I struggle to write this one, a continuation of this post.
To say that my life as a thirty-something is different than my mom’s was at the same age is like saying that the national debt is just a little bit bigger than it was in 1985. That there are just a few more cars on the road today than there were in 1985.
The difference is huge. HUGE.
Let me back up and begin again.
As I mentioned before, my mom is Bi-Polar. This is a word that means nothing to me. Truly, Bi-Polar Disorder is as specific to the individual as our fingerprints. Those diagnosed share some similar behaviors and characteristics, but they manifest in as many different ways as there are leaves on a tree.
PapaMakes, who worked for over 5 years as a Counselor for Dual Diagnosis patients, gave me the best way to understand the way my mom’s brain
works operates. Imagine that her brain wants to throw a ball into the basketball hoop (forgive the sports metaphor). Her brain tells her arms to throw the ball towards the hoop, but her arms throw the ball in a completely different direction than she intended. In social interactions, she either doesn’t pick up on the non-verbal cues, or she cannot translate her interpretation into action.
This is the lens that helps me to deal. Sometimes.
She is not willing to lead in any situation. She is unable to just ask for what she wants. She cannot stand and confidently defend her opinion. All her life is measured against what she thinks will please others. I have worked for years to change some of these behaviors in myself, to feel in my heart that I am worthy, my opinion counts, and it’s OK if we disagree. It’s OK to have different opinions, to debate a point. I’ve always been willing to take the first step, I don’t know if I’d call it leading, though.
When I was a kid, Bi-Polar manifested in my mom as acute anxiety and impending doom. As an adult, I can recognize that worrying about her marriage and feeling worthless and somehow also the cause of all misfortune combined with imminent doom by nuclear explosion could have caused a meltdown. (ha ha)
Another realization while blogging, this time frame matches up with the height of the nuclear panic in the US. I don’t believe that I can truly understand what a frightening time it was. I don’t remember the horror movie they showed to school kids to traumatize educate them about the aftermath of nuclear explosion. I can’t compare this to anything right now; perhaps climate change, or the zombie apocalypse.
KidMakes has asked me why I get so frustrated with my mom. I tell her that I have anger from my own childhood, and I have trouble controlling it.
She expected too much from me, I felt. She expected me to vindicate her life for her, and the choices she’d made. I didn’t want to live my life on her terms. I didn’t want to be the model offspring, the incarnation of her ideas. We used to fight about that. I am not your justification for existence, I said her to once.
– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
My mother’s refrain since I can remember has been, “All I’ve ever wanted to be was a mother.”
This phrase makes me feel responsible for her in a way that I loathe. Like she’s abdicated her life to me, like I owe her some kind of relationship that isn’t what we have now. Which is a total projection from my brain onto her actions. But I don’t know how to get out from underneath this pressure, these expectations. That we each should be different, better, than we are now. I do not seek perfection in any other area of my life, but I have these ideal mothers and daughters in my brain and we don’t measure up.
It’s a process.
A phrase that I use often. Even though I feel these pressures, I can remind myself of how far we’ve come in a short while. That tiny bits of progress add up quickly. And I use all of this as fodder for the “Don’t” list. What I don’t want to pass on to KidMakes.
I know perfection is a myth, and life is a process. I know I’ve avoided some of my Don’ts while creating some new ones for her. If I could boil it down to one rule, something I could make a sampler out of that will hang in our house and get passed along, it would be…
All Beings Are Worthy of Loving Kindness and Compassion.
By creating a world where everyone matters, I want to also communicate that she matters. Intrinsically. Something that I did not learn from my parents. Which I highly doubt that they learned from their parents, either.
We’ll see how I do.
*What did your parents inspire you to do?