Paradise is found on the others side of this feeling. Swimming in the tears. Hidden behind a veil of chaos and confusion. Paradise lost. Paradise found. Whispering caresses of promise and peace. Paradise stolen. Or was it given away? Perception or deception? Intermingling manipulation – vining and intertwining – digging in and rooting deep. The effect my Mother has on me is overwhelmingly profound. I am a child – desperate to be loved and accepted. I am standing naked in a pool of disdain and disgust; spewed at me through clinched teeth and disappointed tones.
I didn’t mean to miss her call – I walked away for a moment. Upon return, a happy surprise to see “mom” on the caller ID. An even bigger shock that it came as a “happy surprise.” For a moment, gone was the sickness in the pit of my stomach. Absent was the fear that usually resides in my chest. I picked up the phone, eager to hear her voice, never considering the worst. Which is a first. We don’t talk anymore, she and I. Our interactions and conversations are momentary flashes of bad news and back-handed comments. Pointing fingers and placing blame. Tossing love aside, in exchange for internalized anger and openly honored grudges.
Not by me, but I’m sure she’d say the same. See, that’s the problem – it’s all a matter of perception. Who did what, when? On and on. Her voice booms through the speakers of my phone, and I know instantly, she is not pleased with me. Her tone dripping with disgust – an all-consuming energy that overwhelms me instantly. There it is; the sickness in my stomach – the fear. The questioning – my desperate need to know “why?” Why she dislikes me so much. Is she even aware? Her message, ringing loud and clear from my phone, “I don’t know if you’ve disowned me for good, but you never talk to me anymore. It all started when you hung up on me.”
The answers concealed in the trenches of passive-aggressive resentment – hers and mine. She’s right – things changed when I hung up on her four years ago, but that’s not where it started. Her accusations absent of any ownership – does she not know? Can she not see? Three weeks before my accident, we were happily spending the holidays together. Doing our best to enjoy the precious gifts of time and family – fleeting to say the least. Two weeks before my accident, she was giddy to give me my birthday present – my first ever professional massage. Months after my accident, and subsequent mental and emotional fall; she handed me a book on PTSD and smiled.
She truly believed she had found the answer; solved the problem. That’s what we do. We seek control; we find answers; and we fix the problem. This is how I was raised. Like a good little girl, I accepted the gift she had given, and thanked her graciously. Slapped in the face by memories of Christmases and Birthdays – momentary reminders of how my Mother doesn’t know me at all. Within a year of our last “normal” holiday together, she climbed atop her soapbox, and proceeded to tell me how she felt. In black and white – through email – a vicious and vile letter confirming all I had ever considered to be true.
Crazy. Bitch. See a shrink. Get some help. I miss the “old” Aubrey. Here. This is where it started. This is where our paradise became shrouded and strangled by the overgrowth of truths untold – feelings imprisoned by the need to appear happy. Both of us shocked by the others raw honesty in the face of change. That’s what it boils down to – our inability to adjust and conform to change. No longer was I willing (or able) to sit quietly while my Mother continued to bully me with her backhanded comments. Gone were the days of the open-handed slaps and vicious attacks. Replaced by passive-aggressive rants, and low-rumbling attacks. Sideways glances, and knowing tones. Open doors to judgment and jealousy.
Loathed for not meeting some standard set by her – never good enough. All the while enveloped in contempt – not my own, but hers. Snippets and sound bites of “must be nice” and “I wish I had,” drowning out the fake smiles and transitory laughs. “By the way, I don’t call because I don’t want to bother or burden you.” A quick reminder that my boundaries, leave her with hurt feelings. All things I have lived with for years; I imagine a lot of us do. I may have continued to live with it all to this day, but for a series of events. My warning to not martyr herself by bringing my alcoholic/drug addict uncle to Florida to live with her. We had been down this road before; I saw the nightmare in the distance. A warning seen and received as judgment – a slap in the face. “Honor thy Mother and thy Father” she said.
The next came months after my initial attempt at making amends. Buried by guilt and shame and the desperate need to have my Mother in my life; I wrote her a letter. I look at it now and I see the scared little girl who has anxiously awaited the day, she would see paradise in her Mother’s eyes. A sea of understanding and forgiveness felt in the embrace of the only Mother I know. I apologized; I groveled; I took the blame. I needed her to love me. We moved on; never addressing the issue; simply glossing over the truth we both felt.
Then came the phone call. The moment I decided to have a conversation with my Mother about child abuse – specifically disciplining children. My stance – no need to hit at all. I’m not sure how or why the conversation started, but I should have known to steer clear. She said her piece, I said mine – the air became thick and I knew; she was unhappy with me. Disgusted! “Oh my God Aubrey really?” Disagreeing was not an option. Her inflection – her tone – set me off instantly. Triggered! “Mom, I’m having a panic attack, I’m hanging up now.” And that was it – that was (in her mind) the beginning of the end for us. The moment when, apparently, I disowned her.
There have been moments since. A Labor Day spent at a Red Lobster a few years ago. A lunch at their house on a Sunday afternoon – a reflection of a past that no longer exists. We can pretend, but the pain is still there. The pain is ever-present in the moments in-between. The reminders that she does not want to hear what I have to say. She has no interest in truly understanding. She is so blinded by her need for me to love her, that she forgot to stop and love me. Truly and unconditionally. My paradise is found on the other side of acceptance. Not my Mother’s acceptance, but rather my acceptance of a situation I cannot change or control.
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer)
Photo by Sergey Zolkin