Thursday, 25 December 2008

My Mother, My Self?

I'm reading a book at the moment called, "When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends" by Victoria Secunda and it is a shocker. Although it focusses mainly on mother-daughter relationships, there is absolutely no reason why 'she' cannot be substituted for 'he'. Although mother-son relationships are different, if the mother fits into any of the categories listed by the author, the same screw-ups can apply the whole world over regardless of race, creed or gender.

It has been an eye-opener for me. Although I remember a lot of events in my childhood which have affected me, I would be inclined to say that those events occurring in my adulthood have left me feeling most bereft, unloveable, useless and groundless. Many of these I have firmly believed have been solely my fault: that I have driven my mother to such frustration that she has lashed out and I have paid my penance. Reading similar stories in black and white suddenly angers me that it was not necessarily my fault and I had every right to want to be ME.

From leaving home, aged 21, my every move was monitored and criticised. My first taste of freedom was in a dingy room in a shared house in Headingley, West Yorkshire. I was studying at the Metropolitan University in Leeds, and taking a BSc in Speech and Language Therapy. This was not my first choice, I must explain. I wanted to study Occupational Therapy; but this was just 'glorified nursing' according to my mother, and suddenly, placements were lined up at speech therapy clinics by 'nice Mrs Cleaver' the Senior SLT for Halton Borough, who was a neighbour. And so I started a course in SLT.

My grades (attaining either first class or 2:1s in the first year) needed to be surpassed each time; I wasn't feeding myself well enough (I lived on vegetarian pastas for some time which I made myself, from scratch); I didn't do my laundry enough; I wasted electricity, gas, water; my housemates were useless and idle; my friends were either 'lovely girls' and 'adore their mothers' or wastes of space...nothing was ever good enough or right.

When my long-standing boyfriend, Mike, and I split up after 5 1/2 years, I was in the dog-house with her. She called him every week to see how he was and reported back to me how heart-broken I had made both him and her. She hated my new boyfriend (who went on to become my first husband and now 'The Ex') and refused to say anything pleasant about him, preferring to compare everything about him to Mike.

I married Anal despite what she said. She had nothing to do with my wedding plans which embittered me: I'd had dreams of going shopping for a dress with her; choosing the bridesmaid's outfit; picking out menus, flowers, favours - all sorts of things. Nothing from her. The most she contributed one day was to tell me about a pink lacey nylon wedding dress she had seen on Albert's Stall in Widnes Market for £25.00 and that would be perfect for me. By this stage, I had saved up enough money to purchase a raw silk, hand-made dress from one of my clients (I was a Personal Tax Senior at the time) and was gutted that she could belittle my wedding so much as to suggest such cheapness. Her later comment, when I informed her that I was actually marrying out of the parish church where Anal and I lived rather than return to her region, was that of supercilious scoffing. She advised me that I may as well get married over the Blacksmith's Anvil in the village and have a fish 'n' chip supper, to save on money.

After our marriage, and as I asserted myself as a wife, woman, housekeeper, worker etc., the bitterness and criticism became more and more apparent. An invitation, during the summer, to spend a week in our cottage and use it as a B & B, to come and go as they please, turned into an exercise in taking over my every authority in the house. When I firmly asked her, after four days of this, to STOP; that it was MY house and I was more than capable of handling things, she lost the plot, screeched to my father that they were leaving and I didn't hear from her for over four months.

The only reason she spoke to me at Christmas was because Anal wrote to her, explained that our first baby was due in four weeks and would she want anything to do with it? She returned her response, dripping with vitriol, emotional blackmail, hatred and venom, but said that it was her duty as a grandparent to get to know the child. We arranged for a peace-keeping mission on Christmas Day 1994. We drove over 100 miles to get there for lunch. My grandmother, who was still alive then, was attending the meal, too. My brother had cleared off from the house at the crack of dawn to spend the day with his girlfriend.

So, around the table sat Nanna, Anal, my father, my mother and me, heavily pregnant, dispepsic, nauseous and very, very nervous. Even as I had walked into the house, the first words spat at me were, not, Happy Christmas, but 'There are three bin bags of your stuff there. Get rid of them.' At present-giving time, I received nothing, but the gifts I passed to my parents were dismissed. I bought my mother diabetic chocolate and a Wedgewood biscuit barrel. 

'Huh. Chocolate'...thrown onto the bookcase...

The corner ripped from the paper on the biscuit barrel; a quick peek at the pattern, no words, and taken into the kitchen.

A classics album for my father...

'Don't like this type of stuff. You can have it back...'

The night I went into labour: February 2nd 1994. I sat on the toilet downstairs, heaving with contractions, excited, scared and full of wonderment. Anal was equally as excited. Who should we tell? Who is going to be the first to hear about Sam's birth? (I was 100% convinced I was having a boy, and his name was Sam...later to be changed to Rosemary April!). Anal suggested ringing my mother. He told her I was in labour and passed the phone to me.

'Do you want me to call you when the baby is born?' I asked.

'Not if it is in the early hours, no. Your father has to get up for work in the morning, to wake him would be selfish. Leave it until a sensible hour.'

I can still remember the sock in the guts as I heard those words. My own mother didn't want to know about her first grandchild.

And so as it stood, the first person to hear of Rosemary was my best friend, Rebecca, at 3.20am, and then, Anal went through his family, shouting his news with joy.

My parents were informed at 11am on 3 February. Mother's first words were, I thought you were having a boy? How would I know? Gender scans were not permissible in the 90s. You ensured the baby was healthy and that was it. Any indications of a penis were not vocalised at all...

'Well, your Dad will be pleased, anyway. He hates boys...'

So I had, at least done one thing right in having a girl...

We moved to Bath when Rosemary was just shy of three months old. I had a fair number of friends in Yorkshire, whom I knew I would miss greatly, but I kept in touch with them by telephone as often as possible. We were moving down to Anal's old stomping ground; to the friends with whom he had visited prostitutes in Bangkok; brothels in Paris; threesomes in a bed with two blondes; 'F*ck 'em and Chuck 'em' girls...his best man had given the speech of a lifetime at our wedding...the video recollection is a real 'Before and After' it starts, I am happy, glorious, gay and the end, my brow is furrowed, worn; my face is pale and I return from heaving my guts up in the toilet with vomit smeared down my silk wedding dress...It was during that speech that I learned about the whores. Such taste. Thank you, G...

I dreaded that move, but determined to throw myself into everything, which is my leveller whenever a move is anticipated. We found a beautiful 1930s semi-detached, shifted our furniture in and attempted to start anew. We were living in a very small town. I discovered, from my forays into baby groups and health centres, that few people made friends as all their relatives were on their door step. I was an outsider and they weren't interested.

In desperation, I placed an ad into a local paper, asking to meet like-minded people with young children for days out, coffees, chats, walks in the park etc. I got three responses, by letter. The first was utterly bonkers - a chap who thought my words were euphemisms for rampant sex. The second was a young lad who worked at a second hand car sales garage, never married, no children but who wanted to try 'Out of Body Experiences' with me; and the third was a girl with two children, a third on the way, all to different fathers, who wanted to train as a midwife.

We met up in the park. She bore tattoos all over her knuckles; she swore at her children, and she laid a blanket out on the grass, smeared with excrement. Rosemary crawled right through it...I tried my damnedest to talk to her, but she was monosyllabic and when the time came to take Rosemary home for her evening meal, the relief poured from me...When Anal got home from work, having had a 'few sherberts' in Bath with his chums, I was beside myself with perceived failure.

I felt virginal, frigid and childish next to those tales which were regaled amongst the lads and I have to admit, much to my shame now, that I set out to surpass any paid whore. And I know that I undermined myself in some ways: allowed myself a lot of subjugation, humiliation, pain and disrespect.

All along, I used to inform my mother that my married life was marvellous: every aspect of it; particularly between the sheets...she would rejoinder that sex was disgusting, that she had never enjoyed a moment of it and that all it brought was humiliation to the woman. I goaded her, gleefully, with how much fun I had. But I did lie, profusely, because there was never one iota of love in our 'love-making' be perfectly frank, I cannot remember one single episode during our sessions where Anal actually kissed me...maybe he did, but it must have been so rarely that it has been long-forgotten.

I can also recall, vividly, two years ago, telling my mother exactly how many men I had slept with. She thought it was three. I was thrilled to spit at her: Nope! Many More Than That...

Why did I feel that this form of cheapening myself was one-upmanship? She lied to me and told me that she had never had sex before marriage, and when I did, after the initial understanding and warnings, I was later told that God would not want me as I was sullied goods: that no other man would ever want me as they demanded virgins on their wedding nights. To be a virgin, to me, was something elusive, ethereal, God-like and sacrosanct - and I had blown it at the age of 15. So, I was dirty...and therefore, I decided to go hell for leather having one-night stands, screwing around whenever I felt like it. At the time, I didn't once feel cheap or dirty: I always felt as though I was getting what I wanted as I enjoyed sex...most of the time it was utter rubbish, admittedly, but so often, I slept with somebody in order to stick two fingers up at my ex and most of all, my mother.

My attitude has changed out of all recognition now. My parents frown and condemn my union with Ian. It makes me balk that rather than get to know this lovely man who shares mine and my daughters' lives, they would rather cock their snooks and befriend the man who beat me, belittled me, drove me towards insanity, cheated on me, and walked out on me. They are sick and, returning to that book, becoming more aware has riven me with the desire for revenge - something I never really considered before.

On Christmas Day, after they had called the girls at the ex's house, Rosemary and Bethan told me how they had said how 'touched' they were to receive a card from them. Ha! The ex had forced them to write one because they had treated him to a pub meal a couple of weekends ago...that blog was in process and then left...maybe I need to finish it so I can tell you how I felt when I saw that bitch for the first time in 18 months, purely by accident?

I do want revenge at the moment. I want to regain 38 years of wasted, angst and guilt-ridden feelings. I want to reclaim my life as I feel as though so much time has been lost. I can only keep on reading, assimilating, accepting and one day, come to terms with it all.

When I recognise things like this, it makes me cold; I lack the desire to eat at all - not even to binge; I withdraw into myself and I introspect. I also become moody, aggressive and bad-tempered. And Ian has borne the brunt of this on many an occasion. I attempt to talk about my feelings, but sometimes, it is hard to vocalise them - I find it far easier to write them out.

I ate well on Christmas Day - I forced myself to be 'normal' and we started off with a home-made spiced mackerel paté on toast with Buck's Fizz. At lunchtime, with us clearing off to collect the girls from their father's house, and having gone for a lovely walk to blow the cobwebs off, we snacked. Our evening meal contained salmon fillets, marinated in sherry, spices, lemon & lime, soy and balsamic together with steamed vegetables. I refused to weigh myself the next day. Nor did I overdo the laxatives.

I got on the scales this morning and found that I had lost 4lbs. Ian says I look thinner than normal. I am full of cold and heading towards a chest infection by the sound of my wheezing. Food is the last thing on my mind; bingeing is even further away. The violence required to throw up a cal-fest is not something I have the energy for, so I would rather nibble peacefully, or go without.

I still want to be a size 8 by the end of January. I no longer wish to entertain size 6s...


Karen ^..^ said...

This post left me breathless. Most of them do, but it seems that you are on your way to true understanding of what your horrible parents are all about. Yes, they were completely unfit, and even though your brother and you are not on good terms (something you can thank your parents for) I'm sure he would agree that they were horribly unfit. To want revenge is normal. I have to say I read with some amusement your desire to shock your mother, who is the hypocrite to end all hypocrites.

It is obvious that she has projected all of her shortcomings onto you, she has tried to mold you into a skewed version of herself, and it should be with joy that you realize that she FAILED MISERABLY. Yay!!! You ARE better than her. You ARE better than your father. That you have such struggles with your well being is down to the fact that they are utter fucking failures as decent human beings, and as parents. They are the most spiteful, hateful, venomous creatures on this planet, and to wish revenge on them is totally normal.

Try to devise a way where it is not destructive, but is effective. I know that is easier said than done, but you are walking a very thin tightrope here. Your girls are involved, unfortunately. Anal has seen to that, for whatever twisted reason. He's just like them. You always hear that you marry your parents, and he is as hateful as they are. YOU AREN'T. You are struggling mightily with your very life, your existence, and your health. Every day you face this monster, a monster that they created. I understand this because I face one too. I just don't dare pour it out on a public blog because it is used against me relentlessly.

Annie, I see improvement in you. I see your fighting spirit. More than anything I wish we could talk. We are so much in sympathy with our outlooks on life.

Thank God you have Ian. Thank God you fought for and have your beautiful girls. Those are gifts that you will have for life. Fuck the ones that want to take the pleasure of that away from you. They aren't worth it. let them wallow in their hatred and misery. They deserve that. Finding a way to go on and not let it taint you any further is the trick to it all.

I'm sorry I haven't been around much, and I do owe you an email. I've been having a few struggles of my own lately, and have been trying to sort things out in my own head. I haven't been much use to anyone these days, and for that I am sorry. Life is a precarious balance, and I think mine has been out of balance for a while, and I am in recovery mode. Things are getting better, though.

Remember you have good friends who truly love and care for you, Annie.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, it sounds as if it were quite peaceful and pleasant. I hope you are feeling better very soon, and get some rest and relaxation.

I'll be writing soon. Love to you all.

Anna said...

omg and I thought my mother was the pits.

I have no words right now, but thank you for sharing your story. That must have been hard and my ♥ goes out to you.

Bob J said...

Reading that book sounds like a transcendent experience, and I am glad you have come upon it. Books like that can help us step back and take a different look at things, and help us validate our own experiences. Thank goodness such books are becoming available !

It's hard to believe that your mother could ever come up with the sort of reflective feelings or emotionally attuned responses that could ever make you feel safe in her presence. I get the feeling that those ways of being and thinking will simply never be a part of her makeup.

So....where does that leave you ?

Abi said...

I'm struggling with Christmas induced exhaustion but.... my mother and your mother, well, they could form a Vitriolics Anonymous club!

As Bob says... after discovering it's not your fault, and she is not going to change.... what do you feel you want to do?

I still don't know. I had a very similar disowning which was broken by the birth of Theo. Very similar indeed to yours.... and knowing now as I do that she seriously buggered up well... me... I don't know. I tried living pretending they didn't exist (easier for me than some people, as they live in Yorkshire) but I found the guilt was too much... so I'm stuck playing happy families.

It's a tough situation Annie ... the most empowering and important bit I think is truly accepting it wasn't your fault xxxx

PS We have much in common.... and we both want to be size 8's teehee... coming at it from different angles though! I thought of you on Christmas day (um, weird I know, sorry) when I saw Christmas dinner all served I hoped you'd be enjoying yours too... and not finding it a horribly uncomfortable experience x

Mars said...

I suppose it's good to get hold of that book. Sometimes you come across certain things and words which then give you clarity and allow you to see things much better.

Hope you had a great Xmas and a very Happy New Year :)


Linda and her Twaddle said...

Revenge is a natural reaction when you are aware of how wrongly a person has treated you. But it is unlikely that will ease the pain for you. Revenge is a way to feed the angry ego and once you go down that track you will never feel satisfaction. Because your mother is actually incapable of having any internal reflection and thus some sort of remorse, any anger you direct towards her will be returned tenfold.

It would be interesting to see if she would ever some with you to a therapy session.

They say that women often marry men like their father. I wonder if, in marrying Anal, you did not actually marry someone like your mother. A person in denial, cruel and incapable of a normal level of intimacy.

Hopefully, one day, you will be able to remove yourself completely from your parents and enjoy your life. Whilst it would be wonderful to have some sort of explaination from them as to "why?" I think that would be unlikely.

You have really been astonishingly brave and determined to overcome a great deal. So, somewhere along the line, your parents must have instilled something quite determined in you. Most people would just lay down and die, so to speak, under these circumstances.

hey.hana said...

The others said it all...

But thanks for putting it all into perspective for me. I thought my mother was bad, but at least she tries and it's just her ((and my)) neuroses that affect things...

Thanks for sharing all this.

xo Hana

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful A. Really well written, and it does explain a lot. Join me in a quest for size 8's.

Once someone told me that "To regret is to let someone live rent free in your head", why let them, when you are clearly worth so much more? Letting go is not easy, but you free yourself in the process. You deserve to be free Annie.

Lola x

MelissaS said...

heartbreaking. you are such a lovely, sensitive woman. i agree with Linda that revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold. it gets no one anywhere. and it keeps you too involved with your parents. perhaps it's better making your parents as little a focus as can be. i can't imagine they're anything but hindering to your ED. AND the first thing you need to do, in my opinion, is take care of the issues that are destructing you and your body. can you focus on the people who do "get" it and get reinforcement from them? i know it's awful to feel estranged from your parents. trust me, i know. but sometimes we have to separate and heal. i hope this doesn't sound like psychobabble. i DO think you need to focus on YOU.

Tiger said...

What shocks me the most (though, much of this post is, to say the least, upsetting) is that your mother didn't want you to call her when your baby was born. I'm 19, and couldn't imagine my mother not wanting to know immediately when any baby I ever have is born.
On another note--I really enjoy your blog! You do a great job conveying your struggles so that others can really understand.

Gaining Back My Life said...

This was a very saddening post to read. No words can really supplement what you said, except I hope that you can somehow appreciate and love who you are today, because you are beautiful.

Annie T said...

Karen: Thank you for saying that I am better than her. That means a lot. I guess, deep down, some part of me always looks at the fact that both of her children don't want to know her, and surely we can't both be at fault? Particularly as, personality-wise, we are polar opposites. What is the common denominator? Well, it is our parents.

I have thought long and hard about your statement that we often marry our parents. You said it some time ago, previously. It resonated with me, to be honest. And I think you are correct. I did substitute my mother by marrying Anal - I just didn't see it at the time as he offered me a freedom of sorts: living abroad; living as a semi-adult; being allowed to do what I wanted to do - even down to turning on the heating when I was cold...but it had its price.

Improvement in me has its fits and starts. But there is a New Year around the corner.

And I wish you much peace and happiness for it, too. xx

Anna: Our mothers/fathers/siblings/partners can all seem the worst in the world at times. What is my demon is not necessarily yours and vice versa. It's just such a crying shame that many of us DO have to suffer certain things. Thank you for your visit, sweetheart.

Bob: Yes, thank God for enlightening books - I also repurchased My Mother, My Self. A book which helped me immensely during the very first lengthy silence when I was pregnant with Rosemary.

You ask, Where does it leave me? I have thought long and hard as to how to answer this. Sometimes I feel as though I give you very wishy-washy responses to your perceptive questions.

This time, there is no vagueness. I know what I have to do. I have to draw a line; sever the ties; break the stronghold, once and for all. I have a post about to be published which may explain things more, as there was a turning point at that time. It is exceptionally painful, coming to that realisation, somewhat liberating, but is hurting daily. It hurts, probably, because that realisation is now so very, very raw. I have probably 'played' at realisation previously, but it has hit me, smack in the jaw now...

Shifts in thinking; armour-development; and new approaches are what are called for. Hard work, basically, and determination. Thankfully, I have never been scared of graft, and my determination rarely lets me down...

Abi: I got the impression from your comments and your posts that your mother was also bent out of shape. Trouble is, whether she is in Yorkshire or The Yemen, she can still infiltrate your thoughts...

I must admit that my first 18 months of living in Oman wherein we were not allowed to invite guests to stay due to our residency status, the prohibitive costs of phone calls, and my busy-ness settling in, detached me from her greatly...I can quite honestly say that those 18 months were the most liberating of my life.

I don't know how you feel towards your mother, but I can say categorically, that I cannot wait for mine to die. Then my shackles may be lifted and broken. I am going to try to live from hereon in, but by God, until she is wiped off this earth, she is always there.

If that comes across as evil and wicked, I apologise for the offence, but I cannot apologise for the depth of my hatred.

Thank you for thinking of me on Christmas Day - that was so kind of you. It was, actually, a quiet, peaceful kind of day, food-wise...Had I not been heaving up with this dreadful cold, I may have been inclined to abuse and binge, but as it stood, I was so weary, I could hardly think of simply eating OTT, let alone having a cal-fest.

Happy Christmas to you and your family, Abi xx

Mars: From reading your blog (and I know I am useless at commenting on it, but I DO read it, diligently!) perhaps this is a book which may help you, too? It's on Amazon and came to me within one week. I'd also recommend 'My Mother, My Self' by Nancy Friday to you...

Happy Christmas, my mate!

Linda: I personally think you are wasted as an accountant/book-keeper. You have a very perceptive way about you which never ceases to make me take a step backwards and analyse (for the good).

Dead right: What good would revenge be? Revenge can only work if the recipient actually cares. And I know she doesn't. And that is just my silly fantasy - that she does...

I told Ian my fantasy today - that she came back begging for my forgiveness and I slammed back at her, No, F*ck You! It will never happen, and so, as per my response to Bob, I have to seek new ways to deal with this.

My mother told me resolutely that she would never come to counselling with me as there was 'nothing wrong' with you are also right on that score, too...

Hana: As I said to Anna, we all see our significant others as having a dramatic effect. Bizarrely, as I told my husband this morning, I was surprised at the passion in some of these comments, particularly regarding the birth of Rosemary.

Thing is, I have lived with that for 14 years and become inured to it. It's second nature to remember it and dismiss it. When I write it out, people react with shock and that shocks me, in turn. Perhaps I have been far too accommodating?

Lola: Living rent free is a term I am very familiar with - I use it often myself and you are dead right. She doesn't pay me any rent, and the acts which have gone on before don't, either. It's all a big matter of shift and trying.

I have to do this, for all of our sanities in this household.

Melissa: I know you empathise and understand where I am coming from. Not sure if I agree with the statement lauding me, but I'll accept it, because I could do with some emotional stroking at the moment!!

It didn't sound like psychobabble. It sounded common sense - and I love you for it!

Tiger: Thank you for your visit and comment - it is so appreciated. Yes, not being able to inform your mother of your new baby is hard - but not everyone has those conditions imposed and I surrendered to them way too easily, more fool me.

I am glad you enjoy the blog, although the word 'enjoy' always makes me feel so bloody guilty. But if it helps, in any way, so be it...take care xx

Gaining Back: Thank you for your beautiful comment. Thank you very much. So few, but simple words really cut it with me.

It can be beaten, can't it? We can all get over it, one way or another.

It just takes massive amounts of work, patience and tolerance.

I hope that we can all find that in one way, shape or form.

Love to all of you, my friends. You have all kept me going at times, even when things in my home were getting so rough. Just a kind word and a drop of understanding, despite your not knowing me and my foul tempers and deceit, lies and blanketing tactics makes all the difference.

The only thing I wish for, for myself, personally this New Year, is to feel unconditionally loved, wanted and needed. And it is within my power to allow that to happen as it is there for the taking.

It's just about changing a lifetime of an oppositional thought process.


Anonymous said...

You can do it Annie, if you can write as analytically and beautifully as this you are already twice the person that you believe yourself to be.

Lola x

Abi said...

Oh, yes, the wishing for her death!! I know it very, very well..

The thing that scares me is my mum hated her mum, and wanted her to die too... when she finally did and my Aunt called to tell her the first thing my mum did after she put the phone down was say 'I'm free.'.... but then the guilt ate her up and she spiralled into drinking even more than she previously was.... and it scares me to think that, well, your mum can be in Yorkshire, Russia, or dead...but they STILL infiltrate your thoughts. Not good.
I think I will have to blog about mine when I can find adequate words to do so...

*sending virtual hugs and hair growing vibes*

Keli said...

I'm sorry to read of all the sadness your mother has caused you. It seems she's done everything in her power (unknowingly or otherwise) to punish you for her own failings. I admire your courage and so glad to hear your book was helpful to you. Keep your chin up, my dear!
I read a quote from Lucille Ball that made me think of you: "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."
You can do it.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Annie. Hope you find some peace in 2009.

Lola x