The holiday of Yule and Christmas are both associated with motherhood and the birth of a sun, son or new year.
This holiday season is my first in several years without paying lip service to the idea that I still have a family. Last year, I went away to a ski resort with my spouse, mother and brother. I hated being trapped in one place with her, where I could not get away, but I stayed as short a time as possible and with my partner and brother there it was not so bad.
In the previous 5 or so years since she left my abuser, mom would tell me which of the days around the holiday she’d have off, normally a day and a half including Christmas eve and part of Christmas day. She would come to my city and eat dinner on one of the days with myself and my partner, at our house (where I can get away) stay overnight and then leave in the morning. After that short visit, I’d be tired, and possibly a bit irritated with her incessant neediness and demands for attention, but would still live solidly within my own skin.
I enjoy spending time with my younger brother, whose only flaw, from my perspective, is his enmeshment with my mother. My older brother seems to have a violent reaction to connection to my mother, like he feels that she had tried to colonize him emotionally in some way he had to fight off.
Me, I’ve been grieving. I’ve finally recognized that I have no mother. My mother was never my ally, never my saviour and likely will never be willing to face her own demon. Just because I was able to claw myself away from my father, both physically and psychically and become a strong, independent woman, doesn’t mean my mother will do it. She left him physically, finally, but she is still living within his shadow in many ways, by living a life filled so full of work and spending, sleep deprived and exhausted, so that she need not think about all the things she didn’t want to remember.
I almost walked into the trap again of waiting for her to be the heroine she has proven time and again that she will never be. When asked what it would take to be comfortable with having her in my life, I figured out that what I needed from her. I would ask her to go to therapy weekly, reduce her workload to a maximum of 40 hours per week, and save money for her retirement. If she could stick to that for a year, I’d be able to have an actual relationship with her.
I assumed that weekly therapy would also result in a confession of her involvement in covering up my abuse or at least telling me truthfully what she had observed. If she was in weekly therapy, she would have to be honest with herself, and hopefully, eventually, me. If she was working a reasonable work week, she’d have to look after her own life and body, and wouldn’t be so needy and exhausted when we were together. If she saves for her retirement, it would be a tangible sign that she was looking after herself, instead of blowing her money as fast as she earns it, looking to be rescued by someone else.
Then I realized this for the trap it is. It allows me to transfer the ball to her court – make her responsible for us being estranged because she would never be able to comply with my request.
So here I sit. I don’t want to be around my needy, in denial mother, a woman with whom I have very few shared interests. In grief, asking her to be a heroine in order to win my love is just bargaining with the inevitable. My mother must save herself. I can change only myself.