The Ties That Bind

My family dynamics are complicated. I’m sure everyone feels this way in some capacity, but I feel it to the extreme.

I haven’t spoken to my mother in nearly 3 years. Today she called me to tell me that my uncle who I have very little contact with is dying of lung cancer. It was the strangest conversation of my life, when it ended I felt a strange sense of emptiness. Not emptiness in the sense of loss, but emptiness in the sense of being totally devoid of emotion. My mother and I have never been particularly close. I acknowledge that I probably wasn’t an easy child to raise. I was very closed up, unable to express my emotions. But my mother is ill-suited to be a parent. She can be maternal, but there are issues mentally that I feel make her unable to make the selfless sacrifices needed to raise a child, especially a daughter.

For years I felt rejection by her, the way she would comment on my looks, my weight, the way she never wanted to spend quality time with me, or how she would come home from work and go straight to bed. I hated how she would put on airs in front of people, presenting a well-adjusted family dynamic to people who couldn’t see past the facade. I hated the way she used my sister and I as pawns with our father. No child likes growing up knowing that their mother had them simply as a means to keep a philandering man from straying.

I hated how my mom resented me for being close to my dad, as though I should have chosen her over him instead of loving both of my parents. For so many years I yearned to have the closeness with my mom that I saw my friends having with their mothers. I remember many years ago when I was in high school I was seeing a therapist because my mom thought I had issues I needed to work out. The therapist had a hard time understanding where I was coming from, so she thought it would be a good idea to have my mom join us for a session. The session was filled with attempts by my therapist to focus the conversation back on my issues after my mom’s attempts at continually making it about her. The next time I saw my therapist after that she said she understood why I had a hard time dealing with my mother and communicating with her. She gave me the best advice I had ever heard in my life “there are some relationships that cost you too much to salvage”. This is advice that finally made sense to me years later.

The breakdown of the relationship with my mother and I have a lot to do with my dad and how she took financial advantage of him, and how I took his side and decided to cut her out of my life. The specifics get messy, but at the end of the day it was necessary for me to cut her out of life for my own sanity. Some people just suck the life out of you and give nothing back to you in return.

Today when she called, she cried, filled me in on my uncle’s illness and other trivial family matters that I couldn’t care less about. She asked about me, said that she had seen a picture of me and how beautiful I looked. She asked about the procedure. I said I was able to make it through due to the support of my dad. There was a lot of crying on her part, and very little on mine. I felt like perhaps I was being cold, but there is just nothing there for me to give. I could hear a yearning in her voice for me to give her some warmth, some sense that I was there emotionally, but I just wasn’t. Towards the end of the conversation she cried some more, said that she loved me and that I could call her whenever I wanted. I said I had to go and hung up.

In that moment I felt nothing. Maybe not nothing, I felt the natural feeling I would have towards anyone else who was hurting. But I had no urge to absolve her of the past three years. I had no urge to tell her that everything is forgiven and we could start fresh. I used to want to try to understand her. Did she have Borderline Personality Disorder? Was she a bad mother because her mother was a bad mother? Or was she just a shitty person with no excuse?

As I go through the motions of becoming an adult and ridding my life of the negative energy that holds me down, I feel a great sense of sadness for her. For as much as I will never have the opportunity to have a wonderful, healthy, loving relationship with my mother, she will never have me in her life, and she will never get to see for the person that I have grown up to be.

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