Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dearest Mommy...

Those of you who have read my blog since its beginning and those of you who actually know me, have probably gleaned by now that my relationship with my mother most likely has not been the inspiration for the writers of the flowery and saccharine Mother's Day cards that rest so peacefully in their little slots at Hallmark.

For so much of my youth I thought my mother a martyr. As an adult, I know that at times she was. What I also know is that my mother was human and as such, made mistakes... sometimes colossal ones, and that much of the time in her effort to preserve "Self," left her offspring fending for their own emotional lives.

There were times in our household when we came under physical assault and often there were visible wounds left in the aftermath which we dutifully hid away from the rest of the world with pants and shirtsleeves. These times I remember vividly and even as an adult have found myself waking from dreams of them with tears soggying up my poor innocent pillow.

It is the space between those violent bursts though, where lies the real fodder for the therapists and psychoanalysts!

Our father was a fairly consistent verbal abuser and we could trust that and rely upon it. The physical abuse happened mostly in a flash of rage without much warning which would allow us to duck or run. We knew mostly where we stood with Dear Old Dad. But Mother...she was a different story altogether.

I shan't go into it all, for the stories are not the point. (Maybe I'll go into those when I'm thinking you need a good shot of misery because your life has just been going along too swimmingly for you to bear and you need brought down a bit so you can realize that life really can be a bunch of muckity muck.)

The gist of this entire tale is that in my mind, our mother abandoned us when we needed her most. The young innocents she brought into the world were forced to sit in the nest unprotected while the predators prowled and the storms raged about.

I've forgiven her for it, really I have. But my definition of forgiveness may not be the same as yours. In fact, it's probably not. My philosophy about forgiveness is pretty much, "Well,'ve gone and really mucked things up haven't you? I understand the reasons and even if I don't, well, it is what it is. But see here, I shan't be inviting you to do it all over again you understand?"

Things might have been a bit different had there been efforts on Dearest Mommy's part to uplift, heal, nurture or love me as I grew into adulthood, but from where I stood, she only ever gave me what she was willing to give, possibly only what she was able to give, and that was not enough. I wanted and needed compassion, acceptance and unconditional love. So, I found those things in Mr. Right and in my children and in those few people who are not related to me by any close DNA match, but who are most definately my family.

Have you ever seen the movie, To Wong Foo.. Thanks For Everything. Love, Julie Newmar? It's one of my favorites. I don't mean to be a spoiler, but near the end of the movie, Patrick Swayze's character has an opportunity to confront his disapproving parents to whom he has always given in and by whom he has allowed himself to be criticized. He very emotionally, in all of his drag queen glory, looks at them and says, "Your approval is no longer desired, or required." And, he meant it.

So do I.

Don't get me wrong. The absence of feeling the necessity of acceptance and approval from my materfamilias does not mean I don't love her, because I do. It isn't however, the lovey, touchy, squeezy, " mum's my bestest friend ever" sort of stuff. It's more along the lines of "Here's yer comical Mother's Day card because I'm masking my painful childhood memories behind this bit of paper depicting a happy little cartoon weiner with appendages and googly eyes," kind of love.

As a rather glum tip of my hat to that one measly overly-commercialized day reserved each year to acknowledge our mothers, I offer you this poem-ish sort of letter I wrote to my own Dearest Mommy. I don't think I'll be writing for Hallmark anytime soon. (No matter what Aunt H. says!)

(Oh...circa 2000. A year before the divorce. I was heavily pondering all of my relationships apparently.)

Dear Mom,

Compassion is defined as a deep awareness of the suffering of another
coupled with the desire to relieve it.
I have suffered in my life.
I have experienced pain that I have inflicted upon myself and have endured pain at the hands of those who were supposed to care for me and protect me.
My pain is both of my own creation and inherited from those who came before me.

Have compassion for me.

Love has been described as a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection toward a person arising from kinship, or, and underlying oneness.
We are different in many ways.
We have different ideas, different political and religious beliefs and our philosophies on various subjects don’t often agree. But, we have a oneness and are bound together by the universal threads of humanity and by the fate of DNA.

Love me.

Acceptance has many definitions, all with an underlying meaning: "To receive, especially with gladness…to believe in… to understand." I am learning to accept myself and to understand that my flaws and imperfections make me human. I am learning that we are all unique and that there is beauty in the individuality that separates us. I have also come to understand that we are all a part of the web of life united by the sameness of humanity;
all struggling, living, dying, crying, laughing, and suffering.

Accept me.



Bee and Rose said...

Amy...what a powerful post! I love that movie as well and really believe there is enormous power in that line.

You are strong and powerful...your words are your wand....

Lee Ryan said...

Outstanding post.

lakeviewer said...

Amy, I think you are way more clear-headed than most people your age. You have faced your circumstances and your relationships and you have had the courage to speak the truth.

This is a potent post. I hope it helps others speak out as you have.

Amy said...

Bee: Thank you, thank you! So glad someone else has seen the movie. Good stuff, that. (Your sweet words are very kind.)

Lee: A man of few words. Many thanks for those few.

Rosaria: Your wisdom and your ability to express yourself are two of the things I really like about you and I always appreciate your insight. Thank you very much for your encouraging words.

Andrea said...

Wow - you may have wrapped up many a mother-daughter relationship but in such an eloquent way. The last paragraph of your letter to your mom sums it all up to me - we're really looking to be able to accept ourselves. Once we can do that, the acceptance of others really doesn't matters. But, oh is that tough.

ellen abbott said...

I can totally relate. My mother wasn't physically abusive but she was totally self centered and had not time or compassion for her children. Only after she had us did she realize that she really didn't like children. And she hated to be touched. We were always being pushed away. I admire you that you can still love your mother because, I don't think I can say that. When she died, I was surprised by the emotion I felt until I finally realized that my sorrow was not at the loss of my mother but the loss of the chance (however faint) to ever have the mother that I wanted and needed.

Amy said...

Andrea - Thank you. Yes, it's all about learning to accept yourself for who and what you are. A pretty tough task especially if you have very few "tools" in your tool belt with which to build yourself up.

Ellen: Thank you for your comment. I understand completely how you feel. I'm fairly certain my mother isn't cracked up about children either. She has the same strained relationship with her grandchildren as she did her own children. My kids barely know her. I say that I love my mother because I don't know what else to call it. I often wonder how I'll feel when she gets very ill or passes away. I already feel much the same as you in that my loss is not so much the loss of not having her, the actual person, in my life, but of what could have been and wasn't.

Missy said...

Wow...that was amazing to read. I know a lot of people who probably feel that same way but can't express it. Very powerful and with amazing clarity.

Amy said...

Missy - Many thanks for you kind words. Sometimes I find it difficult to articulate how I feel, so it's nice to hear comments like yours.

Fragrant Liar said...

Amy, your poetry was beautiful. You said it all so well, all culminating in the self-aware, forgiving, strong adult you are today. I love it.

Amy said...

FL: So very kind of you to drop by and comment! I sincerely appreciate the compliment.

Middle Aged Crazy said...

Thank you, thank you. As a child of parents who, at one time or another, attempted to kill each other, I have always found it difficult to find anyone who can relate. You get it, and though my parents have long since divorced, and I've since gotten over it, there's validation in knowing that someone else out there is like me. You moved me to tears.

Amy said...

Dear Middle Aged - (Now, that sounds kind of insulting when written like that, doesn't it?!) Thank you so much! I'm touched that you stopped by to read and that you could relate. I hope the tears were ones of healing.