Interacting with your mother, once outside the nest (21 April 2009)
Good on you for having the strength to move 9000 kms away. Says that you got enough nurturance from her to surrect sufficient self-respect, self-will, to do what you had to do to become independent. My mom had/has all kinds of psychosomatic stuff she tries to use as a tool to manage the rest of us, extend her control OVER us -- a change in tactics, now that adulthood has brought with it a change in terms. It means she feels empowered and in control, but also kind of lonely: it gives birth to passive-aggressive but very real anger, in those that end up tending to her. I saw what was happening, and have none of it. I let her know that, one, I won't be bullied, and two, that the kind of relationship she most wants -- one of real respect, substantial love, is available to her, but only if we interact on wholly different terms than we did during my teen years. It kind of works. This said, I'm moving across the country, possibly in part, because I sense that, like you, I will feel more independent, empowered, to pursue my own interests (I got my first girlfriend, after-all, only when I first moved cities, when I went to college) when a continent divides us. Saw her last week. It was a good meet-up, a lot of mutual tending to and respect. But she still ended by directing me as to how I could attend to her better. I told her I would listen to her requests, but also that the bulk of my adolescence seemed all about attending to and appeasing her moods, adjusting to her career needs, so I wouldn't be right-ready to do so. There is still in me some fear that if I make ANY adjustments, I might just give-up the ship. Wish this wasn't the case, but it is.
Obviously I hope you see yourself as valuable enough that you can end up managing your guilt. My mom left her parents behind when she moved from Australia to Canada, and I don't think she ever stopped feeling guilty for doing this, of feeling the need to convince herself it was a move born of necessity, rather than of dreams. But with this move came her enfranchisement, and good on her for refusing to allow the chance of a lifetime to slip away.
Finally, don't under-estimate the changes that can accrue when someone finally realizes there is NO chance you'll capitulate. When I found the strength to live my own life, my mom became more willing to venture outside her comfort zones. And with this came some sense that the best in our relationship is yet to come. Be better than nice, spawn more than hope, but, regardless, I'm onto my own life.
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re: When I see her by Skype, I feel like crying when I see how physically deteriorated she is.
Deadly. Can totally relate.
One thing about going back home for awhile is that it can at least confirm that the "problem" lies there. Remember reading stories about soldiers turning home from war, and thinking of how, when they were described as being so unable to get the war out of them and fit back in, that there was far more wish in this than there was a hint of reality: sorry, no soldier's experience can displace the power in the nursery. Maybe it is possible to go back home and remain empowered, but this may take more than a ready willingness/ability to offend (I'm thinking Rachel Getting Married right now), distance oneself from others' sensitivities: it may require seeing yourself as advance guard of some much larger, up-and-coming social movement: You're the Michael Stivik to the rest of the family's, Archie Bunker.
Thanks for the well wishing : )
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