At a Loss

Ed. Note: It’s bothering me that in my tag cloud, Taiwan is as big as Alan Rickman.   So, I am going to tag every post with ‘Alan Rickman’ until this is no longer true.  Fun Alan Rickman fact:  he’s been with his partner, Rima Horton, for 45 years.  They are not married, and they have no children.   Alan Rickman is insanely sexy.

Ok.  Now that I have justified the Alan Rickman tag….Oh!  I can actually put it on yesterday’s post as well.  Be right back.

On to my entry for the day.

My mom called tonight.  Well, first she emailed me this morning.  Her publisher had sent her three mock-ups of possible covers for her book, and my mom wanted my opinion.  I sent my opinion to her, and she mentioned that I had ranked them in the same order that she had.  She added, “Like mother, like daughter.”  My immediate response was, “I am nothing like you.”  Which is not true, but it was my gut reaction.

Anyway, she called tonight.  After talking about the book cover and a few other desultory items, she went in for the kill.  First, she talked about her lingering aches and pains (quite normal for older people, I gather), and then she moved onto her real topic:  My father’s health.

Apparently, he has had a spike in his blood pressure.  190/100.  This has happened twice in the past few weeks.  He has meds for high blood pressure, but he refuses to take them.  He hates going to the doctor for anything serious (he’ll go for perceived illnesses), but I guess he consented to go today.  My mom kept repeating how worried she is about him.  Then, she would pause.  I know she wanted me to ask questions or be concerned, too, but…

I can’t.  I really don’t like admitting this, but I do not care about my father’s health.  As I said before, I do not wish him ill, but I am not concerned about him having a stroke (my mother’s current obsession).   I am dealing with the stupid flashbacks, and the last thing I want to do right now is waste any energy being concerned about my father–or coddling my mother while she’s so very worried about my father.  And she is.  So very very very worried.  When I told her there wasn’t anything she could do about it, she said, “Except tell him I’m worried.”  Yeah, like that would do any good.

I didn’t feed the flames.  I asked no questions, and I did not echo her concerns about my father.  I left awkward pauses, but it wasn’t enough.  Following her own inner script, she continued to talk about my father’s health.  The offensive:  She asked me to pray for him.  First of all, yes, she knows I’m not Christian.  I have prayed in the past to various deities, but I am currently not doing the praying thing.  Secondly, she wants me to fucking pray for my father.  Seriously.  That’s just fucked up in so many different ways.

After about ten minutes of her repeating how very worried she is about my father, she says, “I hope he’ll pull through.”  I broke my vow not to ask questions and said, “What do you mean ‘pull through’?”  She said, “That he’ll recover from this little scare with nothing serious.”

I felt a steel band crush my head as she talked.  Again with the death shit?  Seriously, is this gonna be every conversation until the day one of them dies or I do?

After I hung up the phone with my mom, I realized that the biggest thing worrying me was that if something did happen to my father, she would pressure me to go back to Taiwan (assuming he isn’t flown out here).  And, me being the idiot I am, I would cave.  And hate it.  And fall back into the suicidal craziness that engulfed me when I went to Taiwan a few months ago.

That, of course, made me feel as guilty as hell.  My mom is clearly trying to get closer now that I am starting to separate from her.  She is also trying to rewrite our family history by trying to pretend that…wait a minute.  That’s not what she’s doing.  She’s reenacting our family history by pouring out all this shit about my father.  She did that to me when I was a teenager, and she’s doing it again.

I don’t know how to react.  I can’t tell her that I have no desire to listen to her yap on and on about my father’s health.  I find myself gritting my teeth when she talks about how worried she is about him.  I also know it’s her way of trying to have some control over him (another family fun fact) that she doesn’t have in real life.

The thing is, I really don’t want to listen to her shit right now.  I don’t.  And, I know that will make me the villain in this piece.  You know what?  I resent my mother for trying to force me back into that role.  I resent that she’s trying to spin this family picture that is all smoke and mirrors.  I resent that she is telling me all this shit.

Still, I am mad at myself, too.  I feel like I’m engaging in the same fucking battle time and time again, and all I’m doing is bashing my head against the wall.  Don’t get me wrong.  Doing a little head hitting can clear up the brain.  Bashing said brain to bits, however, is counterproductive.

I’m on a hamster wheel, and I can’t get off the fucking thing.  I can’t see a way to finesse this situation.  Like I said, I am unwilling to flat-out tell my mother that I don’t care about my father’s health or that I don’t want to hear about it.  Yet, I can’t bear listening to her talk about him.  It’s eating away at me on the inside.  So, do I make up excuses to get off the phone when she starts in on her dirge?  Do I try to switch the subject?  Do I try to just tune her out and let her rattle away?

I don’t know.  Thus, the title of this blog entry.  I don’t know what the fuck to do.  I feel like it’s a battle of wills between me and my mother, and I am no match for her tenacity.  She fucking wears me down.  I give in because it’s easier in the short run.  However, in this case, I don’t even know where to begin to disentangle myself from the web that ensnares us both.

Every time we talk, I feel like such a fucking failure because I can’t give her what she wants/needs/desires from me.  In this case, I am simply unwilling to give it to her.  I can’t even say I hope he’s fine without lying and without resenting having it wrung from me.

God.  I hate how easily I allow her to get to me.  She called hours ago, and I am still brooding over it.  I feel so impotent when I talk to her.  No matter how much I counsel myself ahead of time not to let her get to me–I can feel myself tense within five minutes of picking up the phone.  I really wish I could knock my brain hard enough so I could stop feeling so damn guilty and obligated when it comes to my mother.  I don’t think I have any rusty garden implements sturdy enough to do the job.

13 Responses to At a Loss

  1. Well, when it came to my folks, I finally hit on a solution about three years ago — *I* call *them*. This makes them so deliriously happy that they stop harassing me, and the calls only go on for fifteen minutes or so, rather than an hour+. So now I call them, oh, maybe once a week (tops), at a time *I* think I can handle it, then *I* set the topic (“Hey, did you see this article?”), then *I* say I have to get going. It seems to satisfy their parental “She really does still acknowledge us!” thing, and then they don’t call me — which is great, because when they call me, I don’t get to set the length, topic, or occasion. But this is just me; it may not work with your mom.

    And now I’m seriously considering spending the afternoon watching Sense and Sensibility. (“Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.” *swoon*)

  2. On the other hand, I didn’t call my parents this week, and now I’m stuck on the phone listening to my father talk about committing suicide.

  3. Snowgirl, there’s actually a really easy way to alleviate this problem, even if it is merely a temporary measure. Don’t answer the phone. Amazing the power that merely NOT acting gives to you. See, if you don’t pick up the phone, she can’t manipulate you in any way. Let the answering machine screen your calls, and ignore hers. There is absolutely nothing that needs to be said between you regarding her trip or the book that cannot be done over email. And when she leaves guilt-inducing messages about why you didn’t answer, you can email back when YOU are ready with an excuse such as, “I was out for a walk,” or “I was shaving my pu…cats,” or ‘I was trying to replicate Kel’s bourbon cake.”

    There is absolutely no reason that you HAVE to answer the phone when it rings. None. Nada. So don’t do it.

  4. snee, the whole WORLD needs more Alan Rickman!

    Robin G, taking some control. That makes sense. I really liked Sense and Sensibility except I thought Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman should have ended up together. They make the cutest couple.

    I’m sorry to hear about your father. What a burden for you to bear.

    whabs, always make sure your cutting utensils are rusty before using them.

    Kel, again, you have very sound advice for me. I just have to get over the goddamn guilt I feel when I ignore the phone (I only answer after the person starts leaving a message).

  5. Alternatively, you could forget finesse and say the things you need to say, “Mom, he molested me repeatedly. Why do act as though it didn´t happen? What he did is NOT okay. Pretending he isn´t the man he is might work for you, but it will never work for me. Stop asking me to play this charade, everything is NOT okay! And until you are prepared to confront the truth, we don´t need to talk.”

    She will stay in her bubble until it is burst. And her bubble is a dungeon to you. Escape!

  6. snee, I think whabs was just adding her own special flare to the expression.

    Rob Marine, is it sad that I didn’t even think of this possibility? Thanks for laying it on the line for me.

  7. You are welcome Minna.

    I hope some of my thoughts are helpful to you. You are the one doing all the heavy lifting. And frankly, the your earnest decision to change may have been the biggest hurdle for you to get over. In my mind, every other step is a small one in comparison to that. So while you may struggle with even greater uncertainty as you continue forward, the change has already begun, and uncertainty offers some comforts of its own. By the time you gain confidence in uncertainty, you will probably discover you have certainty again. (That would have made sense if I had your writing skills.) Keep it up.

  8. Rob Marine, you’re helpful to me because you suggest things that would never even cross my mind. My thinking gets stuck in a rut, and it’s useful to have someone knock it loose once in awhile.

    I understand what you mean about the hard work, even if I don’t necessarily agree. To me, the desire to change wasn’t a choice. I *had* to change because I could no longer be the person I was.

  9. Adults can chose who their friends are & who they talk to about what subjects. This woman is causing you pain & appears to have no concern that she is doing so. Why do you allow her to do that? Say: “mom, I do not want to discuss this any more. If you persist I will hang up. If you call back I will only speak with you as long as you do not talk about this any more.” Then stick to it.

    It was a great relief and sense of finally having the power when I went this route. It took a very long time before my mom realized I meant it and we began an adult relationship as equals.

    I wish you good luck whatever you do.

  10. frankdawg, hey, welcome to my blog. Glad to snag another BJ commenter. Thanks for commenting. You said a mouthful. I wish I felt like an adult when I talk to my mother. Unfortunately, I feel like an eleven-year-old all over again. However, you suggest a solution that my best friend suggested to me as well. I think it’s a sound one. Now, if only I can do it without feeling as if I’m ripping my mother’s heart out.