There is this something terrible and true that I have not had words to write about, but it stays with me. It sits at the bottom of my stomach, dances around my head once in a while while I am trying to sleep. I have tentatively approached the subject in this space, but only from the edges and it seems, as I think about the things that spin in my head, the ways I am now and what I carry with me, this is chief among them.
My mother abruptly stopped talking to me about two years ago, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. For the first two weeks I actually didn’t quite realize, coming off the project from hell. It became apparent when a birthday gift arrived on my front porch. The front door was open. The car was in front of the house. It was obvious that I was home, and she didn’t stop to talk. She simply stopped returning my calls. She sent ugly emails at Christmas when her landlord phoned me to tell me that he was evicting her. She returned my Christmas gifts. That was the last contact I had with her.
I have been estranged from my mother for the last two years, and this feels fine. It feels more than fine, it is good and right and if I had to assign an adjective to my life without my mother, that adjective would be peaceful.The truth is that I have utterly no idea where my mother is, where she is living. The harder truth is that I am ok with this. I am peaceful about this fact.
That’s the hard thing you know – how can I, who purport to be a kind and loving and relatively sane person – not know where she is geographically located? How can I not know how she is doing, if she is well and safe? How can I say that I – in black and white – don’t care where my mother is?
If I add colour, I say that I do care – I don’t wish her ill. I hope that she is warm and safe. I hope that she has someone who cares for her. More than that, after a lifetime of crisis and sorrow, I hope that she gets help. But I also return to a more fundamental truth – I am ok without her in my life. I am happier without her in my life. I like my life without her in it – it’s peaceful. That’s the black and white part.
It costs me something to admit this. I know that I sound cruel and uncaring and just plain evil. I know that it is at odds with the loving person I purport to be. I have been blessedly fortunate – people I care about, people who know me very well, people whose good opinion I respect have been kind and supportive and understanding about this fact. People who know us both understand: my mother is not a well woman. If I had to assign some sort of label to it – I would say that my mother is mentally ill. It has been helpful to assign that label – even if it is perhaps inaccurate. It is helpful to look at the hurtful and cruel things my mother has done to me and understand that it is disease and not the person. It is easier to reconcile, as I have pieced through the events of my life, to understand how disease affected my childhood and my adult life.
And it is easy in the now to understand that the boundary exists not because my mother is a horrible person, but because she has a disease that forces her to act in cruel and hurtful ways. That this disease requires I protect myself. I am a person who has often been hurt by my mother – that my mother has acted in ways to deliberately hurt me. In no longer reaching out to her, I have removed the hurt. I have taken away her power to control and abuse me.
My God Mother has, over the last many months, called to ask if I have talked to my mother because my mother will, at times, refuse to talk to her. And I have witnessed her hurt and confusion. It’s hard to watch but it has been strangely healing as well. When she calls and I listen, I can hear my own voice and my own hurt and my own confusion. I return to a place that I have been many times before and I can see myself in that place. There is validation too – that blessed moment when I wanted to say “See? I’m not crazy. I’ve been saying this for years and you have told me that it was all in my head. I’m not crazy. She is.”
I have listened and known that there is not a damned thing I can do about this. I can’t fix the hurt that she inflicts on others, and I can only tell them that the choice I have made leaves me feeling happier and peaceful, and that I will continue with this choice.
It’s not nice, this post. It’s going to upset the apple cart. My mother, has at times, read my blog. Other people who know my mother read this blog. Some of them know what has happened and they understand. Others? Perhaps not so much.
But I come here most days and I write things that are deeply personal and intimate, and in a way it felt I was being dishonest – I am kind and loving and I will have nothing to do with my mother. I don’t want to. I don’t want to talk to her, to help her, I want to be left alone.
So, here’s the truth in black and white – my mother is mentally ill. I don’t talk to her. I feel peaceful about it. I don’t want to change that.