Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday Scribbilings: Hero

(A disclaimer: This probably isn't one of the more cheery Sunday Scribblings you'll read this week. It's in reaction to some new "mother issues" I'm having--just in time for the holidays!

For most of us, our parents are our first heroes. They gain this status before we can even articulate what we need from them or that they're giving it to us. There we are, days old, staring at them with eyes whose tears they stopped by picking us up.

For me, my mom is still a hero of mine in many ways. She's one of the most generous people I know, willing to give time and money to big causes and little--a friend who needs $20 to make it to the next payday, a stranger who looks lost, Hurricane Katrina victims. But most of all, her children. When I hear about a woman who died of starvation during the Holocaust while her husband and children survived, I didn't need to ask why she was the only one to perish. That's the kind of sacrifices mothers make. I know it because mine would so instinctively do it for me.

But when heroes of any type fall, they fall hard. And recently I realized that though my mom gave me a lot, there are some fundamental things I didn't get from her.

My mom and I are close on a few levels--we like to spend time going to the movies and museums together, we talk on the phone once a week about books and work. But we're not close in the highest way, that warm way that makes you feel you can say anything and that the other person really understands you. Though I've overheard my mom say to friends that we're as close as can be, I know she agrees with me. I can remember her saying quite a few times that my brothers are both more like her, me like my dad, that there were certain things about me that she would never get. And if she knew me well, she'd know that that was not the type of thing I could handle hearing.

To be close with someone, I need that person to be able to listen to my problems and not try to solve them, but just be with me in them. Someone who can talk about her feelings and teach me to talk about mine. Someone who says I love you more often than once, moments before she goes into the operating room to stop internal bleeding from an aneurysm that burst last Christmas. Someone who knows that saying those three words at such a precarious time would just make me more worried than I already am.

All these years I've blamed myself for our lack of true closeness, wondering on some level what I could do to be more like the brothers she so obviously felt closer to. But now that I'm realizing our problem with more clarity, I see that I don't carry much of the weight of this problem in our relationship.

If I'm being snarky, I'll think, she's the one who taught me just how much a mother's supposed to do for her children. Would some soul searching to figure out how to talk about difficult emotions have been so hard when cleary that's what her daughter needed? If I'm being kinder, I'll realize that my mother was nothing if not anxious, undiagosed and untreated for all of my childhood. And mental illnesses of that sort are very self-absorbing: it's hard to focus your antennae on what other people need when you hurt so much. And if I'm being impartial, I'll say that my mother's just not the type of person who can read well what others need emotionally.

Who knows who I would've been if my mother could've grown and changed. And who knows what this realization will do to our relationship when we come together for Thanksgiving next week. But I do know that any future daughter I have, whatever her complaints about me, not understanding her emotions won't be one. Probably in reaction to my mother's lack of emotional temperature-telling, I have an oversentive thermometer, constantly worrying about how those close to me are feeling, and what I can do to make those feelings better. Best Blogger Tips


TI said...

Bug, that's a really honest post about your relationship with your mother. I can identify. Thanks.

Bug said...

Thanks TI! I was slightly afraid that I'd be heckled in the comments. We'll see I guess...

Becca said...

This is a very brave post, and it touches my heart on lots of levels. As a mother myself, I feel sad for your mom, knowing she most likely wanted to be the kind of mother you needed, but just didn't quite know how to connect with you. And, as a daughter, I also understand how much you wish she was more in tune with your emotional needs. It sounds like you're working hard to bridge this gap, and I hope it becomes easier for you as time goes on. And, for sure, your experience will have a positive impact on your relationship with your own children.

(On a purely selfish level, the characters in the novel I'm working on for NaNoWriMo are going through a similar situation, so I appreciate your viewpoint and the additional insight.)

Thanks for sharing so honestly and openly.

Paul said...

Thoughtprovoking and honest. Hit a chord with me because there are things here which I am trying to work through with my daughter. Thanks for being so open.

Repeater said...

Hey bug, I think you know from my previous posts I can relate to Moms With Issues. You may eventually start to feel relief by writing about it. I think that's what we have to do. It's your job as a writer to hit those places. Keep being brave.

January said...

Bug, thank you for your honest post. Navigating the mother-daughter relationship can me tricky. Hope your Thanksgiving is better than you expect, and maybe you can resolve a few issues with your mom.

Bug said...

Thanks everyone! I'm glad my post wasn't taken to be whiney, which is what I was afraid of. Overall, I had a wonderful childhood (esp compared to lots of other peoples') so complaining can feel odd.

paris parfait said...

We all have issues with our mothers and can identify with much of what you've written. Very honest post.

giggles said...

Intimacy is a very important element in all relationships. It’s certainly not hard to understand the void you feel, I often felt that same emptiness with my mother. The consolation is having a daughter whom I share so much emotional intimacy with, making up for that surly relationship with my mother.

Jane said...

Thank you for such an honest, thought provoking post. I can relate to it on many levels. My ex-husband suffers from mental illness and we were just talking on Friday night about how he finds it so difficult to fully relate to others and our children because of his own self-image. I can also relate to the struggles that mothers and daughters go through.

R's Musings said...

Thanks, Bug, for your comment on my post. Yours is a very brave post. It feels a little scary being honest about our feelings, doesn't it? But if we try to hide them, they never get resolved. Sounds like you're well on your way to resolution. If you journal, you might journal your fears and share them with your mom, when you can. She may even share hers with you, too, bringing greater understanding between you. Thanks for sharing; your honesty is encouragement for the rest of us. --Robin

ren.kat said...

I think we buy way too quickly into the myth that everyone has parents who love them unconditionally and who would sacrifice a bag of potato chips for their children's sake.

I don't think we'd be afraid of feeling whiney if we weren't under the impression that the "natural" condition of families was something that looks like a Rockwell moment.

(and just because I can't help but say it: it's absurd to accept that we should have to "fix" these things or "bridge gaps" or any other goodwill tactic that will make our lives fairy tales. Sometimes it's best to accept that we are human. So are they :-) )

Just because someone else "has it worse" than you, doesn't mean you don't have the right to your feelings. Give yourself a break!

Oh- oh, this (&%¤# soapbox. It's like stuck to my feet or something!

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