, she has no fat on her back…the implication was clear. It went back in the box. She will be giving it to my brother. I already have one. My back being fat enough to take it.
At this point in our lives, my mom makes me laugh. She told me a story about how as a teen, she was smoking in her room and her mother opened the door…the room full of smoke…and when asked if she had been smoking, she denied it. That made me laugh and feel closer to her. I still hide how much soda I drink, or I will sneak a cookie when I am around her. And she still keeps shoving fruit in my face when I am sitting at her table, but at this point, she has grown tired, and I have been able to step back and appreciate the amazing person that she is. As she has gotten older, there are things I have begun to help her with a bit more and our roles have begun to change a bit.
Perhaps one of the reasons I have been able to emotionally distance myself as far as getting annoyed with my mother is because she is getting older, and I know that our time together is growing shorter. Perhaps part of it has to do with the whole world around us is changing and I want to hold onto the past for as long as possible. Perhaps it is because as I am getting older, I realize how precious unconditional love is, and how rare. But perhaps, also, as I have gotten older and have gone through tough times like a rock through a tumbler, I have come out the other end a bit stronger and more self-reliant.
Yes, I am still reading the same book. I don’t know how many weeks this is right now. But it has long chapters and there is a lot of info to digest. The author, Mark Manson, writes something so eloquent in his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”, that I would like to share it here, in its entirety. It basically describes what he calls, “the yin and yang of any toxic relationship”.
“Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted.”
He goes on to say, ” Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.”
I do see myself in those descriptions. However, there was a time when I would not have seen it so clearly. When we are young, or still very attached to someone else like our parents, or a spouse who perhaps we have married at a very young age, before we have had the time to know who we are on our own, it is so easy to feel that we are the victim. And perhaps in some cases we are. Many times, we may be the victim, in fact. But oftentimes, those who are abused, feel connected to their abuser. As if they are one.
He hit me but I didn’t shut up when he warned me to. If I leave, I will be alone. Nobody else will want me. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to cook, drive, balance my own checkbook, I have no friends of my own, I’ll have to go back to work, I have to do their laundry/dishes, etc. because their place is a mess, and they shouldn’t be living like that…
Anytime and in any situation where you feel you need to save someone or fix someone, or you feel the need to be saved from a situation by someone (which puts you in a position of vulnerability), there is a bit of co-dependency. In fact, what we are saying when we feel the need to nurture a grown person in such a way that becomes unhealthy to both people, is that we aren’t going to let that person take responsibility for themselves. We are also saying that we are not going to have a life other than taking care of that other person.
Why do we do this? Probably because we have learned where we fit in as far as what we were valued for when we were young. There are those who are in some way irresponsible, and there are those who must take up the slack and be the responsible ones so that life goes on smoothly. We witness this in the relationships of the adults that we know and love. In some way we may know that it isn’t the way the rest of the world operates, but we know our place and we know “our people”. We recognize the other piece of our puzzle when we meet them. We connect ourselves to them but then we blame them for either not appreciating us, or not changing their ways and fixing themselves.
We are a complicated people. We surely are that.
One of the things that seems unfair to me and that has bugged me throughout the years is that I’ve tried. I’ve really tried so hard. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve done all the work for my entire family and then some. I’ve left relationships that didn’t work out or seemed unhealthy. I made sure my son got a DNA test on a baby born when he was in high school. I’ve been to court for custody and harassment and eviction and child support. I’ve lived on my own for many years. I’ve made friends with neighbors who have helped me out. I’ve made new friends on my own. Travelled on my own. Hired lawyers and real estate brokers and repair people. Worked two jobs. Called the police for drug dealers and homeless people living in a vacant house next door and for loud parties held by college students. I sat with someone who was overdosing while the neighbors called for an ambulance. I have worked at being independent. I have worked at making myself stronger.
And I thought at the end of all of this, at some point, there would be a reward. What reward, you ask? Well, to receive the love and appreciation that I’ve always wanted, I answer. Are we sensing a pattern here?
I still want the codependent’s dream. Just to stop trying so hard. Just to love and to be loved. And yet, the traumas I have gone through make me fearful of just being me with someone else just being themselves. Nobody saving anybody or having to offer anybody anything other than me. How can I possibly do that when I don’t know how?
Recently, as I have mentioned, my mother has needed more help with things, and I’m coming face to face with signs that are telling me that somewhere up ahead everything is just going to come to a complete halt, and I will have to process that. And I feel like there is this emotional exchange that should be going on between us. We do say “I love you” and we keep in touch daily and I go over to see her a couple of times a week. But I feel like there is a tsunami of emotions behind a brick wall. I function stoically and remind her to keep her doors locked and drive her places and make sure her finances are safe and sound.
And I wonder why I feel like I am detaching from the mother ship and turning off switches and locking down hatches and shutting down emotions. And I wonder sometimes if I will know when it is the last time we will speak. Does anyone ever?
But as I wonder what is wrong with me and why I feel so very flat emotionally, I realize that is how I was raised. Emotion comes out as control in our family. As in “I love you so I will tell you what I think is best for you.” There is never anyone saying things like, “Honey, I love you so much. I will miss you when you are gone.”
Come to think of it, what I just described was expressing emotion openly. Emotion has to come out in some way. Good or bad, emotion is either going to tear us up inside physically or emotionally or come out when someone finally snaps and does something violent, or it can become a phobia, or an obsessive-compulsive behavior, or it can be thrown into work or alcohol or something, but emotions have to go someplace. And behaviors are learned.
Perhaps codependency is one of those ways we learn to channel feelings. We can’t say how we feel and still feel safe doing so. But if we try to fix things or we take care of people, maybe they will love us or not go away.
I should really read more about codependency. But it may take awhile. I still have to finish this book I’m reading. Have a good week.