Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mothers and Daughters: Emotional Knifepoint and Bitter Standoffs (Part 1 of 2)

I recently severed ties with my mother. Back in May, after a comforting period of silence followed by a stiff Mothers' Day family dinner, she called my home with another unexpected emotional tirade that left me virtually in shock. I ended that tirade with a request that she doesn't "call my house yelling at me again." She promptly responded, "Don't call your house????" and hung up on me. I was mildly amused by her translation, and her response to my heartfelt request to please talk to me before escalating her vague criticisms: "Well you dont' want to hear the truth." (Really??? The truth about what???) We haven't talked since, which represents a bittersweet outcome for me.

I immediately went into "diagnosis" mode. What had I done wrong? My only conclusion: I called another woman "mom" during Mothers' Day dinner, which is a big no-no. My mother practically needed a therapist when I called my ex-mother-in-law "mom" shortly after my marriage. But once again, I was on the wrong path. Her random triggers aren't my responsibility.

Last week, I spent a little time with Iyanla Vanzant, first on her new show Fix My Life and then in Oprah's Lifeclass. These resources flickered across my life in a spark of divine and unexpected opportunity. I try not to ignore the times God whispers a chance for growth into my life.

Since that time, I came to a new understanding - or so I thought - of my mother's behavior. Without a doubt, she is unhappy, wounded, and seeks to find comfort by controlling the lives of those close to her. She gives hell for any life motion that doesn't fit her mold - including the time I got cussed out for not paying for braces for my son's lovely teeth - another classic moment that left me hurt and shocked. Apparently, the tiny spaces between his teeth (which the human eye truly can't see) bothered her. She wanted his teeth so close in his mouth that his wisdom teeth would probably cause a dental problem (which mine nearly did after my braces left my teeth almost too close for floss.)  For a moment, I grieved her pain with an understanding that even my "perfect compliance" would never heal her inner agonies. I have a sincere concern that she will live her entire life attempting to control others to heal her own inner rifts. I quickly named this phenomenon Emotional Knifepoint.

Like a thief who holds-up a victim at knifepoint to meet their own financial needs, Emotional Knifepoint involves the attempt to steal from another what one should really provide for self. And just like the thief who doesn't take the time to explain why they're committing the crime (does baby need a new pair of shoes?), Emotional Knifepoint leaves the victim confused about how and why they're supposed to meet the thief's emotional needs. I can find no better way to describe my deeply personal experience of betrayal when it comes to missing the mother/daughter relationship I may never experience with my own biological mother.

As I went to pat myself on the back for coining a term and solving the riddle (yeah... right), I felt a pain. As I looked to my hand for the answer, I found myself clutching my own knife. I realized with painful certainty that I wield my own knife at my mother. There are no total victims here, because we're in a bitter standoff - face to face - heart to heart - knife to knife. When did I become a criminal in my own story? I can certainly acknowledge the pain of withstanding her behavior as a child in her care, but nothing justifies how long I stayed in this game after reaching adulthood.

I'll explain in Part 2...

8 comments:

Big Mark 243 said...

Looking forward to part 2.

Lovebabz said...

Now you begin the work of giving yourself the mother you always wanted and needed... YOU!

Looking forward to all the parts!

Allia Janzen said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, doing research for my own. Kudos to you for sharing YOUR truth in spite of your mother. I deal with the same relationship in my family and am struggling my way through. Finding this is helping me to know I'm not alone, no I'm not crazy, and most definitely, NO MY KIDS don't have to suffer it too. Thank you for your vulnerability.

Some of my recent journey if you're interested.
http://alliajanzen.blogspot.ca/2012/06/what-i-did-not-have-my-children-shall.html

Her Side said...

Greetings, Allia! Thank you so much for sharing your blog post. As a 41-year old woman, I share your desire to hand my children a different legacy of love. I am always looking for additional material to read, including support groups. You're in my bookmarks. :-)

Willa Mercy said...

You have no idea how much you have helped me today. Even knowing that I am not alone is comforting. I am starting my own blog to share my experiences.

I would rather keep a diary, but my mother has a tendency of looking for them and reading them.

Tia Cunningham said...

Emotional Knifepoint...I can totally relate to. I have been No Contact with my malignant, religious, narcissistic mother since July '12. It feels strange yet I am feeling more empowered as the months go by. I warned her several years ago that if she didn't stop with her abusive antics then I would have no other choice but to severe our relationship. Well that day has come and I am no longer in relationship with her. I feel better and could care less how she feels. I am an adult and am no longer obligated to appease or answer my engulfing mother's overbearing, intrusive questioning of my every decision. I have a family of my own now-she can kick rocks. I tried to get this woman to love me but I have come to a realization: I don't love my mother and my mother doesn't love me. I tried to love her but she has refused to accept my love therefore I've decided to move forward with my life and not include her in it. I am grateful to have found your blog.

Tia Cunningham said...

I've been held in Emotional Knifepoint for 36 years now. No more. I have gone No Contact with my religious, malignant narcissistic mother and I have no regrets for doing so. In short-I am an adult and owe her NOTHING. I am done explaining my actions, whereabouts and personal life choices to a woman who cannot be satisfied. I am done rationalizing her abuse toward me and my family; her reasons for being the way she is. She is who she is and that type of person I no longer desire to have in my life. I am mourning BUT this has been in the making for over eighteen years now. I should have severed all ties with her as soon as I turned eighteen but I didn't; I gave this woman an additional eighteen years of my life to toy around with. Well NO MORE. She can kick rocks. I'm moving forward with my life and my own family and she can get a life without me in it. I don't deserve the abuse, never deserved to be abused and am longer interested in debating my stance on how awful and hurtful my childhood was. It's no longer up for discussion. Thank you for this blog.

Her Side said...

@Tia: The word "mourning" is deeply appropriate for the feeling that washes over when releasing a parent from our lives. It's like a death, and there's no avoiding the sadness that comes with that decision. Thank God the sun shines in the morning!

I haven't written in a while, but I have so many updates that I should be busy writing for weeks. I hope to see you back...

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