Tri-Umphant Living

Happy Birthday Momster


Switzerland 1977 with the Matterhorn behind my mother and me – age 5.

June 8th came and went. The sun rose and set and in between the two, my day continued in its usual way — with a few side trips. Rob left for a deposition. Brayden set off for Nature’s Classroom. Other than that, I did what I usually do and I didn’t think about the day or the date at all.

“I feel really nervous lately.” I said in therapy the day after. “Scared and skittish. Easily frightened.” I explained how I felt myself wanting to get smaller and that I kept catching myself lacking self-compassion and being self-critical. I talked about the ways in which I felt myself getting stuck and each time I did so, I noticed I wasn’t simply observing and working through the inertia, I was being harsh and judgmental about it. “I’m tired too and I’m not sleeping well.” Maybe that explains it? I wondered aloud about both but I attributed each to being anemic and my thyroid meds being too low — both new discoveries. Even with all of this, I couldn’t explain my anxiety, “Rob’s going in for his second round of chemo next week … ” I said with my voice trailing off. I was drifting which meant I hadn’t hit the heart of it yet.

My therapist and I sat in silence for a bit. I looked at the floor. I twisted my fingers. I looked up. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled apologetically. I struggled with trying to stay present — wanting to get to the truth of my discomfort — and wanting to flee. And as things always happen in therapy, when the clock is winding down and minutes that ticked too slowly suddenly seem to be tocking at warp speed, I said in a by-the-way sort-of way, “Oh. And yesterday was my mother’s birthday but it’s not a big deal. I didn’t even think about it, really.” And we looked at each other, my therapist and I, both knowing this wasn’t true.

I remember wrapping my eight-year-old self around my mother’s legs. Rooting myself into her feet and clinging to her as if I were falling from the tip of the Matterhorn, about to plummet towards my own icy death. I can hear myself screaming like a child possessed; begging her to see me. To help me. To, for the love of all things, choose me over him. My own words cut off from my sobbing gasps for air. My mother’s face was shriveled with contemptuous rage, her dark brown eyes burning black with hate, glaring down at me on the floor. She dragged me to my bedroom, turned away from me and closed the door while snapping at me to be quiet.

In the very next moment, with her eyes light and her face calm, my mother would apologize for my obnoxiousness while opening the door wide, Wide, WIDE. I buried my face in my pillow. Terrified. Quieting myself enough to be able to listen and hoping beyond hope she’d send him away. But she did not. She opened that door as wide as the sky and invited him back into our home. What do I even call him? The pedophile? The sociopath? The rapist? The monster? Yes.

The discrepancy between what was real and not real was so cavernous I couldn’t make sense of it as a child. I still can’t today. “You are okay!” My mother would tell me more as a command than a comfort. I’d be raging with self-hatred — safer to hate myself than her — or sobbing hysterically, crippled by fear and she’d shake me while saying it over and over, “You are okay!” As if she could drill it into my brain and be assured I’d believe her enough to keep the lies buried.

I didn’t think I was okay. I definitely didn’t feel okay. I was not okay. When I wouldn’t stop crying she’d once again turn away from me — my mother — oozing disgust. And it was this disgusted look and my fear of her abandoning me that made me stop and be quiet. My mother abandoned me over and over again from the very first day she chose the pedophile over me. And to this day she still stands by her lies and entwines herself with him. I think if she did otherwise, she’d have to own the choices she made. She’d have to be accountable. She’d have to be human.

On March 31, 2014, I divorced my mother. I closed the door. I finally stopped taking care of her and began taking care of myself. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner. When I did this, my manipulative mother sent a lengthy, foaming at the mouth email — itemizing all of my faults and shortcoming and any other number of evil things someone would contrive about a person they loathe. A person they detest. A person they’d gladly hang to perpetuate the fabrication of their own goodness. This was her last attempt at ensuring I understood and accepted myself as crazy and my thinking as delusional. She was trying to put me in my place and calling on others to rally beside her — not only did she send it to me but she copied my father’s sister, my husband and other people I love.

It was a disgusting letter. It made me sick to read it. I remember trembling with horror — lightning bolts of confusion firing in my brain as I tried to make sense of the fact that my own mother was once again trying to annihilate the truth and me along with it. A strange, unfamiliar wailing — a primitive painful moaning — escaped me as I crumbled to the floor in tears. I was horrified that after all these years, my mother would still use every weapon in her armory to blame me. Only months later did I recognize this voice as a familiar one — it was the same gut-wrenching sobbing that had often exorcized itself from me while I lay in the dark — in my childhood bed — injured by him and ignored by my mother.

This time my husband held me. My brother and his wife held me. Friends and family held me. And instead of the letter breaking me, it set me free. For the first time ever, captured in ink, immortalized forever on my laptop, the people I love and who love me got to see all of the ways my mother manipulated me. So many things I could never explain about my mother no longer needed explaining. She’d done it all on her own. No longer did I have to try to preserve her public image of mental health at the detriment of my own peace of mind. Her letter solidified my divorce and I could finally breathe.

I wish my mother’s birthday didn’t trigger me. I wish I could go on without fear the week before and anxiety the week after June 8th. My therapist says it’s because I’m not taking care of my mother anymore that I get frightened she will retaliate as she once did and that she will try to hurt me — even though I know she can’t. I think this is true. But I also think it’s more complex than that. Because it is my mother’s birthday, she’s rumbling around in my mind and I’m left to contemplate my own rage more than usual. I am truly incredulous that my Momster and the sexual predator get to go on with life as normal. With no punishment and no accountability. She get’s to celebrate her birthday and I don’t think she deserves to celebrate anything at all. Nothing.

In my own way, I am learning to untangle myself from her. I can appreciate that I am the light. I am the love. I am the goodness. She can never take that away from me. She tried but she did not succeed. I am unbroken despite her trying to break me. She goes unpunished. Both of them do. But they cannot touch me anymore. My birthday wish for my Momster is that she live a very small life without two of her children in it. Without access to her grandchildren. And I hope, that while she may go unpunished, she suffers miserably. Yet even as I write this, I know it won’t happen. Remorse, regret and change happen to brave people who are living triumphantly. To people who are engaged and present with a willingness to be self-reflective, honest and accountable. This is how we grow. My mother was never any of these things. She never will be.



19 replies »

  1. I don’t think she deserves to celebrate anything at all either. I try to imagine how I’d feel if my parents hadn’t been willing to change and grow. My parents hurt and neglected me when I was a child and I can only have them in my life now because they’ve made amends, they’ve looked at their shit and owned it. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to divorce them, to cut them off from everything I hold precious because if I don’t advocate for myself, who will?

    You became an amazing woman despite having caretakers who weren’t worthy of the honor. Raising a child, protecting a child, loving a child is an honor. She is not worthy of you.

    I hate being triggered too. I’m triggered by sights, smells, windows without blinds, proximity, anniversaries, holidays. I will never get used to it but I will continually try to grow from my psyche’s cry for help. I will not ignore her and I will not abandon her. You don’t abandon yourself either, that much is so clear. You are an inspiration to me and such a cherished teacher. You make me brave and you make me glad that I’m not alone.

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always feel so held by your responses, Karen. And you make me feel not alone too. Thank you. And thank you for being there before I set this one free. I think of you so often these days — about how you wrote about your own heartbeat being a trigger. I never knew how to express that feeling and knowing you get it too helps. Like with this post — you get it. These days when I try to run hard it is my own heart beating that frightens me. Sharing this and letting it be held by others makes it easier to navigate the triggers. Thank you for holding it and for being a part of my supportive community. You make me brave too. Always. XO

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Why are our stories so similar? It’s sad that they are and yet, you help me feel less alone in the “motherless” space where I live. Now my mom is older, feeble, but still has plenty of power to bring me down. She’s never been able to see me. And yet, she can’t keep me from being a very different kind of mother, like you. We blaze a new path that feels way better but is still scary some days. Love you, Jess. You are a mighty soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love you too, Sue. And I hope you know that it was you who first modeled mothering a newborn with rawness and depth that I never knew existed. I imagine you scared but fearless in your determination to mother with love and light, beauty and grace. And honesty. So much honest self-awareness. You’re a gift to me, to your children and anyone who has the privilege of being close to you. Sad that our own mothers missed this so painfully. You make me brave and less afraid.


  3. I’ve always known I was more fortunate than most, in that both my parents accepted responsibility for the ways they injured me as a child, and both of them not only took accountability, but did what they could to build a healthier relationship with me while they were still on this earth. Now that they are both gone, I am repeatedly reminded just how blessed I am to be able to have that sense of peace where they are concerned. They couldn’t erase what happened, but they did, at least, show their genuine sorrow and shared in my pain, all of which helped me move towards healing.

    I’m so sorry that you have been denied this reconciliation step in your own healing journey. It takes extraordinary strength to continue in your healing process anyway, despite their inability to take ownership of their actions. You deserve to have your pain acknowledged, and have earned the right to speak the truth, and it gives me such an abundance of hope when I see someone such as yourself still out there working towards living your best life, no matter that you don’t have the support of your entire family behind you. If they are too weak to meet you within your truth, and have chosen instead to hide behind their lies, then all you can do at this point is separate yourself from them and keep moving forward.

    So proud of you for being willing to share this part of your story. If we stay silent, then we keep feeding the power of their lies. By speaking up and sharing this, you remind each one of us that our truth matters. Your strength and determination in reaching towards your own healing is such an inspiration. Keep going. Keep helping us all believe that we deserve the best that life can give us. We have earned the right to live a life filled with truth and dignity and respect. Much respect to you for sharing this with us. Such a generosity of spirit is not only welcomed, but appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your response is so deeply touching to me. It gives me strength and comfort and hope. Thank you for being a part of my healing journey and thank you for validating my process and my inner strength. There’s always the wave of vulnerability that washes over me after being so raw and it helps to read your words. It makes me heart happy to read about parents who had the grace to be present and true. XO

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This post hit me hard. Kind of like I lived that moment. I read about you clinging to your mom’s leg and I remember doing that. That terrible clinging and wanting things to change and for her to care or stop or I don’t even know. But then alone in the bedroom. It’s just so sad. November 15. That’s my mom’s birthday. Thank you for writing this 💜

    Liked by 1 person

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