There is a theory in psychology that something about another person that really bugs you is because you’re projecting, and it’s something you do yourself. It’s a simplified theory, of course, and it’s only one of the reasons, but I’ve found it to be true. The other night when I was pointing out to my mother that she wasn’t the savior of the world and that the world wouldn’t end if she wasn’t the one to help whomever it was in crisis at that particular moment. She came back with reasons why she HAD to do it, and I shut my mouth, even though I was fuming inside.
Of course, you can see where I’m going with this. I am the same way myself, especially with her, and while I can advocate setting boundaries all I want–I can’t do the same with her. In my last post, I talked about the period of our relationship when I held her at a firm arm’s length away. It was because I couldn’t set reasonable boundaries, so I just threw up walls. It’s actually the earliest stage of setting boundaries, and I thought I had moved past it by cautiously lowering the boundaries until they were appropriate.
I was fucking wrong. One and a half weeks to go, and I feel beat down. I’m so worn, and it’s because I can’t enforce reasonable boundaries with either of my parents. With my father, it’s because he’s a petty tyrant. If you don’t do what he wants when he wants it in the way he wants it, he either throws a major tantrum or he gives the silent treatment (which is where I get it from. Though I don’t go to the extremes he does, my immediate reaction is to shut down or lash out, the latter if I feel cornered). The latter can go on for hours, and he’s like my cat in that he makes it pointedly obvious that he is ignoring you. Unlike Shadow, however, my father is neither adorable nor lovable when he does it.
I have learned to choose my battles with him and only stand firm on the important things. One was the thermostat thing. I was not budging on it, no matter how pissed off he got or how ‘hurt’ my mother got. But, with other stuff, I just give him as minimal information as possible. Like today, for example. He wanted to get into his gmail account. He was trying to type in the password, and he asked me how to put a space. I told him that passwords usually don’t have spaces. When he asked me again, I told him to press the space bar. In my head, I added, “Like you do on a fucking computer”, but I refrained.
It isn’t each individual incident, obviously. It takes me five seconds to solve an issue such as above. It’s the accumulation of all the incidents and the fact that it starts from the minute I finish my taiji routine (and before then until I put a firm foot down and went downstairs to do my taiji routine) and doesn’t end until they go to bed. It used to be nine or ten, but my dad rarely sleeps through the night, so he comes out at two or three in the morning and without fail, he comments on me being awake. Then, if I get up before ten, he says, “You’re up early today.” Maybe it’s benign, but it feels accusatory. Also, I just don’t want someone tracking my time like that.
In the past few days, my mother has not been able to sleep. So she’s stayed up past midnight, and she wants to feelingsdump on me for hours. Then, when I think she’s done, she comes back and does it some more. She’ll even say she hopes it’s not too much for me, but that doesn’t stop her. She called me her sounding board last night, but it’s more like emotional punching bag. Interesting enough, she said my father was number one (in her list of missions from God, her words, obviously, not mine) and my brother and I were number two. She quickly added that we were number one some of the time and him two, but it was too late. I have known all my life that he was the most important person in her life, but she’d never said it out loud.
When I told her I know, that it’s been obvious all my life, she tried to say, no, he hadn’t been when I was younger. That he was shut out of the family (which he was, but it was because he had no interest in being in the family), blah, blah, blah. What she was glossing over, though, was that even when he was shut out, she talked about him/thought about him/cried over him all the time. When I told her that I knew he was number one instead of asking why I felt that way, she just immediately denied it. She didn’t ask why I felt that way or tried to see it from my point of view. And I know this is who she is. I know that she can’t truly see things the way I do or even closely approximate it. To be fair, I don’t see her way, either, when it comes to God, duty, and relationships. But at least I can admit that. She cannot.
She’s extremely conflict-avoidant as am I, and if I say something she doesn’t like, she’ll say, “Fine” with a distant look on her face and want to change the subject. When I pointed it out to her, she said it was her way to think about it and take it into account later. Which is how I am as well. I tend to shut people down hard, go away to think about what they’ve said, then agree with some points and not others.
I’m working on it because it’s frustrating as hell when my mother does it. She dumps all this shit on me, and if I do anything other than nod sympathetically, she doesn’t like it at all. She just wants to dump it on me, but that’s not easy on me. Not only because I have OPINIONS on things, but it brings back my childhood when I was her confidante, and it diminished me. In addition, she is my mother. I should not be the one to hear her woes about my father.
It’s complicated because I understand that we have to talk about it to some extent. He’s my father, so what’s going on with him affects me as well. But, for the most part, his life is separated from mine. When they’re in Taiwan, I don’t have to deal with him at all except when my mother calls me to complain. Confession: I don’t always pick up. Do I feel guilty about it? No.
Every time she does one of her feelingsdumps, I feel battered, bruised, and broken by the end of it. I feel as if my body has been in a war, and I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. After the intensity of last night, my mother came back and said she would be ok and not to worry about her. She just needed to talk it out. She smiled at me, and I felt a flash of rage underneath the weariness. Oh, sure, she feels better, but I get stuck with the strong emotions.
We (my brother, my parents, and I) went to my parents’ attorney today. He was explaining something or the other, and he said, “Yes, it’s easier on you (the parents), but it leaves the problem with the children.” He was speaking about something financial, obviously, but it’s the same with what my mother is doing to me. Yes, it helps her, but it’s actively harming me. I try to point it out to her. I try not to engage in the conversation. Honestly. I try so hard, and, yet, I get pulled back into it. I know it’s partly my fault because I can’t look at her worried face and not eventually crumble.
Yes, I realize I’ve trained her that she only needs to persist long enough to make me give in. I know that in order to break the cycle, I have to enact my boundaries and stick to them every time. I also know I’m fucking shit at it. I only have eleven more days to get through. I can do it, I know. But, as always, the closer it gets to the end, the harder it is for me to swallow my feelings. You’d think it’d get easier. but it’s just the opposite. It’s because I’m so close I can taste it, and I just want to get there.
Bottom line: I can’t change her. I can’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. I can’t get her to see that she’s in an abusive relationship. But, conversely, I can’t nod and agree when she talks about him in ways that I find antithetical to what I know about him. My heart constricts every time she starts in, and whenever I hear her say, “I need to get something off my chest,” everything in me tenses up.
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be her dumping grounds. I don’t want to hear about her marriage to my father. Most of all, I don’t want to have to watch as she continues to be with someone who thinks so little of her. I’ve never said it to her, but their marriage is a huge reason I have no desire to couple up. I know it’s in me, and I do not want to be her thirty years from now.
I have no answers. All I can do is grit my teeth and count down the days. Eleven more days, then I’m free for another year.