Very Black Friday

Listen, even though I’m living with mental illness, I’m trying to improve, millimeter by millimeter.  I’m trying to carve out a modest existence.  I get dressed every day.  I keep myself clean.  I take my medicine.  I exercise.  I have a service dog who makes sure, by her very existence, that I actually get out of bed to take care of her needs, and that I go on living, because she loves me so, and because I love her so.  I am a creature that lives only because of love.

It might seem silly that I felt blindsided by the family Thanksgiving celebrations,  the ones I was not invited to.  Why should that come as a surprise?  It’s been clear that my mother has recruited her family in her retaliation campaign.  

Yes, I know it’s textbook Narc reprisal.  I have been working to increase the distance to one that’s tolerable for me.  I stopped ending phone conversations with “I love you,” because I don’t.  I don’t hug her, because her touch is abhorrent.

Her style is “love me or fear me.”  I expected widespread destruction.  She’s been working on polarizing the extended family for some years.  And she loves to try to “Cinderella” me, by, for instance, tricking me into taking care of her cats while she goes on vacation with my cousins.  I stopped that.

I do still keep in touch with my mother.  I’m trying to help her find a way to move into appropriate housing.  She’ll be 90 soon, and the house she and my late father lived in for most of their married lives is not a good place for a very elderly person.  She’s very willing to accept my help, because, you know, “I owe her.”

But she is just now on a scorched-earth campaign of fiery vengeance, so instead of returning my calls she sent me a text on Wednesday, announcing that the entire surviving M__ family would be gathering around the Turkey Table…”well, almost!”  She added, just to make sure I got it.

Nice one, Mom.  Hope it brightened up your holiday!

Last year’s Turkey Day was also a bust.  Several years ago, when my dad was still living, I convinced my son that it really wasn’t fair that he spent ALL of the holidays with his father’s family.  Couldn’t he come to his grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving?  

Ugh, that even sounds bad when I read it, but I can’t whitewash it.  This is my blog, for heaven’s sake!  I’m supposed to be brutally honest, and so I shall be.

The first couple of years were pretty good.  He even used a picture of the two of us furiously cooking together as his Facebook profile picture!  And he got to know some of his cousins on my side.   And it was good for him to be with his grandpa, even though the latter, who I nicknamed “The Doormouse,” retreated into slumber after greeting the guests, and stayed there until it was safe to wake up.  A good strategy!

The downside was that he also got to witness my mother “disciplining” me for one or another perceived outrage.  Name-calling, belittling, mockery, silent treatment…oh, she loves to show off!   I was mortified, and unable to just shake it off, I told him how upset I was that she was doing this in front of him.  Another nail in my coffin, all of that.

When my father died, Thanksgiving broke up.  My mother’s absolute savagery toward my father in his last years acted as an absolute repellant!   The moment he died, I wanted to be out of there.  Nothing more to bind me!

Thanksgiving 2014 arrived just three weeks after my father’s death.  I spent it with my son, his girlfriend, and a swirling cloud of their friends, who dropped in for eats and smokes and beers.  I lay on the couch in a stupor of grief and allowed myself to be fed and cared for.  It was very much needed and appreciated.  

Then that woman exited his life.  Things might have been different had she stayed.  Who knows?

T.G. ’15 arrived.  Again, I didn’t want to be around my mother.  I tried to interest my son in inviting people for a potluck, or any sort of a gathering, at his house.   Or perhaps we could go to his friends who were making dinner?  No, he wanted to dine together, the two of us, alone.  I thought that was very strange, but if that’s what he wanted….

I went.  He was furious, and fed me his roast duck, and I slept in my camper in his parking lot.  The next morning he insisted I leave.  I felt as if I had been yanked in and beaten.  And I had been!  I don’t know why.

I called him last week.  He knows I’m in Arizona, no danger of my intruding on his East Coast safety zone.  He texted me, “I’m crazy busy.  Can we talk next week?”  Which is, of course, this week.

But no life-sign from him this week.  Not even a “Happy Thanksgiving!” text.  And that generally means he’s with his dad.  That is perfectly fine.  I don’t expect him to keep up with me.  He’s made it very clear that he’s not interested in sharing any part of my life, unless it’s the part where I give him money.  He doesn’t have to go all silent in order to avoid telling me that he’s reestablished his status quo, enjoying all of his holidays with his father.

What I can’t figure out is exactly why my son is so deeply angry with me.  I wish I could see and experience things through his eyes, his mind, his heart.  What do I do that so profoundly triggers him?

On the other hand, he has always made sure to get his way.  He is the master of the Battle of Wills game.  I was often the villain, because I refused to let his terrorist tactics ruin plans for hiking, skiing, swimming, horseback riding, barbecues, camping, dancing, and anything else that might potentially be spoiled by a child refusing to participate, scowling, stubbing up/going silent, and generally attempting to disrupt any fun that might be brewing.   Refusal to enjoy life!  And determined to take me down with him.  I refused.  I still refuse!  

In essence, I have spent half my life trying to teach my son how to enjoy life, and he has spent all of his resisting me.  Well, now he’s an adult, with a PhD even, and just as I shun my mother and her family shuns me, my own son and his extended family shun me.   Will this circle be unbroken?  God in heaven, how I’ve tried to break it!  But it keeps rebuilding itself: the hoop snake, with its tail in its mouth, spreading poison from one generation to the next.  Dare I hope it stops, one way or another, with his?

It all seems like a surreal mistake.  My mother raised me by threats and fear, violence and withholding.  I tried very hard to use only positive reinforcement (love and praise), but the child I got gave me a fortnight of newborn bliss, then erupted into rage-and-resistance personified.  How can a baby be enraged practically from birth?  I loved him so completely.  

The truth is, I don’t know what it’s like to live with me.  Consider the evidence!  Not so good.

Then what shall I do about this?  This life.  When I look into the future, I see muddy brown dust.

My world is spinning down.  It’s consolidating into a dense blackness.  I’m too dulled out to even feel, let alone care.  

I tried to get drunk yesterday, in order to be fully and righteously dysfunctional.  But I forgot about my drink and instead knocked it over into my bed.  I have never got the hang of drinking.  Just as well–wouldn’t want to add that to the list.  But now I’m sounding maudlin.  Must stop.

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39 Comments

  1. geez, I am so sorry you spent Thanksgiving alone. Sending you hugs

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  2. Thats sad – Maybe you could start your own tradition?? ❀

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    • I did have a good one when my body worked better. I used to work in the kitchens of homeless shelters. That was very satisfying. Now I can’t carry much or do much with my hands, so that’s off the list. You are totally right. I have to plan for next year so I won’t get wiped out again.

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      • I like that … I used to do something similar with my kids when they were little; but for Christmas … I always thought Christmas was way to self indulgent πŸ˜‰ Letting them see what others lived like, i thought, would help them appreciate what they had. But it didn’t, till years later, when they had their own kids πŸ™‚ … Sorry you have pain … that makes holidays crap! … a new Miss Laura Tradition sounds like the go … something spectacular … just for You πŸ™‚

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        • I tried to get my son to come work for the homeless, but he wouldn’t do it as a child (refused to get out of the car, preferred to sit there for hours while I worked). Now he’s grown, he’s not the volunteer type…I did try, anyway. I think he might be too selfish to have a wife and kids 😦

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          • My youngest was similar … she sulked through most of it. I made her do it anyway. Now she has a little girl that is way more stubborn than her LOL Life has a way of working out the kinks πŸ˜‰

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  3. People are messy. Especially family, because you expect them to be there for you no matter what. You expect them to love you no matter what. I don’t know how often that really happens, but dashed expectations can be brutal.

    Attachments are messy. Seems like one side is always giving and giving and the other side just takes and takes. I like my relationships to be even, but that’s hard to do. Instead, I decided to only give when I expect nothing in return. That doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed when my gestures of goodwill and affection are ignored, but at least I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do.

    I like trying to understand people. It’s interesting because most people are interesting. What is it that compels people to act the way they do? It’s a puzzle, but that doesn’t mean you will always find answers. I don’t think I’ll ever understand my son, but that’s on him, too. He made it to adulthood in one piece, thank you very much. Now he has to make his own choices.

    We’re not perfect, but we’re not monsters. Mothers are people, too. And people are messy. πŸ™‚

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  4. Families are complicated. We want what we see, what we hear about, but it doesn’t happen in my life.
    I’ve been alone, or just with one other many times. It gets to you, especially when you feel like your family leaves you out.
    My sister has been hosting TD for years, since my mother died. I’m not welcome. My father always went there, she has the grand kid and great grands. My father died this summer and she texted me last v week about how hard it will be to not have him atvher v table for the holidays. I said it’s probably a good thing for me I don’t have that to miss, the holidays are always kind of lonely. She didn’t say anything back.
    Really? What did she expect?
    Yesterday she sent me a Happy TD text. I didn’t return it. Well, I was just too busy, you know. πŸ™‚
    Even if we don’t want to go it hurts not to be invited.

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    • Yes….

      What an awful situation. Now that your parents are gone, does that open up a place at her table?? Yes, you certainly have better things to do.

      I am so sorry you’ve had this pain.

      Reply
      • No, there’s not a place for me at the table. Her daughter sees to that. Very long story. I’m bipolar, I work hard at maintaining my stabilization. There’s a lot of denial going on elsewhere in the family.
        I know I’d rather not be there, it’s just the thought that I’m snubbed. I know I’m a good person, yet I’m the one snubbed. That hurts.
        I’m sure you understand.

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        • How well I understand. I know I make neurotypicals uncomfortable. That’s a large part of what isolates us neurodiverse people. Either they simply don’t invite us, or we end up not going because we feel so awkward.

          It would be so much better if they at least invited us, make the welcoming gesture, without sarcasm….

          Isolation is killing. I’m very sad that you also experience the cruelty of family that are more concerned with their own good times than with our well-being.

          Reply
  5. Oh Laura this breaks my heart for you to have been alone on Thanksgiving. Maybe next year you can go out to eat with a homeless person, instead of working hard serving bunches of them. I know you don’t feel well enough to do that anymore, or spend it with a friend. Don’t let them hurt you again, let mom know you have plans anyway next year. I hope you feel better sweetie, all of us here think you are the Best!!!!

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  6. I think making your own tradition is the way to go. Try not to focus on the people that are causing the pain. 😣
    If it wasn’t so blasted cold up here, you’d certainly be welcome here!

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  7. Holidays ae not for me. I don’t give a fig about any of the them and I actually like being alone. don’t have the energy to cook for the past 10 years. My two kids go to their friends and that’s fine with me. I just enjoy the quiet of the day, rest or read and cook a simple meal. Thursday, I made chicken soup and took some hot soup (in a container) in an insulated bag for my sis to eat for supper(at her care home) We ate soup in her room and for dessert we ate thin slices of Fuji apple and she drank milk and I drank bottled water. My sis has been divorced for many years and has no kids.

    Holidays are sad times for me and I don’t really get a charge from family interaction. Our family is small anyhow.

    Dr. Laura make major holidays your own special day and say to hell with all the rest. If you are unappreciated by your son and your mother make no contact with them and don’t answer the phone. You’ll feel better by doting on your dog and doing things that make you happy.

    Sending you warm thoughts,
    Yvonne

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    • Bless you, Yvonne. It’s so good that you carried soup to your sis! I know both of you were brighter, having homemade chicken soup together. One of the limitations of my lifestyle is that I can only carry the minimum of cooking stuff. I miss my pressure cooker most! I like to make chicken soup out of a whole chicken, making a rich stock in the pressure cooker, then finishing the soup (in former fat years, cooking all the goodie out of chicken and veggies, straining, and finishing with a second chicken and new veggies! Now I use just the one chicken, not cooked quite to death). No room for a pressure cooker, but if I start missing it on a daily basis I’ll get a new one for the winter! Even Tucson is chilly, for Tucson, which is good since I’m here for a few more weeks anyway.

      I’ll take your suggestions to heart. Peace is what I need, not schemes and drama.

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      • Jut use a large stew pot and do a few pieces. Chicken soup is so good and good for you. I braise onion. carrot and celery in a bit of olive oil and also brown the chicken pieces in olive oil before adding to the cooked brown rice. I have made it similar to yours in the past but it’s quicker for me the other way.

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        • Well, I don’t have room for a large anything (The Biggess Doggess is the largest thing, and she barely fits!), so when I absolutely must have soup, I use my tiny slow cooker. Before I left my barn in NC I used a food dryer and vacuum sealer to create tubes filled with dried soup veggies. Thus I can throw the contents of a packet (onions, leeks, carrots, chard, parsley) in the water with whatever pieces of chicken I can cram in, and let it simmer for a day….I’m not so good at planning these days, and the nearest source of decent chicken is at least a half-hour drive in the RV, so I will need to make a solid plan for this one! You’ve inspired me ❀

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          • I’m glad I inspired you as well as my self to keep making it for my sis and for myself. I had totally gotten away from soup and then my sis got and URI that has hung on with oarseness and a cough. So help, she seemed much better today. Hot soup opens up the bronchials (I think) and she did lots of coughing after eating the soup. This PM she coughed only a bit.

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  8. laura, i feel much the same way. i have been estranged from my own mother almost 9 years and now my daughter is estranged from me as well. i too wonder what it is i do that causes her to feel so strongly against me. we had such a wonderful relationship and growing up with her was the same. i never saw this coming. instead of TG with my one and only friend here in phx i attended a funeral of one of my 2 remaining cousins with whom i am close. like you, i don’t know what it’s like to live with me. maybe if i did, i could fix things.

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    • Oh dear, that’s awful, to be marginalized by your family and then lose your cousin, with whom you were close, “on the day.” How are you doing? Are you OK?

      I hope for one of two things:

      1. To wake up and find it’s all been a nightmare, and I’m now the fairly functional person I was prior to 1970;

      2. Or at least get the back story on this twisted backwards fairy tale

      I’ve landed in Tucson, did you know that? A very strange place. Not my sort of scene at all, but as I don’t know Southern AZ, I guess it’s a good jumping-off place.

      As much as it kills me to think, I’m realizing that my son’s manipulative tactics are carbon-copy my mother. How did that happen???

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      • What I meant to say is: perhaps it’s not something WE did??? Perhaps it’s THEM. We tend to blame ourselves for everything bad that happens, but you know, these are adults (I know your daughter is young, but she can VOTE, therefore she is presumed to be capable of making rational choices). It must be even more heartbreaking for you, if you had a good time with your daughter when she was growing up. My son has always been oppositional, even as a tiny baby, so although this is tragic it’s not unexpected…but you are devastated, I know, and I’m so incredibly sorry. I’d love to sit down with your daughter and find out WHY.

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  9. I have no PHd and I am not the brightest bulb in Earth’s package, I wish that I could say that I knew how to help you ma’am but I am not at all sure that I do. All I can do is to pray for your happiness. I grew up in a house with a alcoholic hate filled Dad. I married a woman for 18 years that was nothing but hate filled toward me the whole time. When I wasn’t looking I bumped into a lady with a 6 yr old special needs son. We have been married 17 years and I am very happily married. The son hated me for about the first 10 years but now at 23 he has turned into a wonderful loving person. Life can change for the better but we do need to draw a line between us and the ones who hate us and just tell them they are welcome back when they have grownup and can act like a caring adult. When it really is their fault, after you have given all you have and they are still hate filled, you have to just walk away from them before they kill your body and Soul.

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  10. I’m sending you an encouraging blog hug…sounds corny…but it made me smile to write it…and I pray that everything large and small that has caused you pain becomes diminished in emotional weight, and that all that will burden you in future days will be how to share all the love and joy you have to give.

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  11. Oh, bless you! I can’t know the whole story but I do have regular contact with someone who suffers from bipolar and I know it’s no fun. Wish you well. πŸ™‚

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  12. Thinking of you.. just keep reminding yourself of how strong you are and good things will eventually happen for you. Karma- if you keep trying, eventually the universe will reward that. I really believe this. Take care.

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  13. If it’s any consolation (of course it’s not) I am a terrible drinker too. Very low tolerance for and I hate the taste. I do enjoy the result (passing out)!

    I’m sorry you have this relationship with your mother and son… 😦 Us online bloggers can be your pseudo family!

    Reply

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