Why stop here when you can really bring it home.
(Disclaimer: I’m leveraging this blog for therapeutic purposes and using its public function to keep myself accountable. My writing isn’t as much inspired right now as it is required).
So, let me be all the way honest here. It’s not “everyone else’s” opinion of me I really care about. It’s my mother’s. (Oh yeah, I’m getting real comfy on the analytic couch over here…)
Btw, I feel free to write about this now because when I wrote to my parents about my social media coming out, they responded beautifully to that (“as parents we want you to be happy, no matter what it entails for you”) but they completely ignored the other part of my email, which brought up my blog and said that there’s still so many things left unsaid between us but if they ever were to read my posts about them, I hoped they would feel how much I respect and love them. Anyway, I’m taking their silence as saying that they are not capable of going there with me and that therefore I am free to write whatever the fuck I want here.
My relationship with my mom is the most complicated of all my relationships. First because she’s my mother and she raised me. Second because as a woman she was my first example of what I’m supposed to be. Third because she was my first boss, and I worked for her for many many years. Fourth because I’ve always felt that she loved me, and hated me.
Although I wish I could, I don’t think I can paint the full portrait of my mom’s life here. It’s not my story to tell. But my story is nestled into elements of hers, so I have to go there to make sense of myself.
Did you know that a baby girl develops all her eggs when she is still in the womb? Meaning that half of what makes me me already existed in my grand-mother’s body when she was carrying my mom? I guess this is a good starting point.
My grand-mother hated my mom, much more than she ever loved her. This isn’t just from what my mom has told me, which would be her perspective on the matter. This is from what I have observed, and I’m a pretty good observer.
Of course my grand-mother also has her own story, one that explains why she was such a good storyteller, why she became very obese, and why she was one of the most narcissistic person I have ever met. My mom’s childhood looks like a picture perfect suburban dream on the outside and like a horror movie on the inside. She was never safe in her own home. She didn’t have a say in all the things she had to do. She was openly dismissed, criticized, and hated.
When she was 16 she left home. It was a complete break between her and her mother, and therefore her family. Her father went to see her only a few times, behind his wife’s back. My mom worked hard to make a life for herself. She went to college, participated in the sexual revolution, and made her own choices.
But then, and I don’t know the details of when, she came back to her mother. My mom’s wedding was celebrated in the family house’s backyard. When she had a child, me, she named her after her mother. I have the same name as my grand-mother, the woman who openly hated my mom.
When I first became aware of this as a child, my first conclusion was that I was the peace offering of my mom to her mother. Then later, after realizing how much time I had spent trying to take care of my mom, I realized I was unconsciously intended to be a substitute mother. And now, I’m reaching yet another interpretation, and I see that my mom gave in to her mother’s pressure to be a wife and a mother, to be a traditional good woman, so that she could be reintegrated into the family. And I was the symbol of that, of her loss, of her submission, and therefore the object of her resentment, and her hate.
Holy fucking shit. This is what made me burst into tears earlier this morning and it’s still making me cry now. This would be the kind of moment when my old psychiatrist would push towards me the box of tissues that always sat on the table between us (the most tender gesture he’s ever shown me).
My mom never really wanted me to be a kid. I was rewarded for autonomy and I learned to repress my emotional needs. After my sister’s arrival, I became a true master at both. My mom and I would connect on making things happen. Parties, projects, moves, jobs. I started hanging out and helping out at her office I don’t remember when. I started being officially employed by her when I was 13. I worked for her until I was 19, then again for a year when I was 21, and again for a few projects when I was 24. I have since fallen apart properly enough to know exactly why I should never work for her again (and I put a few friends on watch to remind me, were I ever to forget).
The main point here is that my mom’s love and attention was always entangled with working for her, doing things, helping, making things happen. When I behaved like a needy child, she either ignored me or was angry at me, both hiding the fact that she didn’t know how to be my mom in those moments. Hiding also the resentment of being in that position.
I know I’ve used the word hate and that it’s a pretty harsh word. My mom would be devastated to hear me say that I have felt it from her. But I did. A few times, but at crucial times and in ways that sunk so deep they are indelibly part of my self conception.
After I was hospitalized, I was a punching bag for my whole family, because I had scared them in being so burned out but then was “officially” diagnosed with nothing at all which gave everybody the right to make me into the difficult one. When I quit my job with her the second time around, on the phone she was gracious, but when I came to dinner that night she became so vicious my dad had to tell her to stop (the only time he’s ever done that). Those are the occasions that are burned onto my conscious mind. Then there are the ones I don’t remember, the earlier ones. I guess those are still in flames in my unconscious.
Hate. Defined as a passionate dislike. There’s no hate where there’s no love. That’s the passionate part. Then the dislike, that’s the conditional love part. I can’t say that I felt openly hated by my mom the way she did by my grand-mother. But I was never sure I was really loved either. I felt loved for all the things I did. I felt loved for all the other people that loved me. But to this day, I’m not sure that my mom actually loves me, just for me.
Mothers and daughters. That’s not a new story. It’s a typically complicated one. It of course has so much to do with the oppression of women and how we’re barely starting to get away from that. And it has to do with our culture of domination and our economy of addiction, in which unconditional love serves no purpose, or actually poses a threat to the power structures. How can you give what you were never given? It drives so many to try to take what they’re owed. But that cycle perverts everything, and self perpetuates…
So, why is all this shit coming at me like a freight train right now? Because of my new job. Because I started working for a woman, a friend of mine, who unwittingly has become a constant trigger pusher. Her story is also not mine to tell but let’s just say there are a lot of similarities, between her and me, between our families, between the situation she’s currently in and my mom’s history.
I always see my internalized mother in anyone who employs me but I’ve never seen it more than in this job. I couldn’t have written a better scenario to get confronted with this. And sure there are some issues with the actual job and the actual person that is my friend and current employer, but that’s nothing compared to the shit storm they awaken in me that isn’t actually caused by them. I’ve been a wreck for the last three months because I’ve basically challenged myself to the absolute furthest point I can go without falling completely apart again.
I want to see this through. I want to heal these demons inside me, that whisper in my ear that I am nothing, that I need to serve, that I have to fix things for “her”, that my limits are useless, that I should give everything…
Four years ago, I learned to look in the mirror and see myself through my own eyes, not the eyes of my internalized mother (the one I ate and digested and incorporated, spoon by spoon, everyday a little bite, for the twenty years that I lived with my actual mother). This project has been both the tool and the reward of that process.
But this is different. I need to learn to see myself as myself in the eyes of others who are standing right in front of me. Actually, let’s be more precise again. I need to learn to see myself as myself in the eyes of my boss, whose standing next to me every single day that I‘m at work.
And here my project does not help whatsoever. It isn’t the right tool for this context, because this context involves other people I can’t control. Gosh I miss the days when I was spending all my time alone…
I’ve been writing off and on for 7 hours. This subject is too intense to focus only on it. It’s also hitting me that I’ve literally written all of it while lying down on my couch… I guess psychoanalysts really are onto something.
To those who’ve read all this, thank you for following me into my desire to take responsibility. I am doing fine, a little emotionally bruised up but also kind of really proud of myself.