Sunday, February 19, 2012


I have not heard my mother's voice since Christmas. For a while I ignored her emails, but I felt guilt for doing so. So I slowly began to fall into her trap before finally putting it to a stop a few days ago.  Her first email:
 I would like to call you and see how everyone is doing, but I don't want to upset you or cross any boundaries you have set in place.  If it is okay that I call, please let me know when it would be a good time.  
Love and miss you,
It took me a while to get over the irony in her phrasing. "Cross any boundaries you have set in place..." Her choice of words hit a chord because the most painful things for me in her disorder are her boundaries. Her secrets, lies, excuses, and isolation have always triggered flicks of anger in me that I have ignored to keep a relationship with her. She emphatically reinforces her right to privacy to keep us from her home. I reflected on her tone when she hung up on me last as I begged her not to. I thought a long time about how to respond delicately and honestly.
I have been thinking of the best way to answer you without getting upset. I don't really want to go back and forth in an email argument or anything and don't want to say anything that would initiate that.

This is not at all what I want. I had hoped to talk to you in person about some personal things going on in my life, but I'm not comfortable doing that via email, facebook or over the phone. So that leaves me begging my mother to visit her. That is a very painful thing to have to do... particularly when I am always rejected.

You have made your privacy a priority, and that is 100% your right and option. However, it does negatively impact our relationship. I am unable to read your mixed signals when I am unwelcome in your home, but you wish to talk to me over the phone. It's hard not to be offended and hurt. I feel constantly in limbo working to have a relationship with you that doesn't cross your boundaries, not mine.

It's really an unhealthy place for me to be stuck. It's uncomfortable and sad. At this point I cannot do it any longer. You have really given me a wide variety of reasons, and we have circled back to your secret project. It's been suggested to me that it's more personal, and you have hard feelings toward me. Michael and Jessica and their families shouldn't have to be punished because of something you think I've done to wrong you.

Whatever the reason, I don't feel it's in my best interest to pursue it further. You feel threatened and uncomfortable. I am hurt and left wanting. It's a no win. I am not wanting to upset you in any way.

Probably the best thing to do is leave it as it is. You have seemed to work very hard to push me a certain distance from you, and the best way I know how to respect that is to keep my distance. After several years of trying it your way, I really do not have it in me to continue at this rate. It is a constant heart break for me.

I have enough self worth to realize that this is truly unhealthy and worrisome for me. I also have genuine concerns for my son and husband, and I am at a loss as how to explain how we are not welcome at your home. It has truthfully been one of the most painful things for me to have to cope with.

I also have enough self respect that I realize I don't have to tolerate being yelled at or hung up on, and I won't continue to be treated in that manner. I understand that you like to end a conversation when you feel finished, but I am an adult and expect to be treated with respect. Any decisions that were made about boundaries were made at that point when I begged you not to hang up, but you chose to. It was very painful for me, particularly when I was calling for a reason.

If you would like to go to therapy as a family and get counseling, I would very much like that.

I would be most happy if you finished your project and allowed me to come talk to you in person. I'll wait until then, and in the mean time, I will see you as we do now at family functions. I just really need you to make the decision whether or not you want a relationship or  you want your privacy. I can respect either one, but I will no longer wait in between. I want a relationship with you. I want my son to know you and to feel welcome. If those are things you want, then we can work on them. If those things make you uncomfortable or if they are too intrusive for you, I can respect that as well. Really, it is your decision where we go from here."
After speaking with my counselor on whether or not I should share with my mother that I was pregnant, I made the decision to tell her via email... the way she likes to communicate. My counselor felt it would be best for me to tell her because I have to live with my own decisions at the end of my life, and the hurt that my mom could feel from finding out on her own might not be something I would feel comfortable with when I get older. After my email, Mom sent me a few more asking if I wanted to do an online devotional with her, asking if I would want to meet her in a neutral or safe space, and closed with the fact that she was praying for God to open my eyes, ears and heart.

I sort of scoff at the idea that we have to find "neutral" or a "safe" place to meet. Are we in danger? What does she mean? I know it's just another way of her refusing to let us visit.

Another part of her requests that annoyed me was that my mom has never been spiritual until after I was an adult. I am a Christian, but I feel like she is using that to manipulate me. An online devotional? Why can't we get together and meet in person to have a real devotional? Praying for God to open my eyes, ears, and heart? I'm slightly irritated that her prayers indicate that I have a hardened heart and need God's intervention so that I have a more open mind.

Annoyed, I email her that there is no need to meet somewhere "safe," I only wanted to tell her in person that I was pregnant and ask her not to share until February when we will tell our friends. She writes back and asks if she can call. I do not reply.

For several weeks I do not reply. She writes and tells me she would like me to write a letter telling her the kind of mother I think she should be. I see this as a trap and can only see a bad outcome of writing such a letter. I see this as an opportunity for her to basically  have a one sided conversation. It allows her to write pages and pages without being interrupted on her right to privacy, my lack of respect for her private life, twists on how I somehow deserve this treatment and am now being punished for ways in which  I have "hurt her," or long drawn out excuses of why now is not a good time for a visit... pointing out her secret project that she has been working on for the last several years.

Through counseling I have learned that Mom truly doesn't have the ability to be a normal mom. She is disconnected and takes cues from people on how she should behave socially. An example would be from my last pregnancy. Mom took a week off of work when I had my son because she knew that's what moms do. They help their daughters recover and help with the new baby. She made a big deal about taking off to help me. Mom came to see me at the hospital, but it was awkward. She didn't know what to say or do. She held my son briefly and was gone within an hour of his birth. I didn't see her again until he was six months old. 

Another example would be her behavior at my son's birthday parties. She comes but doesn't sit with the family or talk to him. She is present because she knows a grandmother should be, but she doesn't know how to act around people. She is uncomfortable, and it is obvious. My son sees her so rarely that when she came to the house this year, he opened the door and said, "Some lady is here." It broke my heart that he didn't recognize this "lady" as "Nana." She only lives an HOUR away. In her discomfort we are all uncomfortable. We force conversations in which she replies, "Yes," or "No." She doesn't offer up anything further. After making her cameo she is always the first to leave.

My counselor explained that Mom watches how people behave and tries to emulate it, but it is uncomfortable and upsetting to her. She more than likely has a personality disorder not unlike a sociopath. She warned me not to confuse that with the idea that she is crazy or some type of murderer. Mom just does not enjoy or know how to be around people. 

My counselor was sympathetic with me, saying I needed to grieve the mother that I should have had but did not. I needed to grieve the mother that I would never have. 

It is difficult for me to understand a mother wanting that kind of distance from her kids or to understand why my mom's two dogs mean more to her than her family. Dogs don't judge. Even if we aren't judging mom, she perceives that we are. She doesn't feel that with her dogs. 

A mentor of mine helped me a lot in saying, "Say you need a pen. The ONLY person who can give you this pen is your mother. So you ask her for the pen. But she does not have a pen. She can't give you what she doesn't have, but no one else can give it to you. Your mom can't be the mom you need because she can't give you what she doesn't have." 

My counselor gave a similar analogy. "You wouldn't expect a person in a wheelchair to stand up and walk to you. You wouldn't ask them. Since we can't see personality disorders, it's hard to see them in the same perspective. But asking your mom to love you in the way you need is like asking a handicap person to stand up and walk from their wheelchair."

Struggling with the commandment my mom always stressed, "Honor thy mother and father," I told another mentor of mine that I felt guilt for no longer talking to my mom. I felt like I was disrespecting her. She told me we are to honor the position, but you don't have to respect what the person does or how they behave. I have to respect that she is my mother. However, I can love and work on forgiveness from afar. I do not have to sit through her being abusive or accusing on the telephone or via emails.  I can pray for her and love her, and in that, I would be honoring her.

Mom sent me another email today asking me to read an article on core values... primarily over respect and honesty. She clipped out phrases she liked and pasted them on the email. However, I googled the phrasing and found the complete article. The article is over adult children moving back in with their parents and how to respect each other's privacy, rules to be set with neatness, noise, and curfew, etc. I am tempted to email her back the article in its entirety and mention the dangers of quoting something out of context; I want stress to her that I have no intention or desire to move back home. For extra measure, I consider emailing her articles on children neglected by hoarding parents. However, I have just decided to ignore it. The email is just another way my mom manipulates. My husband warns that is is another way to invite me into an argument, and so I will continue to ignore her as tempting as it is to call her out. It is so hard not to fall back into the bad habit of walking into an argument. It's been two months now, and I hope it gets easier.