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I felt better today, going to work. Still cranky. Still irritable. But at a surface level, not a deeper level of discontent like I’ve been feeling lately. I’d still have preferred to be home by the fire, knitting. But I wasn’t so bummed that I wasn’t.
Suse linked me today to Thirdcat. I left a comment on one of Thirdcat’s posts. And she wrote me back. When I mentioned my difficult relationship with my mother, she recommended a book called ‘Motherless Daughters’ by Hope Edelman. That name sounded familiar, so straight away I emailed my oldest friend, who happens to work in our excellent library about 12 metres away from my desk. Since I work in Human Services, the library happens to specialise in that sort of thing. It has about five copies of this particular book, and so my friend not only loaned it out to me (as well as extending ‘Children of the Self Absorbed’, which I can’t bring myself to read, yet) but brought it straight to my desk.
This evening I arived home as tired, cold and hungry as usual, but in considerably better spirits. The evening was mine! And if I chose to fritter it away on the computer, then I damn well would. I didn’t choose to, though. First, I chose to check the washing that was on the line. Despite having been heavily rained on ALL last night and most of this morning (serious. It’s like it’s actually winter or something! This water from the sky thing – novel, that’s for sure) it was DRY! HORRAY! So I took it in. Hanging and taking down is something I find particularly meditative. It will now, of course, sit in a basket for a week since while I find folding it equally medatative, I also hate it. But howsoever that may be, the washing was dry, and it is inside. There is something about having clean laundry done that makes me feel good about life.
Then, I ran a bath, made toast and tea, and hopped into said bath with said toast, tea, and aforementioned book.
I read the introduction and the first chapter, had several good cries, and emerged from the bath feeling dehydrated and headachey, but having managed to find my equilibruim. Who knew it was in the bath!
There were several things that even this much of the book clarified for me. I may even have to go through it later and quote bits of it. However, the most important of them are thus:
- There is a difference between my mother and T (her name). I have T in my life. I have not had my mother, as I would like her, in my life for a long long time now. This loss was a continuum, so I can’t give you a moment or even a month. All I know is, there is a gap in my life where that relationship should be. I already knew this, but still. Further to that:
- This loss is made more abrasive by the fact that T is in my life. I can’t trust that relationship, and it’s not the one I want it to be. But I can’t ever have a good relationship with her, one where I feel safe and comfortable, until and unless I let go of the idea that she can ever fill that mother role. I think that is lost forever. And that is hard to let go of! I sort of had, before, but all the emotion and dramas made me need it more than I ever have before. But I need to delineate the two different things in my head.
- My father actually filled a lot of the role of ‘mother’ in my life. In fact, there were several phrases that I’ve thought the last couple days that were word for word in the book.
In a lot of ways, our family was traditional. My mother sewed and cooked, my dad made things from wood and tinkered with the cars. But he also darned all our socks, was in charge of getting all splinters out and kissing the wounds, as well as helping us learn our multiplication tables when we were struggling, making the tea and the lunchtime sandwiches, and organising family outings. Sure, our mum made sure they didn’t miss parent teacher interviews and made the evening meals. But she also played the traditional ‘dad’ role in more important ways – the dismissive anger, the blusters and storms, being the focus of the family unit. Meanwhile, my dad was always in the background, always a support, always a point of reference.
I didn’t realise how very very much he was a point of reference until he was gone. Until I was alone. Until I knew that I didn’t know how to be an adult, not really, I’d just been faking it this whole time, playing house. And now I was going to have to work it out by myself. I was going to have to buy the drill, hire the truck, be IT support for my sister, work out interest rates… and more importantly, I had lost my moral compass, the surety that there was always someone behind me, never judging but never compromising. Who knew me and loved me but wouldn’t hesistate to tell me if they thought I was off track.
And now I’ve got to do that for myself. And it’s scary. It’s freeing – especially given the mother situation, I now feel like I answer to no one, at the final count. But it is also deeply terrifying. I never really felt the true meaning of loneliness before. But now I understand it, although I am luckily enough to have enough lovely people around me not to truly feel it – to be insulated from it’s coldness.