Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Spite of it All

I think that my last post might have left the impression that I am in a bad place which could not be much farther from the truth of my life.  I might have been too close to the actual moment when I wrote that particular blog post, but the inner turmoil that accompanied the experience lasted for a fairly short time, most especially after I decided to post what I wrote instead of hiding it away someplace which is what I have done in the past.  My mother is who she is and I am who I am.  I accepted this a very long time ago.  I try not to fight the facts.  I try to get along with her except when I just can't.  And I try very hard not to burden myself with guilty feelings that are mostly invalid.  My relationship with my mother is a constant work in progress and I know that if I do not figure it out during this lifetime, I will most certainly have to deal with it again at some other time in some other place and that is something that I just cannot put myself through if at all avoidable.  I have also come to the conclusion that it does not help my body to heal when I try to shove the emotions that my mother often elicits in me back down into my gut because they almost certainly rise back up to my heart after a period of time and this is when I seem to become depressed for no apparent reason.  Then I must dig and dig until I unearth the issue that is really bothering me when acknowledging it right away might have actually made things so much less complicated.  And complicated it will always be.  If it's not one thing, it's your mother...

My life is really good.  I have been forced to face some pretty tough stuff this time around, but really, who hasn't?  We all have our own stuff, some of it harder than the rest, but it is ours to learn from.  If we can accept the lessons, if we can notice when the same issues seem to reappear, if we can absorb the knowledge in spite of the frustration and the pain, then, and only then, do I believe that we get to move on. I want to move on.  I want to grow and transform and evolve.  I try to pay attention so that I can do this.  When the same lesson seems to reappear in varying forms, over and over again, I believe that there is more to be learned from it.  I do not say to myself, "Oh no, not again."  That would be futile and quite a waste of time.(Albeit, quite tempting!)  I do often wonder, "Why this time?" and then I try to figure out another piece of the equation.  I also know that I cannot change my mother.  I  know that the likelihood of my teaching her anything carries fairly dismal odds.  And sometimes I have to think that maybe this is more about my mother, at this point, than it is about myself.  Maybe I have gotten some of it.  Maybe she has not.  When we are placed in certain relationships throughout our lives, especially one like the parent/child relationship which is one of the closest physical bonds that there is, the job is both to teach and to learn. Lord knows how much my own four daughters have already taught me over the course of the past twenty-five years.  If these same lessons keep appearing and reappearing with my own mother, maybe it is because at seventy-one years old, she still has something very important to learn and I am just the teacher.  For now, I am at peace.  It is very easy for me to love my mother from afar.  Mother's Day is coming up which will, once again, open up all sorts of windows and doors and cracks in my walls but I am allowing myself a breather.  I check in with her by text a couple of times a week which helps to alleviate any sense of obligation on my part.  Mark writes out and mails her check at the end of every month.  I am not dwelling.  I am not beating myself up.  I am not allowing this to eat away at me from the inside out.(Thank you, dear Angella, for bringing to light the cat eating my turtle's leg meaning from my dream.  It makes so much sense to me now!)  I am enjoying my husband and our girls and my father which is far more important to me than the parts of my life that have not yet worked out the way that I would like for them to.
A couple of weeks ago, we went out to Palm Springs to celebrate my dad's seventy-fourth birthday.  I am glad that he is not seventy-three anymore.  My grandfather died when he was seventy-three and for some reason, my father was burdened by the thought that he would pass away at that age, as well.  He obviously had a major scare not too long ago, but he is still here.  We are all more than grateful for that.  I know that I can no longer pretend that my dad is always going to be here, but at least I know that he is here with us for now.  That is something worth celebrating.
Even though he still bites...Just cannot help himself!

Angel Daughter Number Three and Angel Daughter Number Four took the opportunity to have an impromptu dance with their grandfather in the middle of the bowling alley.  It's how they roll, and face it, the man loves to be surrounded by beautiful women.

Angel Daughter Number One is such a gorgeous young woman now.  She brought her boyfriend Matt out to Palm Springs to celebrate with us.  We really like him.  He is a very bright young man who comes from a lovely family.  He is working on his doctorate right now so the next year is going to be pretty hellish for him but if they survive this year together, who knows what might happen:)  Matt has a younger brother, Zach, who may or may not be dating AD3 right now!  They met at Mathew's family seder which we attended, and they took a liking to one another right away.  It's only too bad that there aren't two more brothers in their family.  I'm just saying...
We had dinner at Arnold Palmer's restaurant in Palm Springs.  Lots of golf memorabilia and good food.  No Arnold, though.
My husband is my rock and my touchstone.  He keeps me grounded.  He knows when I need to be left alone and when I need to be spoiled a little bit.  He makes me breakfast in bed almost everyday of the week.(oatmeal and orange juice with my vitamins on the side)  I guess after thirty-three years together, we know each other pretty well.  Sometimes he worries about wrinkles and thinning hair(his, not mine), but I really do not mind one bit.  I think he is the most handsome guy alive and I've met Rob Lowe up close and in person;)  I would still go home with my man every single time.  My life is good, not perfect, but good.  And that is exactly how I like it.

Monday, April 1, 2013


The desert of Palm Springs, CA
I've taken a step toward healing my soul, once again, but in doing so I have also set off a barrage of very troublesome dreams from which I wake up thanking God that they were not real.  And although I know where I should stand on this and I know that I am standing on the precisely correct mountaintop, I have taken a step back down from this very same vantage point many, many times before heading right back to where I just came.  You know that story, one step up and two steps back...Hence the nightmarish dreams.  Sometimes I wake up and I am arguing with my mother and what ultimately wakes me is the sound of my own voice projecting out loud that I need for her to just leave me alone.  The last real life conversation that I had with her about three weeks ago, ended with me firmly explaining that while I would be giving her the $1803.00 that she needs to fix her teeth this time(on top of the monthly amount that we send her to help pay for her rent), I was not at all happy about it and that I will never be happy about having to do something which stems from someone not taking personal responsibility for their own life, especially when it ends up costing my family a large sum of money.  My point being, it seems,  that it is perfectly fine when your crappy decisions end up costing you money that should never have had to be spent(although I do not believe that is very cool, either, but so be it), but when those crappy decisions that I had nothing to do with, end up costing me money, I have every right to tell you so and then some.  I am tired.  I am tired from having spent most of my life mothering my very own mother.  I am tired of her ranting and her immaturity and her selfishness and her "poor me" attitude and her betrayal and her "it's never my fault" and her expectations which come with no self-expectation and her guilt and her lack of shame. (This includes her nutty husband.)  Last night, I dreamt that I was driving along serenely on a beautiful day, until I got to a spot in the road where there was a sudden, major rush of water and I had to jamb on my brakes within inches so as not to be swept away.  I had pets in the car(big surprise there) and my cat decided to eat one of my turtles legs.(I do not own a turtle.)  It was pure chaos and panic that sent me into a place of subconscious weirdness and left me feeling very troubled when I woke up.  I do understand the psychological catalyst for these dreams which can make them even more frustrating because the understanding in no way prevents them from occurring.  It can be maddening at times.

For now, I am taking a break from my mother.  I have put her into time-out.  The rational, loving, compassionate, wouldn't hurt a fly part of me regularly tromps on my own conscience for this reminding me that I am the only biological child that she has left in this world and how terrible it is for a mother to not be able to have an ongoing relationship with her only daughter.  I have used this particular excuse for the past five plus years since my brother died and it often works sending me back into the pit of relationship/boundary hell that I have grown far too accustomed to over the entire course of my life.  The other rational, logical, self-protective part of me who has had it up to here and then some, says no more.  I do not want to be swept away in a sudden flash flood of someone else's drama, albeit my own mother's.  I do not want to drown.  I do not want my cat to eat my turtle's leg.  There is this thing about divorce that has always bothered me and although my dad reminded me when I was growing up that nothing in life is fair, this one truly seems particularly lopsided.  When two people(or a good 55-60% of the married population depending upon where you find your data) decide to get divorced and there are children involved, those two people get to make a fairly clean break of it once all of the finances and emotional bullshit are completely hacked up, but the children are the children for life.  So, as my dad has no more responsibility toward my mother than he does for a stranger on the street (They have been divorced for over 30+ years), I am stuck with her for life.  Yup, not fair.  And yet, how does one completely wall themselves off from the person who gave them life?  I have allowed my mother to be a huge part of my daughters' lives.  Not only that, I encouraged it.  I wanted a mother and my children were a very good distraction for her mostly selfish behaviors.  I offered my daughters up as the sacrificial lambs in hopes that it would make something within her click and she would magically become the mother that I always needed her to be.  She was a much better grandmother than she ever was a mother which is why I have put up with a good portion of the BS over the years.  My girls love her and she loves them and I think that is a very good thing.  Heck, I love her.  But I do not like her, not now anyway and I have a physically visceral response to having to deal with her.  It is unhealthy.  It borders on self-abuse because I know that my blood pressure is going to spike and my breathing is going to become shallow whenever I speak to her but she expects me to even though I have told her this.  In other words, it was good for me, doesn't matter how it was for you.  I do know that when I wall myself off from my mother, I suffer from far less depression.  I live in a much calmer space.  I treat myself better.  My mother does not even know where we live at this point because for a long time, our beach home was only our second home and it felt good to have a place where I could conceivably hide from reality for a bit.  She nagged and bugged me about it, and now, I just do not want to tell her.  This probably has something to do with the defiant little child in me, but it also brings me some satisfaction and allows me to feel as if there is a physical boundary that she cannot cross.(Although her husband tauntingly told Mark that they found out where we live, so who knows.)  Mark did tell them that if they do show up at our gate, we will not be allowing them in.

A couple of nights ago began the holiday of Passover which celebrates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Under the leadership of Moses, the Jewish people were finally led across a miraculously parted sea and through the desert to the land of milk, honey and freedom from the oppression which they had lived with for far, far too long.  Moses never actually entered Israel.  He and the generations of slaves who traveled upon this journey along with him, had to remain in the desert until all of the slave generations had passed on. God did not want His people to bring the mentality of slavery along with them into freedom because that would mean that they would never truly be freed from the shackles of oppression that were still very much alive inside of their own minds.  He wanted His people to have a fresh start.  He wanted them not only to be physically free, but mentally and spiritually free, as well.  Sometimes, I tell Mark that I do not believe that I will truly be free from the guilt and the expectations and the obligations that I feel for my mother until she indeed, passes away.  This is in no way a wish for my mother to die.  I know that regardless of everything, I will be very sad when that day does arrive for many complicated reasons, and as I said before, I do love her.  I also know that so much of her behavior is dictated by the relationship that she had with her own mother (There I go making excuses again, but it is true) and that she is probably incapable of changing during this lifetime which is also why I have cut her so much slack.  But in so many ways, in order for me to be free from the suffocating oppression that I often feel from my mother, I must also be willing to make an exodus with which I can better exist.  I have been working on this for most of my life.  I do not know whether our earthly relationship will end in a more peaceful place or if my exodus will remain incomplete.  What I do know is that my mother takes far too much out of me and that each time we have a falling out of sorts, she chips away a little bit more of the part of me that is reluctant to construct a permanent wall.

I sit here, contemplating Moses' exodus from Egypt.  I consider my people's need to break away from the confines of Pharaoh's harsh rule and as I do, I look out at the massive expanse of ocean which sits just below my home.  I think about the gated entry and my mysterious address and all that I have subconsciously and consciously done to free myself from the unrealistic demands that my own mother has placed upon me throughout the years and I wonder, if not now, then when?  If not now, then when will I allow myself to journey away from the chains which have bound me to a woman who is all expectation and so little give.  When will it be enough?  When do I choose to allow myself to be freed from the demands and commands that cause me so much pain despite whether or not I am speaking to my mother or not at any given moment?  When will I allow myself some peace?  And how?  How do I allow myself to keep a firm boundary in place while still holding tight to the commandment which commands that I honor my parent?  And what does honor entail?  The financial piece of things will, more than likely, remain unless Mark and I experience our own financial hardship because we always agreed that we would see to it that all of our parents would always have a roof over their heads and food on their tables but that never included their medical or dental bills so that line has already been crossed.  Too many lines have been crossed.  I often wonder if God will somehow allow me to cross my own desert back to a place of health if I learn to honor myself or, if like Moses, I will be destined to die just outside of the land of milk and honey in order to allow future generations to live more freely.  I have so many questions and very few answers.

My prayer for you during this Passover/Easter season is that whatever exodus you might be working on, that you will do so with both guidance and clarity.  That you will be led by both internal and external longings which will sooner, than later, bring you to a place of strong serenity and peace.  May you find strength, growth and renewal upon your journey and to my Jewish friends who figuratively are sitting with me around the seder table this year, may I say, next year in Jerusalem.  I believe I have found new meaning in that phrase this year.  And to that may we all say, Amen.
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