There but Not Here 

There are some seriously huge shifts happening in my life right now. Big things, or at least things that feel big even if they don’t sound big when I write them out. One would think that these shifts would make things more clear to me, when instead all they do is make things more muddled and mixed together. 

The mom stuff that has been coming up since around Mother’s Day is unfortunately still very much here. It’s not going away anytime soon. It seems the only way out is through the pain and grief. I have to find a way to move through the pain of the hard truth that real me, authentic me, isn’t good enough for my mom and never was. It’s why I went to such lengths to be perfect. It’s why I never could tell her or show her my true self. My mother doesn’t love me, she can’t accept me or see me. She loves Ms. Perfect. 

There is this giant ache inside me, an empty space that can’t seem to be filled lately. It’s a hole that was created when I realized real me isn’t good enough for mother. I’m not super close with my little brother, but we had a good talk (via text) this past week. We discussed how mom plays with our kids the same way she played with us. She would play board games, that had structure and rules. She would color, do paint by numbers. She would build Legos if they were a full set that had the directions. She rode bikes, went for walks, took us sledding and skiing. She kissed us good night, said “I love you’s” and hugged us good-bye. She did things with us, which makes it all the more confusing. Its not as if she was just completely gone, or wrapped up in herself. She simply needed everything to be very structured. There was (still is) a wall around her that even her children couldn’t penetrate. There was no such thing as free play with her. 

“No moments of connection at all this weekend?” Bea is surprised that I spent the whole weekend before the Fourth of July with my mother and there was no connection there whatsoever. She came to my home, and I’m still hurt and angry enough that I was able to use good boundaries with her, and simply be myself. (Two notes about this– One, this must be what Bea is talking about when she says anger is telling is something, it is energizing, it helps me set boundaries. And two, even if it was just because I am hurt and angry, I am awful proud of myself. I set boundaries with my mother. I was ME all weekend. I actually looked at her and said ‘well, this is how we do it in my home’ when she got upset that I wasn’t cleaning dishes as I cooked breakfast, and when I left the spilled waffle batter my 13 year old nephew spilled while making waffles until he was done making all the waffles. Then, we cleaned it up together, with me assuring him it was no big deal, not a crisis at all. I was ME!) However, the impact of that, of my mother’s clear disapproval and disappointment is only now beginning to be felt, almost a full week later.  

“No….it’s just…..we were just two grown ups. It wasn’t…..she just….I wasn’t…” I shake my head. I have no words. 

“What about those little inside jokes that families have? Those light hearted moments?” Bea asks. She is searching for something, it seems. Either she doesn’t really get how emotionally dead my mother is (and I don’t think that’s it, because we have laughed about her having the emotional capacity of a cardboard cutout), or she is feeling her way around, trying to see what it is that needs to come out. 

I flinch a bit. I can’t think of any inside jokes my mother has, unless you count her *joking* about me being a drama queen, or telling her *funny* story about how I talked so much, from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed– I truly wouldn’t shut up and I would even follow her into the bathroom to continue talking, I just drained everyone with all that talking. People were grateful for silence when I went to bed. I know I have light hearted jokes with my family now— me, hubby, Kat. We have jokes, we laugh about mishaps and silly things that happened. I can’t think of any right now, but I know we have them, and with them comes this warmth, a comfort, a sense of belonging. 

Bea notices the flinching. “Goofy kind jokes, not mean jokes directed at you. You were a kid, being a kid. Nothing more.” 
I shrug, as if it’s no big deal, but inside I’m glad that she caught it, that she saw the flinch, that she knew why I flinched. 
“Do you have any memories as a kid of cuddling up with your mom, or just being spontaneous? Just being silly, relaxed? What do you and her do now that gives that same sense of connection?” Bea asks. 

I want to scream at her, I want to throw the wooden blocks that are in a box next to me on the floor. I want to walk out. NO. No, I don’t have those memories, there is nothing I can do to feel connected with my mother, unless I want to be perfect again. But she wasn’t not there. She interacted with us, we had a very busy schedule, always going, going, going, doing, doing, doing. But snuggles? Open ended play? Messiness? Curling up in bed in the middle of the day to read a book and that ending in a pillow fight? Creativeness that wasn’t reigned in and structured? It was not to be tolerated. Instead, I shake my head no, slowly and carefully. 

It seems Bea isn’t really here after all, she isn’t really seeing me. She’s not getting it. I can’t be me and be Ms. Perfect. I can only be one or the other. It’s gotten harder and harder for me to have Ms. Perfect running the show. I don’t want to feel fake anymore. I just want to be me; messy, imperfect, talkative, loud, emotional, worrywart, goofy ME. I don’t want to pretend anymore. But by choosing authenticity, I’m not longer on the same side as my mother. She can’t love what she can’t tolerate in herself, she can’t accept or see what she can’t allow to exist in herself, and so, real me is something to despise, to pray for, to fix; she is a cancer that must be excised from Ms. Perfect. 

It hurts. It hurts to realize that had I been myself as a child, I would have been rejected, not accepted. It is painful to realize that any attachment I had with my mother was between her and Ms. Perfect, and that I will never have that connection with her. It hurts that I’m not good enough. It doesn’t matter what I rationally understand, it hurts. This is pain and grief and intense loneliness. It’s unbearable. 
I’m deep in this grief and pain, I’m drowning in it, and Bea is nowhere. She’s somewhere on the surface, not able, or not willing to dive down with me. Her absence has created some giant hurt feelings, and an even more intense alone-ness. I’m hurt because she promised to be with me. And while she’s there, she’s not really here. She told me we had the whole summer, (because there weren’t many breaks planned, just a day here or there to be missed) to work through all the memories and dreams and fear and disgust and shame and horror and hurt that have been bubbling up since Mother’s Day. But she’s not really here after all. 

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9 thoughts on “There but Not Here 

  1. Hi Alice! Lovely to hear your voice again. I’m sorry that things are so painful for you.

    What you are describing at the end of your post about Bea is familiar to me as well. For different reasons, but at the heart of it is that our experience is just so completely and utterly different from that of our therapists and friends that no matter how good their intentions or how much they can understand from a theoretical perspective, they just cannot grasp what it is really like for us. You continually run up against “what, never ???” and “but can’t you just … ?”. But I also think that even if a therapist can’t truly understand what it is like, they can can come close to understanding and be genuinely helpful and supportive by working with you on that issue over time.

    Each time some new thing comes up there is that feeling of alienation and disconnection from your therapist but slowly you get back to a point where they are there and their understanding is ‘good enough’. It sounds as if right now you are at that point of ‘something new’, in seeing and understanding something new about your relationship with your mother, and Bea hasn’t quite caught up with that yet. But from what you’ve written of her in the past, she will. Hang in there 🙂

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    • Thanks. I think some of it is that no one can really live in my head or walk in my shoes for even an hour, so no one can truly ever understand. I suppose the closest anyone gets to this is a mom with a newborn baby, it’s that period of time where the two of you are enclosed in a super special bubble all your own…..I’m not sure I’m wording this right, but I think some of this pain is not really from Bea, it’s from that hole in me my mother left. I didn’t put that together until now, but this might not all be about Bea. I’m going to try to just trust Bea will catch up with me, and that she will once again understand where I am. 💟

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  2. Sirena says:

    I’m sorry for the pain these new realisations bring you and that by simply being your wonderful authentic self alienates your mother. I thought she was in therapy? Did she stop going? Cos it looked for a while like she mght be resolving some things for herself.

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    • She was in therapy, and I trusted and believed she was going to change. She quit going this last August, so almost a year. She claimed that with summer activities and helping with my brother’s wedding she didn’t have time. I think she bumped into something difficult in therapy and instead of facing it, she quit and went right back to her old self. 😞
      Thank you for calling me wonderful. I needed to hear that this morning. 💟

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    • Maybe. I’m on the fence about it all. It’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t feel as if they are here. I’m trying to give Bea the benefit of doubt and trust that she’s here and that some of what I’m feeling is mixed up mom stuff. Ugh. It’s so hard sometimes. I know Bea cares. It’s just hard.

      Liked by 1 person

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