My last post I shared an email I sent my mother in response to the message she wrote in my birthday card.
I didn’t share what she’d written but I will now.
The card itself says, “You’re always on my mind…
Inside it says, “…and in my heart.”
Then she signs it: I love you – Mom.
The message she wrote inside:
My dear (My Name)-
I think of you every day. I can understand your determination to discontinue family relationships – but it doesn’t change my love for you, or my regrets for having failed you in so many ways.
I was never supportive enough, empathetic enough, active enough in defending you or making sure that you knew you were valuable and loved. My sense of guilt and sorrow is huge. I don’t expect forgiveness – nor will I ever forgive myself.
There were “contributing factors” in my failure at motherhood – they don’t excuse it in any way, but knowing about them might give you some insight into why it has taken me a lifetime to grow up and realize just how damaged I had been. I am so very sorry.
I am willing to pay for your round trip airfare from Philly if you are willing to come. Please give it some consideration and let me know.
(Note: She lives in Florida.)
To read the email I sent in response to the message, you can find it here.
I waited a few days and knew she’d be working on a reply back to me, but I ended up calling her.
I read something in a book called No Place to Hide: Facing Shame So We Can Find Self-Respect. I don’t have the patience or presence of mind to find it right now.
It had me confused and thinking well, if I can change my behavior and how I think about what happened, maybe I can have a relationship with my mother. Thing is, I’d already written an email and in that email it has said I wasn’t capable of having a superficial relationship. So with that and knowing I had let her know where I was coming from already, I went for it.
I had been crying before I picked up the phone to call. I calmed myself down but then I would start to cry when I’d reach for the phone again. I took some deep breaths, thought I’d be okay and dialed. When she answered, I started to cry again.
It was coming from the little girl in me who still needs her mom and was so relieved to hear her voice. It was also coming form fear of being rejected too.
I called with the intention of just letting things go if she wanted but also knew that given my email, she would open the floor to me, so to speak.
The first thing I let her know is that I didn’t want it to be like the email I sent my father. <<<That’s a link to the post that explains more about that.
First she asked me what email. Seems difficult to believe she wouldn’t know. But I don’t know.
Once I clarified she said, in an adamant tone of voice, “You have every right to how you feel about your father. As far as I’m concerned those feelings are justified. (This coming form the woman who triangulated with my sister to manipulate me into ‘stepping up’ or walking away when it came to caring for my father while he was dying of a terminal illness.)
That’s a long story and I’ve written posts about that too, in 7 parts. I’ll link them at the end of this post.
In fact reading them will pretty much explain what my phone conversation was about with my mother. We only talked for about an hour and a half though and I didn’t get into everything.
The main thing I wanted to get across to my mother was how I felt, even though I did mention my feelings during that time when I wrote the email to her in response to her most recent birthday card. But also the actual events helped to pin-point what made me feel those emotions
On the phone I talked about the things she’d done I felt were disrespectful and manipulative. In telling her those things, I admit, I wanted validation and a real apology would’ve been nice. I also told her about what my siblings did that she wasn’t aware of. I didn’t see their behaviors as anything for her to apologize for but I was hoping it would illustrate how exhausting it all was for me to basically be ganged up on. I was in a position where it felt like three against one and no one gave one shit about my feelings. Everyone else’s mattered though.
True to the narcissist way, the apologies were things like, “I’m sorry that you felt that way,” and “I’m sorry if that happened.”
When she would say that, I would think about part of that excerpt in the book I mentioned above. There was something about acceptance. Accept how they are, just let them be them and don’t try to change them.
But this just didn’t work for me. I felt invalidated and frustrated that I wasn’t getting real and sincere apologies. I said things that alluded to wanted an apology but not even one was forthcoming. She also made excuses and gave me reasons for different things I brought up. Despite all this, I agreed to lunch or dinner with her if she flew up at Christmas time.
But then it turned out there was more than just frustration and I didn’t really know everything I felt until some time after we hung up.
I wanted to let these feelings go. I wanted to just accept it. But it hurt way too much. And so as the day wore on after our conversation, I began to have bouts of crying and even actual uncontrollable weeping.
I wept because I worried about her reaction to what I was feeling if I wrote to her about it. I wept because it was the same old song and dance. I wept because I just could not be that person who just accepts her as she is, in this particular circumstance and her actions against me, and move on to have a relationship anyway.
One other thing she said, right before we got in on the difficult stuff, is that she didn’t want a superficial relationship either. But her actions said differently, or more accurately, her words later said different.
So I sent her another email, telling her how the the conversation left me feeling.
Subject line: Emotional struggle
I’m really struggling right now emotionally. You asked if I was (I forget your exact wording) uncomfortable talking to you I think it was. And something I didn’t think to mention is that these talks kick up a lot of difficult emotion for me. And then other stuff comes up for me that didn’t get discussed.
Basically, without getting into details about exact events and words that were said, the underlying thing is that I felt/feel like (my siblings’) needs and wants matter/ed to you more than mine do/did. (Not talking about childhood right now, but the events surrounding dad and his care.)
And that hurts deeply and I feel like the conversation with you today just opened that wound right up again. In fact the conversation made me realize that was pretty much the whole underlying feeling I got from you.
This realization has left me feeling so insignificant to you as well as feeling very empty and pretty hopeless.
(My note: That hopeless feeling was actually anxiety about meeting with her in person after realizing that I was thinking about more stuff that I’d want to discuss. It was also loneliness. I had a deep sensation of lonliness right after hanging up with her and it just grew until I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.
I cried on and off until that night, when I finally wrote the above to her.)
Here’s her response:
I know and appreciate that it’s important for you to express how you feel and felt at the time of those events. You did enlighten me about what was happening between you and (your siblings) – I had not been aware at the time. What I did feel then was that your father’s needs were the primary concern just then – in spite of our many, many differences, the divorce, etc. If you were “insignificant” to me, I would not have had you on my mind every day since you ceased contact with me – with worry about what was happening in your life and feelings of deep guilt and regret on my part. At the same time, I felt that I should respect the boundaries you had expressed. It surely is not my intent to make your emotional state more painful. I don’t know whether it is more beneficial for you to try to work through these issues with me – or to back away and close me out again. That is your call. But I need to say to you that despite your feelings, you were NEVER insignificant to me and I feel awful knowing that our interactions led you to believe that. You matter to me, your well being is very significant to me, and I will love you forever – whether you choose to communicate or not – it is unconditional.
My initial response was this:
I feel like we didn’t even have the same conversation. I was letting you know how I felt about your role in what I went through during those months and how your actions effected me.
Yes, I filled you in on what Chris and Mel did too, but that wasn’t something I was trying to resolve with you. There was a whole lot more to what I was saying than that.
Although you are correct in saying that it’s important to express myself, I also feel it’s important to have what I went through validated. And I don’t feel that.
I feel that my feelings were dismissed and still at this point, pretty insignificant.
I do think it will be better for me to work through these issues without you.
This is what I wanted to say:
If dad’s needs were so fucking important to you then, perhaps it should’ve been you that ‘stepped the fuck up” instead of manipulating and shaming me into doing it on the terms you needed. I don’t think for a second that his needs were truly that important to you.
It was about you needing others to take care of it, so that you didn’t have to. And you went about making that happen, while at the same time triangulating with my sister, getting between a fight that I didn’t even know we were having. She and I had talked before you called with your shaming and arm twisting. Sister and I had hung up in agreement that dad needed outside care and that neither one of us wanted his care to take over our lives and that we’d visit but not be his nurses.
But then you blindsided me with a phone call, that I KNOW was prompted by her bitching and whining about me not doing what she wanted, because she’s a sneaky little narcissist like that. Acts like she’s cool with what I say, agrees with me but secretly wants to rage at me for not doing what the little princess wants me to do. She can’t stand that she can’t control me, so she calls you. And you, like a fucking minion, calls to pressure me, guilt me and shame me.
As the mother of both of us, the proper thing to do in that case is to tell my sister that she will need to fight her own battles, not that you will call me for her. How fucking old are you??? That’s middle school shit.
So I can clearly see that you understand nothing, if all you got out of the conversation is that I ‘enlightened you” about my siblings behaviors toward me that you weren’t aware of. You missed the point entirely if you think it’s just about expressing how I felt at that time. Get a fucking clue. Get out of your head once in a while and get in touch with your heart.
You say you’ve had regret and guilt. For what? You’re clearly not open to anymore about what I want to say and my emotions about everything that I went through. If you felt so much regret and guilt, you’d actually be open to what I have to say and you’d be apologetic. But that’s not what’s going on here.
I don’t care how many times or in how many ways you SAY that I’m significant. It’s fucking obvious as hell and you’ve made it so, over and over again throughout my life, that my feelings are in no way significant to you. You are important and significant to you and that’s it. I don’t think it was always like that though and maybe that’s what has kept me in denial for so long. I remember at times you did care about my feelings. But I’d say more times than not, there wasn’t much empathy.
Yeah, I do need to work through my feelings alone without you and as you say, back away and close you out again. In fact, I wish to close you out forever.
Please stop sending me birthday cards with letters of fake bleeding heart messages. If you really cared, if I was really on your mind 365 days out of every year since I cut off communication, then why not send messages or letters on other days and let me enjoy my birthday?
I have never looked at my walking away from the family as a boundary (until now) and I in fact told you that on the phone yesterday. It was my way of protecting myself. I mean, who the fuck would not want to get away from an abusive relationship? Who would not move away from a toxic environment? I mean, c’mon, you did it. You yourself refused to go to your own father when he was dying. Nor did you attend the funeral. You divorced my father. Why? Because it was a toxic and unhealthy place for you to be.
But it’s true, walking away from a toxic family was in fact a boundary, saying that I will no longer be the family scapegoat, doormat and dumpster is a way of drawing a line.
Another boundary is when someone tells you, no and that they aren’t going to do something. Disrespecting that boundary is when you try to talk the person into doing what they just said they didn’t want to do, using guilt or shame or bribery. Even coercive language like, “Well it could help you too” is pushing a boundary.
So no, you have not respected my boundaries.
So I guess that’s it. I’ll just say, Thank you.
You broke my heart, but you also set me free.
I didn’t send either of these. What I sent was this:
Looks like it will be best for me to work through ‘the issues’ alone.
Below are the links I promised to link above. They will tell you pretty much what happened back in 2013, surrounding my father’s care during the last months of his life. These parts were actually written from what I’d hand written in a journal. I know there is more on the blog but I think most of the info needed to put this post into perspective is there.
Stepping up: The Intro
Stepping up part 1
Stepping up part 2
Stepping up part 3
Stepping up part 4
Stepping up part 5
Stepping up part 6
Stepping up part 7