I won’t hear from my mother for months and honestly her silence is a relief. Her laundry lists of the salad bar she sampled, the vacations she took, are painful because there’s no sense of who she is writing to. Throughout my life if I have behaved as anything but her all-accepting, all-admiring audience and savior she has openly treated me as a pain in her ass.
Which is a lot of the time.
But she always manages to reach out when I’m at my rawest. She writes snailmails rather than emails or texts (she’d never call) because she does not want me to be able to easily reply. She wants to be able to say, look, I write my daughter letters, and she’s so awful she ignores them. But all she really does is write the equivalent of her name over and over in fancy cursive on the front and back side of a note card. She does not want to hear my response because my feelings about her–my feelings in general–are at best inconvenient.
I may sound cynical but that is why I don’t talk about her. Part of her brilliance is the victimhood she cultivates, even as she’s abused and neglected me in any way a parent can hurt their offspring. The bottom line: I seem strong. She seems weak. So there’s no question who the perpetrator could really be.
This week the Legend and I really ended it. The short version is I stated clearly that I wished to have a bigger place in his life and he stated clearly that this was not an option. I cried on my stoop and he left, claiming he was feeling mentally overloaded. Since then I have received no words from him except for a text saying it was cold outside when he walked home from my stoop. Ah, not true: A few days later he wrote that he had “peeked into the coffee shop to see if I was there” as if he were a bashful suitor rather than a man who had just left me crying over him on the street.
Which is to say, worse than nothing.
My mother’s note arrived the next day as if by magical mean carrier pigeons. The first paragraph addressed her audience, for a change. It said that she didn’t know why she bothered writing me notes since I was writing a book about what a horrible parent she had been. That despite my supposedly terrible childhood she was glad I was doing well healthwise emotionally financially. Able to take care of myself, she wrote pointedly.
I ask you:
How does she presume to know what my book is about? And how does she presume to know how I am doing? We know almost no one in common at this point. I have blocked her on Facebook. I have not seen her in more than a half-decade. I stopped talking to her the way you stop talking to all abusers–when the pain she inflicted threatened to grow lethal. When I’d landed in the hospital not once not twice but….
So she bases this on an Instagram and blog version of myself, I guess. She keeps abreast of me the way you might stalk an ex. But even on these platforms I rarely bullshit and clearly have been in pain. So she is swooping in, as usual, to feast on the carcass.
May I say, I learned to take care of myself despite her? Learned to bathe and launder and eat and apologize and express gratitude and love? I learned to survive her–if not, even now, thrive.
And now she’s playing victim because she did not ruin me further?
Because I lived to tell my story?
So she’s a sadist.
And so is he, with his updates on a life in which he won’t include me. Here, little puppy, press your nose against this glass. He actually dared complain when I stopped wanting to hear about it. Everything’s about you, he said.
Yes, I understand that the genius of such people is they make you seem like you’re the crazy one, the narcissist, the one who swallows all the air in the room. And the irony is that in your attempt to defend yourself, you behave that way. The effort to explain the abuse is a waste ultimately. Which is why I rarely talk about my mother here or anywhere else. Black holes beget black holes.
I understand too that people who act this way carry a great deal of pain themselves. That they are warped by the abuse that was inflicted on them. But I don’t understand perpetuating that abuse. I don’t understand people who don’t understand that the best way to break the cycle is to focus on learning to give and receive love.
If she means to give me writers block–to block the bad press she (incorrectly) assumes will be my book–it’s not a bad strategy. But she’s too late to the party to deliver the fatal blow. This month I’m already blocked. Unreciprocated love will do that to a girl without family around the holidays.
The rest of the note told me what she ate, where she walked, the usual.
Show and tell, show and tell.
What would it feel like for a partner or parent to actually take care of me? To pay attention to how I feel for reasons other than how I make them feel about themselves? Would I even recognize reciprocal love?
It has taken me nearly 48 years to dare to ask these questions. But I’m doing so here, just like I’ve been writing about my love disasters lately. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to hear about them.