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.
Categories: Tri-Umphant Living