That’s what I wrote on Facebook eight years ago.
I had traveled to NJ to present at a conference. (I love doing that!! Public speaking is fun scary.)
I had spent several sessions with Michael, my therapist, working on a scripted conversation with my mom. (This is several years after starting with him.) To put it mildly, she and I had never had a good relationship (“You’ve been a problem since you were in kindergarten!”), and this conversation was intended to try to set boundaries — both for her (“I feel disrespected”) and for myself (not accepting the invitation to the argument—keeping myself within my boundaries and not blowing up).
I told him the conversation was unlikely to last as long as two minutes.
I was right.
But I maintained my boundaries, stayed calm, didn’t accept the invitation to the argument.
It ended with her stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door.
We’ve had very few conversations since then. None in the last several years.
I can’t explain to you how much it hurts to be rejected by your mom, to be told explicitly that you are decidedly not OK as you are, especially repeatedly, especially as a child. (Tears welled just seeing the post pop up in my “memories.” I remember that small chunk of that evening well. Because even though I knew how it was going to go, there’s always that little bit of hope…)
I can’t quantify all the little places that this comes out sideways.
I can’t fully explain the combination of shame and defensiveness that washes over me when someone says that hurts done to us when we’re children have no effect (or should not be blamed) for how we act as adults.
Are we responsible for our actions? Yes.
Are we unaffected by everything that has happened to us? Absolutely not.
I’m better than I was when I wrote that post eight years ago. I’m better than I was when I started this blog six-ish months ago.
Therapy. Lots of it. Intentionally ripping open old wounds and helping them to heal properly. Like breaking a bone so it mends itself the way it should.
Intentionality. Being aware of how I’m reacting, why I’m reacting, and working my ass off to fix it. Finding home in “it’s not me, it’s you” in situations where 1-that’s true and 2-I can’t get out of it.
Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that when interpersonal relationships go wrong, it affects me in a way that seems to be abnormally intense.
(Or maybe they just chalk it up to “That’s Heat.” Either way, patience and love.)
Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that friendships are more important to me than they seem to be to those with a solid root system.
It’s one of my top life priorities to be a good mom, to do better for The Kid than my mom did for me. For him to know that no matter how many times he leaves his Legos and backpack and socks laying around or how well he runs his races or what grades he gets on his report card or what activities he wants to participate in or how much I like or don’t like his dating partners, he is loved and I am a safe place for him to be.
I am especially mindful to tell him that I love him, that I’m lucky to be his mama when I’m angry. Or when he’s sad. (Or both.) We snuggle and talk when he’s upset. You are loved, just as you are. Even when you don’t feel lovable. Especially when you don’t feel lovable.
I might not like your actions, and we might need to work on changing them, but I love you regardless.
Working through all of my baggage is a lifelong journey (I assume, at this point). I am constantly handed new situations in which I can learn to make myself better, healthier.
Honestly, I’m tired of them. (“Builds character.” I have enough character, thanks.)
Honestly, I get angry sometimes that more people don’t do the same. (If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if other people would pick up their share of the work.)
My request to you, if you have children: be a safe place for them to be. Own your baggage. Don’t take it out on them. It’s hard to own some of the stuff that’s in us, some of the ways we’ve acted as a result. It’s easy to blame the kid. But ignoring or deferring just perpetuates it.
And your friends who had traumatic childhoods? Give them some extra love. They might still be running a deficit.