Butterfly Cauldron

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mirror, mirror

I did a year of therapy to come to terms with my relationship with my mother and I still get tangled up in it.

In the arc of my life, I'm not sure anyone will ever have more influence on my than my mother. It makes sense, seeing as how she's the first person I ever knew. We have history, she and I. We go way back.

For a great deal of my life, my mother was unhappy. I don't know if she was aware of it, but I was. She battled depression, untreated, undiagnosed, unnamed, but fierce just the same. I was her oldest. She saw herself in me. Even my name is merely a longer verson of hers. I was her first chance at building the family she didn't have as a child. A stable, harmonious, no one abusive or cheating or lying home. She and my father waited three years to have me, after they got married. And yet, they were still so young. Does any 20 year old really know what they're getting into when they give birth? Does any woman, ever?

I was independant from birth, I'm told. The sort of child who was perfectly happy to play by herself for hours. I didn't need her, my mother has said to me. I didn't seem to need anyone. Sometimes I wonder if she resented that. If she expected her daughter would need more direct attention. But, I didn't. I had the same needs as any infant, of course, but when I was older? I was content to amuse myself, even though my mother stayed home to take care of me.

My mother's untreated depression, as well as my own, ignited when I hit puberty. From age 12 to when I moved out at age 17, we faught. Constantly. Non-stop. About how I folded the towels. About the music I listened to. About my friends. About how long I took in the shower. About how I spelled my name. About anything and everything. It didn't matter, we faught. My father and brother, both huge, strapping men, were afraid of us. They learned quickly that getting in betweeen us was a bad idea. And so, they hid. Those big, scary men hiding from two women. It's funny, in hindsight.

She wanted to much to see herself in me, I think. And there are parts of her there. How can there not be? I get my temper from her. And my stubborness. But mostly, I'm me. I'm not my mother, even though I felt compelled to be like her. Because that's how I was supposed to be. Because she was.

We learned to make compromises. She stopped being so insistant that I dress a certain way. That I take certain classes. It wasn't always bad, not when we were both in remission. When our minds weren't clouded with depression, we could be civil to each other. Nice, sometimes. But the problem with depression is that it always comes back. And then she would say something and I would be angry. Or I would say something, or not say something, and she'd be mad. It was a long, twisted, neverending cycle.

And then -- college. I left and never wanted to go home. Which hurt her, of course. She made me come home that first summer. And I moped and brooded and staked out the mailbox, waiting for letters from my new friends. She was hurt that I wasn't happy to be back home. That I wasn't happy to be her little girl again. I thought she was treating me like I was 12 again. We started fighting. Again. But this time, my grandmother (her mother) stepped in. You have to let her go, she said. She's not a baby anymore.

I remember, that first summer, I was talking about the next semester starting. And I said, I can't wait to go home. And my mother, my poor mother, looked like I'd slapped her. Because she thought I was home. But I wasn't. I wasn't even close. And my grandmother, my wonderful, wise grandmother, just put her hand on my Moms and smiles. But that is home to her now, you know. This is what you wanted. This is what you raised her for. She's her own person. And you have to let her go.

And yet, mothers never really let you go. I don't know if it's possible, really breaking that tie. Now, we don'ty fight. Now, we can respect each other as women, not simply mother or daughter. And yes, we still disagree. On just about everything. Religion, relationships, money, where I'm going to live, politics. And there's some sort of uneasy peace. There are things we don't talk about. Because if we do, we'll fight. And it's more important now that we don't fight.

Still. She's in my head. I think, when I'm considering accepting a date, what my mother will say if this turns into a longterm relationship? Because it matters, even if I don't want it to. If I take this job and move across the country, how will it affect her? I think these things. I take that into consideration. Even when she wouldn't want me to. Even when I don't want me to. Because she's in my head and my heart and there's no getting around that.


posted by Zan at 5:29 PM


It's terrible when I see my former(?) pain in you. I thought it was impossible and tried to resign myself to what I thought was my fate, but I got my mom out of my head and learned to think for myself. I hope you will, too.

4:23 AM  

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