Ricochet

I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away

(song lyrics from ‘Titanium’ by David Guetta featuring Sia)

As I think about the past years of blogging, I realised that the majority of posts are not about my mother (NM).  After all, she is the reason why I am here today (in more than one sense of the word).  And it feels appropriate, oddly enough, to come back to her after some time.

My tired, tumultuous relationship with her may have begun on my birthday but my long, difficult and rewarding journey began about four years ago.  Short in comparison with my actual age.

After going No Contact for five years, I broke it in the summer of 2012 (due to finding out my father was really ill).  Breaking it was easier than I thought it would be.  Something I hadn’t expected.  I guess ‘easy’ is a nice way of saying I survived it.  It didn’t kill me, it only lead to the flu the night before seeing her and then, walking pneumonia after (none of these sicknesses claimed DH).  My body survived and my mind eventually healed.  My soul is a work in progress.

“You can spend too long on a one-sided love.”  Mrs. Patmore (Downton Abbey)

Since that summer I have seen her on each of my visits to the US.  Here’s a summary:

2012 (summer) – NM was dismissive; ignoring me, only addressing the questions from DH.  She was hospitable and polite to him and never asked anything about us.

2012 (winter) – NM started out with her usual silent treatment.  At one point she made an abusive comment about me to my father and lied about something I had done.  I waited for one of her friends (that she had conned into coming over while I was there) to leave and asked her to go for a walk in the cold December air.

I chose my words, careful not to attack her.  I wanted to tell her I was hurt when she said this and why.  And within my first sentence she started her overt narcissism.  She started attacking me.  She steered the conversation to the past instead of discussing the two behaviours I was adressing and although I didn’t name call or attack her, I got angry.  I addressed all the past behaviours about me she brought up – like the fact that I went No Contact.  It wasn’t what I had wanted but I had made progress.  I hadn’t fallen so far down the hole that I couldn’t get out.  I stopped the conversation walked back to their house and said Goodbye to my father and left.

2013 (summer) – This visit included yet another ‘surprise’ guest (always a different person: a neighbour, a friend, a cousin) and she continued to return to her state of dismissiveness.

When I reflected on the past visits and wrote out the summary, I realised my mother treated me exactly how she did during my childhood.  She treated me with constant ebbs and flows of silent treatment and verbal abuse.  There was nothing surprising or different about her behaviours, nothing had changed except the years and me.

Before our recent visit, DH had never been witness to the awful things NM had said to me.  In fact, he was privileged to a different mother.  He saw through this and having learned so much about narcissism he could see that she failed to show actual warmth or caring or concern towards me.  She never asked the question: How are you?.

2013 (winter)

NM can so easily toggle between covert narcissism to overt that it seems that it should be accompanied by a Mozart movement.  It wasn’t until this colder December, DH was introduced to my mother’s overt narcissism.  I guess she had had enough of changing masks or maybe she saw it as a chance to point out what an awful daughter I am in front of DH, feeling righteous, as now her gun was loaded with enough ammunition.

As we (DH, my father and I) were sitting in the family room drinking coffee my mother walks in to join us.  An odd move as during my visits DH and I are left alone with my father (when there is no ‘surprise’ guest).  I ask her ‘How are you doing?’ hoping to have a peaceful, short visit before continuing to see friends six hours away by car.

In response to ‘How are you doing?’ she fired away with:

‘Anyway, do you know what I heard from your aunt* this morning, she was hesitating to tell me but she felt she should tell me.’

Her tirade was about the fact she didn’t know that DH and I had gotten married (DH and I got married December 2012).  It may seem weird but the only salvation I had in this was that DH knew it wasn’t my intention to not tell her (no wedding bands were hidden).  I was planning on telling her during the winter 2012 visit or during the summer 2013 visit.  There wasn’t a moment to tell her, the only time she sat with us is when there was an audience (of people I barely knew).  Then, our fight and her ignoring me didn’t seem like the ideal moment to say: btw, we are getting married.  I thought about telling my father but my father with his illness goes in and out of dementia.  He isn’t with it (most of the time) and when he seems to be, it is difficult for him to answer: ‘How are you?’.

To paraphrase, she stressed her words almost yelling:

‘How could you not tell me, I mean, isn’t it normal to tell your parents that you are getting married; (to DH) did you tell your parents that you got married?  I had to find out from your aunt and you didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us.  This is something that parents want to hear and parents would be happy for their children getting married.  I am sure you would want our blessing, everyone would want their parent’s blessing, of course, we would give you our blessing.’

After never saying ‘Congratulations’ and she got down from her soapbox, I said: ‘I am sorry I did not tell you.’  It was hard for even me to believe but I genuinely felt sorry I hadn’t told her.  She dismissed me and uttered that it is all well and good to be sorry and walked out.  My guess, having to reload her gun.  She had used up her first round.

It seemed like a good time to leave.  I wasn’t upset with what she had said nor did I feel she was right in behaving this way.  If she was hurt she hadn’t expressed it or happy about our marriage – she hadn’t expressed that either.

I sat there for about five minutes thinking about what had happened.  I was taken aback a bit by, well, the lack of emotional response to her words.  I had read from many of fellow blogger’s experiences that it hurts less.  And I wasn’t sure this would be the same path for me.

I said Goodbye to my father and said I would be back in the summer.  I checked my bulletproof vest and prepared for battle – not with a weapon like NM’s – but with a different one – my voice.

xxTR

*The aunt she heard the news of my marriage from is not the same aunt I wrote about in the post (The Sport of Paradoxing).

Related posts (words that came to me):

Caliban’s Sisters: Incapacity, Refusal, Acceptance

Through the Looking Glass: Name that Feeling: the Amygdala Hijack

The Project: Me by Judy – Stank on the Rock on FB

 

The Sport of Paradoxing

If the Olympics wanted to add a new sport, they would find many qualified players around the world for Paradoxing.  It’s my family’s favourite sport that has been handed down for generations.

Paradoxing: A solo sport where one player’s objective is to deal out as many paradoxes within one attempt for a specified time.  The opponent is then asked to respond identifying the paradoxes of the other while dealing out a new set of his/her own paradoxes.  Ultimately, the only objective is to derail the opponent while gaining nothing for oneself.

My aunt (youngest sister of my mother) would, no doubt, qualify for Team India.  I reached my limit with her two weeks ago when it was my birthday.  She sent me a birthday e-mail:

Aunt: happy birthday..a belated wish with tons of sunshine and love aunt and uncle

Me: Thank you for the birthday wishes; it is not belated as my birthday is today. 🙂  I hope all is well.

Aunt: hope you had a great time…

There is nothing seemingly abnormal about this interaction except this was the icing on the cake for me because our interactions over the past year and half have left me feeling awful.  This aunt met me when I was seven years old and she lives in India and about a year and half ago connected with me on Facebook.  I was weary, at first, but I didn’t want to assume that she had similar personality traits as my mother and the legacy translated to her (we have gotten out, why can’t she?).  My mother is the oldest of seven and this aunt is the youngest.

During our Facebook chats and e-mails, she has never asked one single thing about me.  I would ask her questions and I learned a lot about her – for example, she likes to trek and this is one activity we have in common, so when she shared her experiences in Nepal I shared my enthusiam for the activity.  I started to stop sharing as there was no real exchange and waited to see if she would ask anything about me and what I liked to do.

It never happened and I thought it would get better when we met face to face in a café in Amsterdam (this past March) as she was traveling to Europe for a conference on dentistry (as her husband owns a dentistry practice).  During our meeting, she again never asked and I decided to try and share and see if I could get the ball rolling.  It got worse, whenever I would begin a story she would interrupt and one up me by saying she does this but better or faster or longer.  I got sick of it.  After this meeting, I didn’t engage in chats on Facebook and when she tried I answered back with the bare minimum.

What set me off, was the fact she wished me a Happy Birthday and never asked me how it was or what I did for it?  This is a normal question and I don’t expect it but with her other behaviours and patterns I got a reminder of what really was happening.  That evening, I got really angry and went to bed angry.  I woke up with the same anger.  Two days after my birthday I decided to say something:

Dear Aunt,

What has been the purpose of our conversations?

TR

I realised I had written this with anger and she hadn’t responded so I followed up exactly one week later with this:

Dear Aunt,

Based on the lack of response, I would like to better understand our past dialogues and our meeting in March. It was nice to get to know you and hear your stories. Yet, I am hurt and disappointed by our past interactions over the year because there has not been a true dialogue or exchange by the lack of your interest in who I am and my stories. I would like to have healthier relationships with friends and family and want to better understand what has been the purpose of you keeping in contact with me?

Kind regards, 

TR

Her response:

..i am neat and straight..yes i wanted to maintain a relationship..you are my neice..honestly i like you. i still remeber the days in chicago when you were so little..and the lovely moments we shared with you during our stay..way back in 1983…and there was no way i could connect with you earlier…lucky to have found you on FB…. and i am keeping in contact..i dont think we have had meaningless dialogues. i dont want to invade your privacy..i respect it. ur gen is so diff from us, and especially kidz brought up abroad. its not that i am not interested in who you are and your stories.you need to open up and talk..when we ask questions you may consider it inquistiveness. i was not able to reply earlier as i had a severe TMJ problem.

warm wishes aunt

My response:

Aunt,

The first time we met I was 7 years old and don’t remember it well. Thirty years later we have connected on Facebook as strangers where we started to build a relationship. My question is: Why do you want to build a relationship with me, what is your purpose/goal/point in doing so?

Our dialogues are not meaningless, again, I felt hurt and disappointed when there was a consistent pattern in your actions of not wanting to get to know who I am or hear my stories.

As I am now an adult, I will tell you if you are invading my privacy or if I consider you to be inquisitive. Please ask me what I am thinking, please don’t assume.

When you write “ur gen is so diff from us, and especially kidz brought up abroad.”, what differences do you mean?

When we met in March and we had face-to-face conversation, I shared some of my stories, what stories did you learn from the exchange?

TR

Her response back:

i connected on FB to getting to know you…..i cant figure out when u say there is a consistent pattern in my actions of not wanting to get to know you or hear ur stories….i get to see u on chat ocassionally..erlier i used to play scrabble at noon..u would be on lunch break..and sharp 3pm i would leave for work. if i remember right many a time we have xchanged a line or two during ur lunch break. i am the type who can connect with anyone..infact most of my buddies ..are in the 30…35..age group.. when i say ur gen is diff….we were brought up in a close knit family.. we never built relationships..they came naturally.. and we never had a purpose or a goal in building a realationship….it was just simple trust btw one another. i dont imply that we are one BIG happy family..every one has their differences..we just take it in our stride. if someone does not want to talk..its fine.i just leave it at that..i dont carry tales.. yes when ur parents were here ..yes i did tell you. Your mother came after so many years. and i had not really been in touch with her…still we connected she needed some help.. and i did it for her. when we met we spoke about ur job situation etc,company A, etc etc…my memory is going downhill..can remember things that happened in the sixties..but not the movie i saw yesterday.. No doubt u have a right to ask those questions..its nice that you are open. what makes you think that i dont want to hear ur stories?

My response:

Dear Aunt,

I, like you, wanted to get to know you and is why I connected with you on Facebook – in the hopes of building an authentic relationship. It has been a pleasure to learn of your son’s involvement in the family business and his marriage last year. It was wonderful to hear of your trekking adventures and your enthusiasm for Scrabble and your love of dogs.

I believe that there is a purpose to having relationships because why do we have partners, marriages and friends. They serve a purpose in life – it gives meaning to life. Without this, we cannot survive. The purpose of all my relationships is to have connection. By this, I mean there is a mutual exchange of our stories from which each person feels seen, heard and valued. This type of connection is not something I can have with anyone; it is not commonplace and is something that is special when it happens.

I do not feel this way after the past year and half from our chats and our meeting this past March. You ask, ‘what makes you think that I don’t want to hear ur stories?’

In your last e-mail, the only thing that you mention about me is my job situation. I am hurt that the one and only thing you know about me is my job situation and the name of the company. This is an example of not knowing anything about me, who I am. After trying to share my stories with you in March and you interrupting me when I spoke, I felt unheard. The lack of questions during our chats is another example of this.

When I build new connections, I’m not looking for someone to know every detail of my stories, I’m hoping that someone hears them and understands its relevance in my life and for them to want that from me in return.

Kind regards, 

TR

I think this will be my last e-mail depending on if she decides to respond and how she responds.  The number of paradoxes in her e-mails almost derailed me.  The point was she didn’t want to get to know me – from her pattern of her behaviours – she wasn’t interested in that at all – and why should I bother to come back for more.

xxoo TR

Here is an update on the e-mails with my aunt (21 nov 2013):

28 october 2013 my aunt wrote:

TR dear, even i want to know about you and your life..there are many questions i want to ask..iknow u like hiking etc… Judging a person by what she remembers and what she does not, is not right.. look first thing is i do have memory lapses..u will have to take that in ur stride..i dont remember interupting you..when we met..moreover we were meeting your DH for the first time….and there is definitely a marked diff btw the indian way of chatting..and people of other cultures..RIGHT? we just go blah blah…. and many people do not like that.Actually to tell u the truth i was bit nervous..and uncle still rags me.. It does take time to warm up to people.. and understand them.i spent time in berlin with uncle’s neices. I never really knew her..must have just met at a wedding or two..when she was here in india.i hardly remember the names of places she took us to.. or our convesations. she visited us and had a meal with us with her hubby and kidz..there was the connection. we do keep in touch on Fb..its just once in away. This has brought her mother closer to my hubby..they r 1st cousins. during one of our fb conversations u asked how ur dad looked and how he was doing..when i came to know he was unwell i informed you..because i felt u needed to know. when ever i asked your mom about you she gave very vague answers..so i never probed and always wondered y..and kept quite. only now we seem to be having some kind of a meaningful conversation.. TR our earlier conversations were just oneliners. it was out of the blue that i remebered ur birthday..i always thought it was on xxth oct..i dunno why. hoping to have more of these conversations..to understand u better love aunt..i glad u call me aunt…becoz the others call me baby aunty..or worse still baby ajji..grandma.

30 october 2013 I responded:

Aunt,

In response to your statement ” Judging a person by what she remembers and what she does not, is not right”

I repeat for the third time: I was hurt and disappointed by your consistent patterns in the following behaviours that demonstrate you are not interested in hearing my stories or in who I am:

#1. The past one and half year we have had chats on Facebook where you did not ask questions about me consistently.

#2. During the March visit in Amsterdam, you interrupted me three times when I tried to share with you my stories.

#3. This recent e-mail exchange is an added example of you not trying to hear what I am saying.

These behaviours have nothing to do with what you can and cannot remember.

When we met in March, you and I spoke. We are talking about communication between you and me. This has nothing to do with uncle and my DH. Please leave the both of them out of this.

In response to your statement: “hoping to have more of these conversations..to understand u better”. You have a choice to take the feedback I have provided and do something with it. I do not want to talk about this subject anymore. It is enough.

TR

No response since.