Enough

Most of you know I have an uneasy relationship with my mother.

Lately, I don’t have a relationship with her at all. The last time I saw her was at Christmas, and only then because she was invited to the family meal by my father’s side of the family. We barely spoke, and she left early without saying goodbye to me, a supposed punishment. There are two emails from her in my inbox that I don’t intend to reply to. I have no intention of reinstating contact in the near future. Maybe one day, I won’t rule it out. Certainly not this year. I feel as though I should feel ashamed of this decision, but I don’t. I don’t feel proud, either. I don’t feel anything but resolved.

This mother’s day was easier than the last, or the one before it. Far less emotional on my part, and I found social media easier to bear. As I hurt less, other’s joy hurts less. It’s never a good feeling to be standing on the outside of a happy group, scowling in. Among the joy, which this year I could appreciate and allow to warm my heart, was plenty of acknowledgement that mothers and motherhood are complicated, from both sides. That among the people rejoicing and loving each other there are people nursing hurts and injury and loss. That even people with good relationships with their mothers rarely have simple ones. That age and time create cracks in everything. Sometimes these cracks and bumps add to the story and the joy of the thing. Sometimes they break it.

When my mother was the age I am now, she had a two year old – me. When I look at photos of her, she seems achingly young. She was living in a caravan on an 18 acre property in the Adelaide Hills that was mostly scrub and falling down buildings. She was helping to build a house, and sharing a desk job in the city with my father. She was grieving for her brother, who had died a handful of years before in a motorcycle accident when a car cut a corner on a hilly road. She had a troubled relationship with her own mother, who did all the things to her that she would do to me, but magnified by many factors.

Two years before my uncle’s death there had been an argument, during which my grandmother had slapped him, and he said he wouldn’t see them again until an apology was made. The apology never came. Christmas gifts were sent back unopened. And two years later there was no time left for apologies.

As every year for me passes, I see shadowy reflections of that woman in the choices that I make. We are similar, we always have been. And our stories are similar, they carry the same themes, hit some of the same notes. I can see, from here, how many advantages I have had that she didn’t. Advantages of time and place, of being born when I was and having extra choices. But also the advantages of the choices that I have made, and the work that I have done to teach myself better ways of being. I am finding ways to give myself credit for the things I did right while still being infinitely thankful that I had the freedom and ability to do those things. Through sheer dumb luck.

I understand my mother – or at least I understand that woman that was. As I come to know myself, I come to know her, too. I feel the echoes of her. I feel her hurts and her anger. I do not accept them as my own, but I can grieve for her. For the shitty hand that she got dealt. I come from a long line of hobbled, confined women. Women with strong, quick minds and tempers who had no choice but to put them aside and pretend to be meek, to be less than themselves and pretend a joy in sacrifice. Women who dealt with poverty and death and other traumas, and who passed them on like a legacy.

Praise be to modernity, while my grandmother was one of 14 children who survived to adulthood, my mother was one of four, three still walking the earth, and I am one of two, both of us still here. Each generation had more food, more clothes, more medical care. More love. I can’t pretend to think that 100 years ago I would be anything but bitter and hurtful, along with those women. That is my legacy.

I am happy to leave that legacy behind. To turn the coldness back on itself and freeze it off of me. Enough.

Enough.

Sometimes I feel the distance between who my mother was and who I am becoming shifting, as though I were slipping back and forth between realities. I catch myself standing like her, laughing like her. I catch a scared and angry reaction to a stressful situation and I know in that moment how she felt when she was at her most hurtful. I stop while sewing children’s clothes for friends to reflect on all the nights I saw her sewing, creating, clothing others.

I see my child-self from the other side, and I see my mother from where she stood, and I am sad for how much and how little promise we had as a family. For how much hurt was behind her hurtfulness, how what I saw as her power came from powerlessness. How similar we are and how that closeness keeps us apart. And in those slippery times I feel more confidence in the choices I am making. The choice not to be a mother, and not to have a mother either.

I don’t have a mother. I do not have a woman who mothers me, who provides love and comfort and who tells me stories of myself with fondness. I don’t, and I can’t have that. And that’s ok. I’m not angry about it anymore. But neither am I willing to maintain a relationship with a person – any person – who refuses to treat me with kindness and respect. Who refuses to understand that I exist outside of her wants and needs, and have my own. Who consistently acts thoughtlessly and hurtfully.

The fact that one of those people is the person to whom I feel closest in my most personal self, is the person who did a very good job of parenting me up until the point where my needs became too inconvenient, that is irrelevant. If it ever counted for anything, it has been worn down to nothing by years of hurt.

I choose not to allow myself to continue in a relationship that means emotional servitude to someone else. I choose to protect myself from that. To mother myself. To refrain from mothering her. The relationship we could have – have had – where I parent her and tend to her emotional needs, is no relationship at all. Nor is the one where I manage her, and spend every minute of contact policing my own boundaries. I have no patience left for that. I am tired. 30 years is enough.

In some ways this leaves me bereft, missing something. But I have come to a place where I am so accustomed to not having that thing that there is simply no place in my life for it. I don’t feel alone or abandoned anymore. I have many communities of amazing women (and some men), who provide me with friendship and support, who are mothers and sisters and aunts and friends of the heart. I don’t have a mother. But I have enough.

Maybe one day I will be up to the task of building some kind of relationship with the woman who is my mother. I would like to hope so, because I would like to hope that one day I will be the person with the strength and wisdom that will take. Right now I am not. And that’s ok.

One day I will be more. But for now, I am enough.

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Try again

Oh, dear.

I wrote out this whole post about how I haven’t been around because I’m tired, and then wordpress ate it. (And also this one, which I’d cleverly written in Word, first. It seems it didn’t like photos being included?)

Probably for the best – it got a bit maudlin. Well, it is Monday morning, after all. Only three weeks till holidays, though. I am looking forward to them.

I sort of accidentally volunteered to organise the family Christmas. I’m not hosting, it’s at Grandmas, but I’m doing the running around and herding cats organising family members. Mostly just telling who to bring what. But it’s good, I’ve been trying to involve myself more with my family. There were a few thing this year that I felt left out of, and while part of it probably was certain family members not thinking of me, a good part of it was that with most of my cousins interstate or overseas, my contact with the general family is limited. So I am trying to rectify that.

I anticipate that family Christmas will be painful but good. We had a big family birthday/reunion type thing a few months ago, after which I was really upset for no particular reason. I think I need to do some more processing – which is good, because it means I am in a place where I can actually do that. Progress, emotional continence, etc. In the mean time, though, it’s leaving me a bit limp and faded. I was just describing it to a friend as it feeling like my emotional bones are aching. I feel physically fine, but keep catching myself walking carefully, and holding myself as if I hurt. Keep having vivid, confusing, emotional dreams, too, that I can’t remember but mean I wake up completely un-rested. Only to be expected, really, as we head in to December. I’m fine, though. Taking it easy on myself, and I could be better, but all in all, totally fine.

As frustrating as this time of year business is, it does mean it has a time limit. Three weeks till holidays, when I can sleep all day. Then trauma week. Then festivities, then one more week of holiday to enjoy the summer. Not so long, really.

Anyway, long story short, I’m around, although some days even logging in to leave a comment just seems like too much effort. I am looking forward to being less tired, so I can sit outside in the twilight, having drinks with friends. And I am grateful for all the company and metaphorical cups of tea and cocktails that you internet people provide me with.

In which I gloat and whinge

Happy new year, my crafty peeps.  I hope it’s a good one.  Not that it’s off to a great start, on a national level, what with the flooding.  The news and photos coming down from Qld are truly terrifying.  It’s horrible that it takes something like that to make us (me?) more thankful for what and who we have in our lives, and for how safe we are most of the time.  I feel crass saying this here, but it would be worse to ignore it and chat happily away (although I will do just that in a second).  It’s times like this I wish I could pray, because I am under no illusions that my thoughts and well wishes will do any good to those people struggling with the reality of it.

Here comes the thoughtless chattering bit.

Thanks so much for all your lovely messages in reply to my last post, and over the holidays.  They were so nice, and every one of them made me smile.  I did start several replies to people, and then just… didn’t finish them.  I figure that was all covered under my December free pass that I gave myself.

December was pretty good, really.  I think mostly because I was geared for it to be rocky.  So I just slobbed around and didn’t do too much and didn’t feel guilty.  Celebrations were scattered and low key.  On my last day of work before holidays S took me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday, since it clashes with solstice.  It was lovely, and it would have been lovelier if I hadn’t been tired and in bed by 9.  Am old lady.  I spent Solstice with S and his kids, and had Christmas Eve dinner with my family, who were all remarkably well behaved.  I had Grandma in the Kris Kringle and I bought her the fireman calendar and she LOVED it and made the cousins all pick out which one they liked the best.  One of my cousins had me and got me a tshirt I have been eyeing off for… oh, 5 years now?  Which totally makes up for the last two years where I got, respectively,  a burnt CD of a computer game I already had, and a packet of bowl-cover things (plastic with elastic around the edge) ‘so that I didn’t have to buy gladwrap’.  Christmas day I did NOTHING, and then we went to the beach in the evening.  Bliss.  NYE we went to the beach and then were in bed by 9:30 because I am an old lady and I am tired.  And then we had another family meal on NY day, where my mother brought her boyfriend – gasp!  Which is fine by me because I like John (more than I like my mother) and also she behaves around him.  And also he gave me a spinning wheel for my birthday.

See how I slipped that in there?  Here’s the story.

Early December, S and I went for lunch with my mother and John at my childhood home.  Which was weird and also surprisingly good – seriously she behaves when John is around.  There were a couple of super awkward moments, but all in all, a surprisingly good time.  I left thinking ‘huh.  Maybe we can make baby steps towards having a functional relationship’  Of course, I neglected to remember that my mother doesn’t understand boundaries, so she immediately thought that we were best buddies again, and called me every day for the next week, which meant I started having panic attacks every time she called, which I haven’t done for a year or so.

Gosh, I’m bitter, aren’t I?  I’ve been emailing my sister about this, providing some moral support, and it’s made me feel… vulnerable, I guess.  And mad.  As much as I really am reconciled with not having a mother, as such, it still makes me so mad that I will never ever be able to trust her enough to have a real relationship with her.  And sad.  Very, very sad, if I let myself think about that.  Most of the time it’s fine, but you know… sometimes you just want to be able to relax, to have the comforting and that familiar.  Most of the time I feel pretty strong and independent but… sometimes it would be nice not to have to be.  I have been remembering when it was fine, and I had access to that comfort and love.  When the best thing when I was sick was a mum-hug.  When I enjoyed the chance to tell her about my day.  When I didn’t have to fight her off and I didn’t have panic attacks.

Hmm, I appear to have forgotten how to tell a narrative.

So, I was SAYING, we were at dinner and I said something about knitting and John said ‘oh!  Do you want a fleece?’  And I was like… yes?  He had one black lamb out of thousands of white ones this year, and so he couldn’t sell the fleece.  I said, yes, please!  I will have it!  Now all I have to do is learn to spin it.  And John said ‘Oh!  Do you want a spinning wheel?’

…. Um, YES.

The catch was, it was his wife’s.  She is in a nursing home with dementia.  My mother stepped in and suggested that perhaps his girls wouldn’t want him giving their mother’s wheel away.  He said they never showed any interest, and my mother said that perhaps he could loan it to me, and ask them later.  His kids are apparently not ok with him having a new relationship, which I think is fair enough but also kind of… harsh.  However, it’s not my family so I don’t get an opinion.  I found that moment interesting, though.  I was surprised by how mature and careful my mother was about it.  Although, on reflection, in my whingey mood, it does show that she CAN respect boundaries and be aware of other’s potential feelings.  Which makes the fact that she can’t seem to do that with me or my sister a tad more upsetting.

OH WELL, TOUGHEN UP, PRINCESS AND GET BACK TO THE STORY.

Story, right.  So, they came down the next weekend to drop off the fleece and pick up my sister’s old mattress because I had nowhere to store it.  And John sheepishly (ha!) said that he had looked for the wheel and couldn’t find it, and he thinks he gave/lent it to someone else only he can’t remember who.  I said, oh that’s alright!  I’ll get one eventually, it’s not like I know how to use it.  And he said no, he promised me a wheel and he would get me one.  I told him not to be silly.

The weekend after that was my birthday.  My mother called me that week, my last week at work, saying she wanted to see me before my birthday and give me presents.  I said, was pretty busy that weekend, because I had to finish work, do house stuff, finish off gifts, meet up with two people, and get ready to head to S’ for solstice.  But I could commit to coffee on Sunday.  She said, oh, well, you think about it and let me know what you have time for.

I have time for coffee.  On Sunday.

Oh, well, I’ll call you on Saturday and you can tell me if you have time for lunch.

I won’t have time for lunch, I’m meeting someone else for lunch, let’s have coffee.

Well, let me know on Saturday, and then we can decide.

I’m deciding now.  I want to have coffee.

Well, think about it.

ARGH

This literally went on for five minutes.  I timed it.  It was frustrating.  Then I realised that Sunday was the anniversary of my dad’s death, and I didn’t really want to see my mother on that day, thankyou very much.  And I also didn’t want her to call me on Saturday (see earlier comment re: panic attacks.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, but they are not fun).  Anyway, I called her back and said actually, I will not have any time then.  And it turned out that I didn’t, and I didn’t get all the stuff done that I needed to, anyway. (S got some material and a pattern instead of a wearable gift.  And I still haven’t sewn it.  Whoops).

I think she was pushing it so hard because she wanted to get the emotional reward when I got the spinning wheel.  As it was, she ended up leaving them at my place while I was being taken out to dinner and spoiled by S.  So I came home to a pile of things to unwrap, which was quite nice.  Gosh, I sound heartless, don’t I?  Anyway, obviously the wheel was the highlight.  Apparently it was bought in some gift shop in Moonta.  I have yet to play with it yet – the day after that an old friend asked for his cupboard back.  He made it himself and I was borrowing it while he rented out his house, and it had all my fabric in it.  Of course I said he could have it back, but it did make my craft room pretty unusable.  The chaos is semi-contained now, and the wheel unburied, but I am… sort of afraid to touch it.  I don’t know how to use a spinning wheel!  I don’t even know if all the bits are there for heaven’s sake!  However.  I shall, and soon.

I also scored big at my grandma’s on New Year’s Day.  She pulled me to one side and told me that she’d bought this cover stitch machine a few years ago, it was quite expensive, a couple thousand, but she’d never used it, and did I want it?

Um… YES PLEASE.

I did make sure she really didn’t want it.  Her sister is really sick at the moment, she’s gone into hospital and I don’t think she’s coming out.  So I think she’s sort of sorting stuff – she said she’s left me her babylock in her will.  On the one hand, talking about mortality is fine, on the other hand, I will be devastated when grandma dies.  I almost had trouble typing that.  The thought of it is upsetting.

So I have that, too, and when I restored order to my craft room I set it up and I even read the manual, all the way through.  But… I’m a bit scared to touch it, too.  However!  I have vowed that I shall!  I am not one for resolutions, really (although I seem to dimly remember making some last year – too scared to check) but here are some things that I want to do in the next two months:

  1. At least look at my spinning wheel and see if I can work it out.  Baby steps.
  2. Finish the pj pants I said I would make S for solstice.  Use the cover stitch machine in the process.
  3. Cut out and sew a dress pattern I bought last year.  Wear it to work once.
  4. Sew a few skirts.  I am going in to Spotlight tonight to buy some of the fabric I saw on sale in the holidays.  And some zips.
  5. Make an effort to go to see Grandma a couple of times for lunch or dinner or whatever.

That’s it.  Not too hard, no?  We shall see how we go.  I really would like to get some clothes sewing going.  I’ve been saying that for years now.  But really, no one who doesn’t sew clothes has an excuse to have as much fabric as I do, besides having three different machines for sewing.  It’s ridiculous.

I was going to end this off with photos of my FOsfrom the year, but there are embarrassingly few.  Although, I suppose if I included walls painted and plants planted, it would go up.  I knit one baby blanket, three mini shawls, a pair of gloves, some fingerless gloves and a scarf/hat for others.  For myself, I finished two jumpers: cinnabar and emily.  I wear cinnabar at least twice a week, I love it so much.  Emily, not so much.  It’s still too short, if I’m honest, and the line through the middle where I ‘fixed’ it is just annoying.  Perhaps I will ‘fix’ it better, this year.  Or maybe rip it.  I think it might be the year of ripping.  And sewing?  Too optimistic?  We’ll see…

Oh, December. Where did you come from?

So, I’ve been a bit hiding lately.  I couple weeks ago I was wondering why I was so tired.  And then I realised.  Almost December.

I mean, December is wearying enough.  But this year is pretty low key, so why was I stressed?  Oh, that’s right.  It’s Trauma Month.

I forget that I have to be careful of myself.  I’ve been thinking about it, and I have decided that it really is like spoons.  I hesitate to say that, because I am abled and I don’t wish to appropriate language that is helpful to people who need it.  Oh, look, poor me I’m a bit tired and it’s hard!  And it is, in fact, incredibly different.  It isn’t physical tiredness, and so it’s therefore easier to deal with, by far.  I’m not going to be unable to feed or clothe myself because I am too tired.  I may lack the WILL to do those things, on certain days. But that is completely, utterly different from being actually unable to do them. 

It’s emotional tiredness, attention tiredness.  Anything I have to pay attention to or think about emotionally uses up a few more spoons.  And I just don’t have them to spare at the moment.  It’s not that I don’t WANT to spare them, it’s that they are not there.  And I hate it, because it makes me feel weak and vulnerable and like a big fat wuss.  But it’s true, that’s the way it is, and pretending to be fine is completely counter productive.

This week I’ve been migrainey, plus I saw my mother last weekend and am seeing her again on Saturday.  Plus it’s the work christmas thing.  Plus I got two unexpected bulls.  Plus, plus, plus.  Nothing major, really.  Things that in any other month would be irritating but nothing a good whinge couldn’t fix.  But it’s December and I’m TIRED.  I just keep coming back to how weary and drained I am.  I just want to lay down in bed and stare at the ceiling until January.  My temper is short and I am having a hard time making meaningless chit chat with workmates and others without being rude.  I’m sleeping badly and waking up tired and achey.

I didn’t start this meaning to have a whinge.  I meant to simply say, you probably won’t see me around these parts for a while.  Things are fine, but I have to keep reminding myself that they are fine as long as I watch myself and am careful of where my energy is going.  

In a lot of ways, it’s a reminder of how good I actually have it.  At how much grief and pain and that sucking, aching nothingness have receded.  They still are always there, when I’m tired and stressed and upset.  But I am in charge now.  That feels good.  And I want to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch.

So I am opting out until I feel less tired, because unfortunately I am paid to put my attention elsewhere.  Please don’t think this is an appeal for sympathy or a cry for anything.  I really truly am totally fine.  I reserve the right not to be fine, later, but that would be ok too.

I am still reading everyone’s blogs but am too lazy to comment.  I hope all of your holidays go fantabulously, and I shall see you all again soon.

Dammit

I was chatting to a friend and to demonstrate a point which I can’t remember anymore I showed her this.

It’s Sweet Honey in the Rock singing verses from Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’.  Those two things have a whole bunch of associations for me, but the base line is, I love this song a whole, whole lot for so many reasons.

Anyway, later in the day I was thinking about it as regards me and my own mother, and whether it’s still relevant (conclusion: yes).  And I had a moment where I just intensely missed my dad.  The first one without grief all tied in.  The kind of missing you might do if someone were overseas, or you just hadn’t had a chance to catch up for a while.

And then of course I was even sadder afterwards.  Because I am sort of used, now, to the emotion of missing my dad with anger and grief mixed in, or for feeling bad for missing my dad because he made dealing with my mother easier, or any of those things.  But I am not used to missing my dad in a way that makes me think ‘I should call him’.

Clearly, I cannot call him.

And I am angry that, because of the way he chose to leave us, and because of my mother, it has taken me TWO YEARS to be able to just miss him.  To just want to hear his voice and share a joke with him, without any other emotional meaning behind that impulse.

There we go.  Anger AND grief.  That’s more familiar…

‘You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.’ – George Bernard Shaw

On the Tuesday after craft camp, it was obvious that I was actually ILL, not just sniffly.  My throat was sore, my ears were sore, I felt like someone had been using me as a punching bag, I was all stiff and achey and poorme.  The last two hours of work were a trial worthy of hercules.  As I left work, my sister rang me, squealling that the cat had caught a baby mouse and was playing with it, and she (the sister) had to go to work, so if the mouse was not dead by the time she left, I would have to deal with it.

Luckily, the cat appeared to have consumed it by the time I got home.

I put myself to bed at 8.30 that night, anticipating a restless night. I always sleep badly when I’m sick.  And I always have horrible epic dreams in which I have to endlessly search for things or perform repetative tasks.

Surprisingly, I slept pretty well up to about 3.30am, when I woke up and then dropped back off at about 5.30, just in time to be very surprised that my alarm was going off.

I did have lots of vivid dreams, though.  They were almost exclusively about craft camp, and were quite wonderful.  What a lovely bunch of women to spend time with, even in my subconscious. 

I did have one nasty dream, though.  About my mother, of course.  They always are.  I don’t really remember much about the dream.  It was set at the parental home, but although my father was dead in the dream we were younger – I was a teenager and my sister young, although she didn’t feature in it except inasmuch as I felt the need to take flak to shield her from my mother, as was usual.  I had to perform some dream task – looking for something, maybe – and my mother either wanted me to do something else, or wanted me to do it in a particular way that I knew wouldn’t work.  But she wouldn’t listen to the reasons for why I had to do whatever it was my own way.  She was just talking over the top of me, being quite rude about my general capabilities and grasp on reality, until she found some way to force me to do it her way.

It was a pretty unremarkable dream, really.  Except that when I woke up I still felt all the emotions – that soul deep frustration and anguish and powerlessness and lack of agency.  That terrible loneliness of being caught under someone else’s power and not even allowed to acknowledge that.  The anger at having one’s will not even heard, simply squashed, for arbitrary reasons.

It was nice, in a way.  It was good to remember the way I used to feel, all the time.  That these were genuine emotions, caused by real things that my mother did, not just teenage tantrums.  That I am in a better place now, thanks to hard work on myself and also limiting the amount my mother features in my life.  Phew!  I will be remembering those dream emotions the next time my mother tries to emotionally blackmail me or guilt me about something.  Those emotions, remembered in my dream, are why I have no positive emotions about her now. 

Tangentally, I realised that although I grew up calling my parents by their first names, I hardly ever do anymore.  They usually feature as ‘my mother’ and ‘my dad’.  Mostly because very few of the people who are important in my life actually know/knew my parents.  But also, I think, because it’s easier to refer to my mother as such, when she refuses to treat me like a fellow human being.  It’s easier to give her a label and a niche and file her away as a symbol, because that is all (all! ha!) she really is.  The same goes for my dad, for a whole barrel of different reasons, obviously.  I don’t really miss having a dad, I must say.  I miss Tim, though.  On the other hand, I don’t miss Theresa, but I sometimes miss having a ‘proper’ mother – whatever that means.  A mother who it is safe to allow access to my life, I guess. 

Oh, well.  I feel remarkably little angst about it at the moment, but I suspect that that is a result of the new-relationship brain drugs and also the fact that I haven’t had to have much to do with my mother lately.  Oh, and having blogged out some angst, and figured out some connections.  The angst will be back, I’m sure.  I’ll keep you posted on that, shall I?