Searching For the Missing Me

I am sitting in the kitchen of my beloved friend R_, who was on the same flight with me when we made Aliyah (emigrated) to Israel in 2007.  We didn’t meet on the plane because he was in such ecstasy at moving to our real home country that he didn’t notice anything around him.  He was in a haze of love and joy.  I met him about four months after our arrival.  He was hanging out laundry on his mirpesset (balcony), and I recognized him from the flight.  His place turned out to be exactly one block from mine, and my seat-mate on that flight happened to live exactly one block from him!  The three of us became the best of friends.  R_ has become my support system and champion in my struggle to free myself from the toxic, strangulating tentacles that have torn me from my real home country and dragged me back to America, which otherwise holds no attraction to me.

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R_’s living room

I had to take a break from my parents and America, because I found myself consumed with rage, which is a very unhealthy emotion.  I developed high blood pressure and heart palpitations, and was having terrible heart pains that woke me out of sleep.  They were so intense that I could not even move to call an ambulance, even had I wanted to, which I didn’t.  I would have been just as happy if a heart attack carried me off, out of the misery of my life there.

So I suddenly announced that I was going to Israel for three weeks, for a break, causing immense consternation on the maternal side of things, and resignation from the Dad side.  I needed a breathing spell, and specifically to breathe the air of the Holy Land, just to be here, even if all I did was to hang out with my friend R_ and walk around the shuk, inhaling and imbibing the sights, sounds, smells, and spirit of the place.

Bride and groom playing in the shuk

Bride and groom playing in the shuk

Practically as soon as I got off the plane my Israeli cell phone started ringing:  “We’re so glad you’re back: now everything feels normal again.”  I have a place, and my place is here.    My family of choice lives here.  I feel surrounded by love here.

R_ and I went yesterday to visit the tomb of the Baba Sali, a holy man who was said to have brought about many miracles in his time.  Here it is customary to visit the tombs of great and wise people (like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Samuel, etc.) to bathe in their energy and pray for whatever needs prayed for.  We don’t pray to the person, for that is idol worship, but instead we pray for the spirit of that holy person to intercede for us in Heaven so that our prayers will be heard.  I had, and still have, a lot to pray for, so we went to the Baba Sali, because I have a special connection with him.

Baba Sali lived in our times, and came from Damascus to Morocco to Israel, where he settled in a tiny village called Netivot, which is located in the Negev desert right on the border with Gaza, just south of Sderot, which is a town that has been rained on with so many thousands of missiles from Gaza that every bus stop has its own bomb shelter.

Why do I feel safe here?  Right now, at this very moment, Russia is funneling terrible weapons into Syria, which in turn is passing them on to Hezbollah (the terrorist arm in Lebanon), Iran is arming Hamas in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, and all of them are fighting among themselves.  It’s a virtual certainty that they will attack Israel at some point.  On Monday and Tuesday this week the air raid sirens went off in every town in the Land, and everyone was supposed to drill taking shelter.  Nobody did, because Israelis are used to being the objects of the aggression of our neighbors, and we realize that only G-d can save us, since we are a country the size of Delaware, so we go on with our lives and our prayers, and of course we hope that rockets won’t fall on our houses or our children, but we rely on G-d to be our shelter.  No Westerner can understand that.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

It’s about the terrible conflict that tears me apart, and keeps me from living the life I love, the life the holds out the possibility of real spiritual redemption.  It’s about the conflict between kibud av v’aim, respect for father and mother, which is one of the Ten Commandments.  The letter of  halacha, Jewish Law, interprets this to mean that one is obligated at minimum to provide shelter, food, and clothing sufficient for one’s parents’ needs, but I have a hard time with leaving it at that.

Although my mother severely abused me emotionally, psychologically, verbally, and at times physically, and my father was a codependent facilitator, I still have difficulty separating from them completely, because I continually hope that they will magically become the parents I have always desperately wanted and needed:  loving, caring, nurturing, and deserving of my love and respect.

In fact, in my adolescent confrontational phase, before I picked up and left home at age 16, my mother would scream at me, “You have to love and respect me because I am your parent.”  And I would scream back, “If you want me to love and respect you, you have to earn it,” to which the dear mother would generally reply with a stream of obscenities and a smack across the face, if she could reach me.

So why, after four years of blissful content in Israel, did I rush to their side when their time of need arrived in their old age?  And what has kept me there, in total isolation and spiritual desolation, for two and a half years?  Unconditional love,  blind even to ongoing abuse?  Kibud av v’aim?   Or that desperate primal hope that one day I would awaken to find them magically transformed into my real parents, the ones who dropped me off here on this alien planet 59 years ago?

I just don’t know.

alien woman head

PTSD TRIGGERED!

As I write this my hands are shaking.  There’s a jigger of good bourbon at my left elbow, and hopefully Noga the Wonderdog  will decide to hop up under my right.  I’ve just downed my evening med cocktail, plus an extra milligram of Ativan, plus a extra 5 mg of sleeping pill.  I hope to G-d they work, and soon.

Monster Mother has been working her poison.  It’s very subtle and mostly accomplished with tone of voice and a twist of the face, a sarcastic remark, a minimization of something I find important, or an outright barb.  That’s not so subtle after all, is it?

This time is was merely that I had forgotten I have a therapy appointment on Thursday, so I couldn’t give her the day off from taking care of Dad.  “Why don’t you make up your mind?” was the irritable remark that set me off.  I was carrying in her copious number of plastic bags from Walmart when she said that, and I reflexively rattled the bags to cover up the fact that I was shouting “You fucking bitch!”  I think she heard me anyway, but good.

Poor Dad is triggered too.  I sat with him while he ate his lunch yesterday, so that Monster could go out shopping, and a bit of the orange he was eating dropped onto his sweatshirt, making a stain.  He panicked.  Oh, he said, I am so clumsy.  I should have been more careful.  I am such a slob.  Now this is language that I have never in my life heard from his mouth until recently when he has been confined to a wheelchair and completely dependent on you-know-who except when I am there.  And why am I not there more often?  Because if I was, I would drive my car off of one of the many handy cliffs that the Blue Ridge has to offer.

I asked Dad, “Are you upset that your orange landed on your sweatshirt, which will go in the wash tomorrow?”  “No,” he said.  “Then who is it that gets upset if you drop a bit of food on yourself?”  “Someone else,” he said.  “Do you get upset about it?” he asked me.

“No, I just think it’s normal.  It doesn’t upset me at all.”  “Oh.  Then we know who gets upset.”

I am 100% sure that she is verbally and emotionally abusing him, just the way she has done to me all of my life.  He has started to say “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” for transgressions such as dropping his napkin or drooling on his front.

And she is the reigning narcissist, who is triumphantly happy to finally have everything her own way.  It’s chilling to see it in action. I’m going to have to write a more cogent essay about this, as the drugs are starting to take effect.

What triggered me, other than the Me-Me Monster’s ugly mug, is all the reading I’ve been doing on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the havoc it can wreak on the next generation, and the panic regarding the fact that even though I’ve been working with shrinks since my son was a 5 month old fetus to try to prevent my behaving toward him as my mother behaved toward me, there still might be some spill-over to feel guilty about.

The drugs are taking hold, and I am going to have a little bit to eat before blessed Nepenthe folds me in her arms and takes me down, down, down…