how to be an orphan
One of the things I love about blog comments is that often they lead me to somebody new, somebody who has his or her own understanding of the experience of being mothered or fathered by a narcissist. Today I read a bit of When the Ring Swings Forward, a blog maintained by Cassandra Squared. In her most recent entry, written last November, she writes about a letter she gave to her mother; in it, she refers to childhood experiences and beseeches her mother to give some thought to what she says, stating that if her mother is unwilling to take her seriously and treat her with the respect due to her, "I'll give up. I'll learn to be an orphan."
How often in the past three or four years have I described myself as an orphan? I have a biological mother with whom I lived until I was in college. She is still living. My biological father is still living, as well. But with regard to the nurturing aspects of parents, having people who know me deeply and love me unconditionally, I have nothing. I have a mother, but not a mommy. The problem is, I didn't understand my orphanhood until a few years ago, so I have to learn, as Cassandra does, how to be an orphan.
I traveled out of the country last week. After arriving back in the United States, the woman next to me (one of my travel companions) made a series of phone calls to her parents, her brother, her sister, her husband, her best friend. Each of them had been eager to hear from her. Each of them had tidbits of their daily life to share with her and words of love to give her. I almost cried. My siblings are barely aware of the things happening in my life, and would think it strange if I let them know that I had returned. There is no warm, welcoming, concerned family group waiting for me, outside of my husband and children. While I can create - and have created - a tribe of friends for myself, it's not the same as an intact, loving extended family. It's just not the same. And I long for it even while I know that I will never have it.
What do orphans do on Christmas? Whom do they call when they need maternal nourishment? Do they ever stop missing what they cannot have?