The threads of the end are easy to see in retrospect. Although I had tried to renegotiate our roles in my 30’s, which worked for a while, things returned to their normal position over time.
I was the “this is my daughter, she’s a lawyer” object to impress friends. I was also the one who was “not married” and would “never produce a grandchild.” Such are endured by many a young woman, and I place no especial emphasis on them as harbingers of some future face off.
But the beginnings of the end started when I converted to the Catholic church. Since my parents were never ones to “talk” about the past, I had no idea whether I had ever been baptised. I assumed not, but it was made clear that I needed to know.
I called Mother to confirm that such was not the case. In a strange prescient moment, she responded, “well just don’t end up being a nun or something.” I laughed, assured her that nothing was further from my mind and soon joined the ranks of the newly baptised at the age of 43. It was several months later when I felt the call of the convent.
In a conversation some months after that when I was beginning that process, I mentioned that, ironically, in fact I had decided to join a religious community. Her reaction was short, sullen and non-communicative. In later years I asked her why she was so unpleasant about that choice, and her only response was the “way I had announced it.” I still have no clue what that was about.
What followed were another couple of instances of intense criticism, unwarranted and in the end, simply glossed over by her as if they had not occurred. Such was her way. She would blow up over some perceived insult, only to find in a day or two that she was wrong, and yet she never could make the call and say she was sorry for her outburst of anger, so misdirected. She even at one point claimed that I could not at my age enter a religious community, per some unknown “friend.” I learned as always, it was simply best to not respond.
Things started to unravel rather quickly after I decided that I in fact was not called to such service. I had met and fallen in love with a man from Connecticut. I called to tell her that I would be moving to that state and that I had cancelled plans to join the Dominicans. Her response was bizarre to say the least.
She was purely ecstatic. She was thrilled beyond words. She did not ask his occupation, his previous marital history, whether he had kids, his age, ethnicity, or anything whatsoever. It didn’t matter. I was finally “attached” to a man. I had of course been “attached” to several men over the years, but somehow this one mattered, since it saved me from the church, which apparently was important.
I was appalled frankly at her lack of concern about any particulars. I told her I would call when I arrived in Connecticut, and I did so. But the more I thought, the more this all seemed so exceedingly crazy that it required more thought.
What was this relationship? Clearly there was no interest in my happiness, or even safety. There was only one issue: was I living a life that met with her approval–which validated her own perhaps? It was never explained and I was unable to see any mothering or indeed any relationship whatsoever to preserve.
Since, as those of you who have read through the pertinent sections of the autobiography already know, the relationship was over before I arrived in Connecticut, I was loathe to explain this event. I could not bear, given my fragile state of mind, what might ensue should I admit that the hoped for marriage would not be occurring. Somehow it would all be my fault of course, and since I felt no responsibility for the demise of said relationship, I was not ready to withstand the torrent of blame that would come.
So I lied, or more to the point, didn’t bring it up during those couple of conversations that were initiated in the early months of my life on the east coast.
But as I said, as I pondered this thing called a mother-daughter relationship, I saw nothing to preserve, and out of sheer avoidance, the next time she called, I didn’t pick up. The next time, I avoided it as well. She was never good at even the easiest of technological innovations, so she never left messages on the answering service. I became simply “never there” when she called.
It became easier, and easier, and more difficult to contemplate actually explaining my “unavailability” for so many months. I decided to make it permanent. I of course later met the Contrarian and moved to Iowa. She is aware that I am now married, is thrilled, and understands that I wish no contact.
That is how it stands. As a Christian, I periodically think about it, and often decide I’m not honoring motherhood as I should. That somehow, I should stick it out, and make allowances. Yet, I cannot bring myself to open up that can of worms again. I cannot bring myself to willingly offer myself up to that “motherly criticism” offered so easily, and always without request.
I don’t feel sorry for myself. One is dealt the cards one is dealt. I wish things were other, and I wish I had the relationship I sometimes see between other mothers and daughters that I know. But I don’t dwell on my misfortune. I am not the least unaware that another woman could have handled it where I could not. The blame is partly mine.
My cousin offers the example of one who faced similar nonsense from his mother, but firmly dealt with it, without shutting the door. Grandchildren may have had something to do with that decision, and I would probably have not made the drastic decision I did had there been children involved.
Still, I return to the decision, as I said, from time to time, and I only ask for God’s forgiveness, for I feel sure that I’ve not done the right thing. But I also feel I did the only thing for myself. I feel at peace with my decision. I simply refused to be part of a toxic relationship.
It is a fine line between honoring parents and honoring self. I hope others are not called to make such a choice as I, yet, I have now a measure of self-respect, pride, and strength that I had not before. That soothes me in the those moments of doubt. I have been, to that degree authentic to my self.
Sherry, I have a degree of understanding from my own experience, but in my case, the days I received the cold shoulder were the best days.
Your mother apparently sees women as chattel, property to be transferred from parents to husband. Perhaps she’s following the example she learned as a child from herown mother.
Whatever, I’m happy to see you investing the effort to understand the cycle and break it.
It continues to be a wonder to me that so many of us, perhaps most, have somehow worked through such trauma and gone on to be reasonably sane persons. I can only conclude that there is something indominable in the human spirit that strengthens us just enough to move forward. I have spent years working through all this, and have in some sense been made whole again. I cannot imagine what it is like for those that suffer physical trauma as well. They are the real heroes.
Sherry, TomCat, I think I understand The Proble, from my Mom being hateful to my kid sister in her childhood:
It’s Moms Jealous of Their Daighter having things Mom didm’t or doesn’t have.
My Kid sister was Very Pretty Teen. Mom was so so then, but always Created false problems for Sis.
Kid Sister was VERY Religious as Catholic Student. Mom was raised as twice a year Church Lutheran: Cause for womanly jealousy.
Sound reasonable, although Crazy, Sherry, TomCat?
BETCHA that explains: Pasrental Jealousy of the Child!
Once one Understands What the Problems Is, one can adjust Our Attitude! All of us have weaknesses. Perfection is not an earthly quality.
One can Develop forgiveness, in understanding Parent’s, Other’s Problems.
Takes time, attitude change in Us.
LOL, there is No Forgiveness of FOXy, Radical Right Lies: It is Driven by Biggest Money Interests, like Insurance companies, and the Richest, most Profitable.
NO FORGIVENESS to Them, I submit! Switching Tax Payer Money from the Poorest, Education, to the Most Profitable corporations like Big Oil, Drug Manufacturers, It is Time time to Tell the Nation, properly angrily, as Sherry does!
Its BIGGEST Monet controlling, Falselly Prpopagandizing, like the Radical Riht Swithching Texas Teaching, to promote THEIR propaganda viewpoint.
I need to post earlier!.
Tony, I wholeheartedly agree that identifying what the problem is, is the beginning of the solution. I bear no ill will toward my mother actually–time and distance have allowed me to retain a fond recall of the good times, and there were many of them actually. Not being subjected to the toxic interaction has allowed me to be at peace.
I have been a Christian almost my whole life – from a very religious family. I understand the feeling of being torn between the church’s view of forgiveness and what I believe Jesus’s view is. In fact, there can’t be reconciliation without remorse and repentance. Our mothers are not sorry for the way they have treated us. We can try to let go of the hurt but real forgiveness can’t take place if they don’t want it! I admire your decision to be authentic. Why go through the motions? It’s just a lie anyway. We must make our own way in this world. I feel the same as you – seeing other mothers and daughters loving each other as adults. I wish it was my life, but it isn’t. I’ve ‘adopted’ other mother figures instead. It’s not quite the same but it fills the gap. One day at a time for me. Take care.
Indeed Christine, a priest one time said to me, forgiving doesn’t mean going back for more of the same mistreatment. And there is truth in that I think. I can forgive, but there can’t be reconciliation where there is no understanding that one has done wrong. And to a women in her 80’s who did the best she could, given the way she was raised, there seems no real point in trying to change her.
I too have found substitutes in women I admire and feel I can talk to. My church, thankfully provides quite a few, and some that I can turn to as spiritual advisers. It is a blessing, and very helpful.
[What was this relationship? Clearly there was no interest in my happiness, or even safety. There was only one issue: was I living a life that met with her approval–which validated her own perhaps? ]
The fact that you stopped speaking with your mother, was followed by your meeting and marrying your ‘contrarian’ is, I don’t think, coincidence. I think one made the other possible. It freed you.
Moe, I’ve never thought of that and frankly I will now. It’s an interesting idea and you may well be right. I thank you for directing me toward it. 🙂