Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Sadomasochism and the Family
Here's a picture of my kitten Evelyn. Kittens are cheerful, and this post isn't so she's like a consolation prize.
Anyone who has ever talked to me for even a brief time or knows me at all will be able to tell you that I have an extremely odd family. That's a nice way to put it. There are days when I, and my closest friends, wonder how I came out even relatively normal. I still question whether or not I did.
I recall that when I was 20 or so I entered therapy to cope with what my ex Beloved would call my "issues." What I would call it is my complete inability, at that time, to say no to my family, or to avoid them in any way, even though they make me absolutely crazy, and sometimes severely depressed. When I sat on the fuzzy chair in the office of my then therapist and spent hours upon hours telling her about my childhood and my home life as I grew up I honestly thought that I was going through a normal adult experience. A lot of us have trouble coping with our families, right? Turns out my family is stranger than even I expected. My therapist suggested that a clean and permanent break with my family would be the most mentally healthy thing I could do.
I couldn't do it. I told her so point blank. The guilt of having to deal with my family's reaction and the ensuing terror that they would somehow be able to live their lives without me, foretting I existed completely, was too awful for me to face. Instead she kindly showed me ways I could learn to cope with my odd family situation without going completely insane or giving up what little personal autonomy I had in the process. I am very greatful to her.
Now, Beloved would say I still let my family push me around. I think sometimes she might be right. But then, I've come a long way since I was 20, and I feel like the progres I've made is a lot more substantial than she, or a lot of my former aquaintances, realize. Now, a lot of them would tell you that the best thing I could do would be stop talking to them. I can't do that now any more than I could then. But I've made strides.
Anyway, the point is, I was reflecting last night that my love of my family is a lot like sadomasochism. I torture myself in an attempt to maintain a healthy, or at least functioning relationship with them, and in return they sometimes return my love and then other times they make me absolutely miserable. Now, I do understand that this scenario would present a skewed view of S&M, which is supposed to be a mutally agreeable, pleasant experience. I think that for the most part, my family and I mutually agree we should be on speaking terms. The plesurable part, well, I think that's the part that's up for grabs.
Part of what brought this on was my mom. Now, I have a better relationsip with my mom than I did when I was younger. There is no question about that. Part of it stems from me being older and her being more accepting of my life choices (and I'm not just talking about Kitten and Oscelot, either). Part of it is because I absolutely refuse to let her speak to me the way she used to. I don't tolerate insults from people I don't like, there came a point in my life when I realized tha tinsults from people I llike or love are even worse. This is definately the case with my mother.
When I was younger there was a lot of that. Things like "you'd be so pretty if you didn't have glasses" or "I don't know why you applied for that job, its not like you'd be of any use to them". That stuff doesn't fly with me anymore. Even recently I've fought that battle. When I split up with BBD (oh, god, two, three?) however long ago it was, her first response to me telling her that I left him was "So I suppose you're going to go back to being a man-hating bulldyke now." I was really expecting something more along the lines of "What? He was physically abusing you? You're starving and broke? That bastard, I'm going to kick his ass and then call his mother and tell him what a horrible job she did raising him." Only in the movies, I guess. I suppose I've learned that my friends and my partner are for moral support, not my mother.
I remember the battle over Christmas this last year was equally epic. Part of it stemmed from the fact that she was already angry with me for missing Thanksgiving. I know I know, it is an important holiday to her, but we had just gotten back from our vacation on the West Coast, we were tired, and we had to spend the moring at Oscelot's family home, which ws equally exhausting since it was Kitten and I's fisrt time at one of their family gatherings , and thier lack of support of her lifestyle makes my family look like they are charter members of PFLAG. don't think I didn't give her warning. I did. I told her the minute we booked the flight, four months before we went. I gave her warning.
Here's the problem. Mom wanted a "Family Christmas." You know, one of those gather round the tree and open presents, eat dinner together and watch an old movie kind of Christmases. I would have been fine with all of those things, had she been willing to do them at my house with Kitten and Oscelot. No problem. The catch was, she wanted it to be at her house with my brother, Punk. Whom I am estranged from.
Before you go getting defensive on her behalf, I want to point out she is the reason I am estranged from him. Or part of it. Earlier last summer Punk beat the crud out of her. Badly enough that the county filed assault charges and she moved into Kitten and I's house for about a month because he doesn't know where I live, and he still had a key to her house. I know that sounds terrible, but when you've coped with stuff like that all your life, you start to feel a little numb about it. I was just overjoyed she was getting away, filing a restraining order and making a safe place for herself. After watching it with three husbands and my brother, I just wanted her to come to her senses and be safe and happy. Punk called me trying to find her and told me I needed to make her drop the charges against him. I told him I wasn't going to do that, it's never okay to hit a woman and certainly not your mother. His response was to tell me he no longer considered me to be his sister and he followed that up by calling me a stupid dyke and he told me he hoped I died of AIDS.
I think you can see why I wasn't really keen on the idea of spending Christmas with him, since he hasn't spoken to me since that time. The rest of my family has been totally supportive, for the most part. My aunts and uncles think I am doing the right thing, and I shouldn't put up with it. My grandmother, while understanding why I did it and respecting my decision, says I should let bygones be bygones. She invited me to family Christmas, but was kind enough to warn me Punk was coming. My aunts and uncles called me adn told me how much they missed me. It meant a lot to me.
I'm sure Idon't have to tell you, my mom dropped the charges and testified on Punk's behalf at the county hearing for the assualt charges. He got off.
Anyway, the long and short of it is, our relationship is still a point of contention with my mom. I've told her I won't talk about it, or Punk, at all. In fact, I've made good on my threat to hang up the phone when she starts talking about him several times. She always calls right back, acting like it was a dropped call or something, and not me hanging up. Very rarely will she take up the same subject, although I've had to hang up three times before she got the picture once.
Back to Christmas, anyway, I told her about our plans, which have become increasing complicated with the addition of Oscelot to our family. We have her family, Kitten's dad, Kitten's mom and my mom to arrange in a very short period of time. Oscelot does her family thing the week before, and we always go to midnight mass with Dad, so that leaves Christmas day for Mom and Kitten's mom. Kitten's mom was coming over to our house for breakfast. I told my mom that any time after breakfast she could coem over and we would spend the evening together, make dinner and do all those fun things she wanted to do. But, no, since I would not come to her house and be with her and Punk, she decided she was not going to spend Christmas with us at all.
Cue a barrage of phone calls from my grandmother, who was told I refused to see Mom on Christmas, purely out of the meaness of my heart. I tried my best to explain, and eventually brought Grandma around to the idea that if Mom wanted to see me, she knew where to find me.
Mom waited to call until five days before Christmas. She still wanted me to come over. I told her no. Now, what I probably should have done was tell her not to bother. But, instead, I offered to have her over same as I did before. She agreed.
When she showed up we were finishing a suprisingly fun game of Cranium with Kitten's mom. We invited her to join us in another game. Kitten's mom was even up for it. When my mom coldly refused, Kitten's mom gracefully took the hint and gave us hugs and kisses and left. My mom stayed for dinner and then promptly left, without a thanks for the evening or anything. I still wonder why she came over, unless Grandma let the cat out of the bag and told her about the vaccum cleaner I had bought her.
Fast forward to the last few weeks, where everytime I try to call my mom to check in with her I get her voicemail. Which she hasn't set up so I can't leave a message. Last Friday mom called and asked if she could come over and print something off on our computer. I told her we are out of ink, which is true, but that I could save whatever she needed to a flash drive and she could take it to Kinkos or something to get it printed off. She agreed to come over today to do that. She asked if we would like to have breakfast with her too. We agreed. She hung up after telling me I should try and call her more often, she doesn't understand why I never talk to her.
I got a text message last night at 10pm asking if she could still come by. I told her yes, just to call before she came since it's my day off and Iusually sleep late. I was up by 8, cleaning house and getting things in order when I got a text from her. "I'm not coming today. Sorry." That's it.
This happens with suprising frequency. Hell, the last time she and I had a lunch date we were supposed to go shopping for my birthday present. (Three months after my birthday, I might add) I picked a local store I like that doesn't have anything in it over $40 because I know she doesn't have a lot of money. In fact, I get most of my stuff there for $15 or less. Part of why I love that store. We went to the store and she looked at a lot of stuff, but didn't seem too interested in shopping for me. She tried some things on, and then we left. I wasn't too upset, I don't expect presents, its honestly okay. What bothered me was when we got to the restuarant for lunch and the bill came, she passed it to me expectantly. "I didn't bring any money with me," she says. I was greatful I did. That would have been embarassing.
Still, I find myself feeling guilty I don't spend more time with her. I wonder if I'm a bad daughter for not liking her more. Chances are, I'll feel bad aboutth is blog post later, although I shouldn't since this is my space to talk about whatever I want.
I know that my relationship with my mom isn't healthy. But I continue to pursue it, because I feel like I ought to. I feel like I should want to be around her, want to be a good kid, and I shouldn't resent to continuously bad choices that she makes for herself.
It drives me crazy.
The sad thing is, I always feel better after seeing her, even if she makes me feel really bad about myself. She can tell me how bad a kid I am, and how she had always hoped by now I'd be doing something worthwile, and how if I'm ever successful it will only be because she nagged me into making something of myself. Somehow, after all of that, I still feel better knowing I gave her the chance to say all of those things and feel like (in her twisted way) she is being a loving and supportive parent.
As I get older I know my mom will expect more from me. When I get a steady career, she wants me to buy her a house, get her a retirement package, and fly her out to the West COast where we want to live. She wants a room in our home so she can live with us. She wants me to take her on all of our family vacations. When she's short of money now she asks me for it, and I know that as she gets older and she still isn't saving, it will be me she turns to for money; which unless I am really lucky, I probably won't have.
I don't know how to tell her these are completely unrealistic expectations for her to have. I don't know how to tell her that as much as I love her, I'd rather have a root canal with no anethetic than have her live with me. That my family life revolves around my two lovely partners, whom she objects to me having. That no, we aren't planning on adopting children and I'm not changing my mind.
I have no idea how to tell her all of these things and still show her that I love her. I have no idea how I will be able to pick up and move away from here in three years and leave her behind knowing that she wishes she was going with me, but that she won't go unless I pay for her to.
The sadistic part of all of this is I suspect that she knows it. She brings it up constantly.
The truly masochistic part of me allows it, and sometimes I wonder to myself how I will ever dig myself out of the hole I put myself in. It makes me angry and sad to know that my loving her is what is trapping me in this situation.
I'm caught in a place where I wonder if I did the right thing all that time ago, not cutting the cord. It seems like sometime in the future, she's going to force me to do it. If not seeing her on Christmas is enough to make her not talk to me for three months, what will happen when I move across the country and leave her here?
I honestly don't have the answer to that one. I wish I did.