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?.
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.
*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