Oh, sorry, I didn't give you the chance to say you love me. I was too busy defending the boundary that you crossed several times within a half hour - appearing at my door, leaving cards for my children, calling me on my phone. All things I've asked you not to do. But, you know, if I'd just calmed down for a minute, I would have heard that you love me. And then what? It would have magically been true?
We talked about how I reacted - I wanted to know what he thinks would be ideal, and he said that he thinks how I handled it was perfect. I wanted to know what he thinks about how I process this stuff - I need to talk about it afterward, mull it over. He thinks I'm at a good place - definitely not the way I was years ago. His hope is that someday it wouldn't bother me at all, just be something I could toss off at the end of the day: "hey, my mom dropped by."
He mentioned that he doesn't feel angry at her, because it would like being angry at a dog that bites you. It isn't really the dog's fault. It's a dog. It's in its nature. That reminded me of the story of the scorpion and the frog, which always comes to mind in the form of this scene from The Crying Game:
He has a point. I know she's never going to change, and that means she will probably continue to drop by with these "innocent" gestures. It's in her nature. This is what I can look forward to on birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Halloween, Easter, Valentine's Day, forevermore.
Over cocktails at dinner, I told him that it just makes me feel so mean. I preach compassion, and then I bluntly refuse to have anything to do with her? How compassionate is that? "Shouldn't I just suck it up and be kind to her? Not let it get to me?" "What would that do for you?" he inquired. It's a rhetorical question. We both know that I extended that kind of compassion toward her for many years, knowing that she couldn't help who she is, and that it hurt me, and hurt him because it hurt me, and hurt our kids. It's like the airline-inspired bit of wisdom that I've seen applied to parenting: put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others.
I confided that her ambush coincided with a resurgence of left-out feelings. I recently saw some photos of my siblings and my parents and my nieces and nephews together, and it dragged up old baggage. A few days later, I read Jonsi's post about immunizing yourself against narcissists, which quoted an article from Dr. Martinez-Lewi:
Don't be surprised at the number of people who follow and are true believers of narcissists. They crave being a member of the inner circle even if they are infrequently thrown crumbs or are honored to kiss the ring of the anointed.They have thrown away their identities, strapped themselves to the narcissist for the E ticket ride. They will do anything to be identified with this person. They believe that he or she is a good human being because of outside trappings and the wielding of power over others.In my comment on the post, I wrote:
This was very true of me before I extricated myself and is still true of my siblings. Getting over it is a little like being an addict - you're never truly all-the-way better. A glimpse of your old drug can bring new cravings. I saw some photos of a sibling/Nparent gathering last week and even though the rational part of me doesn't want to be part of it at all, the old inner-circle need is still there. I still feel left out, even though I've chosen to BE out! I don't want to kiss the ring, but I still sometimes miss the crumbs.It's hard to find yourself wanting the crumbs even thought you know that they're crumbs, and stale ones at that. I recalled the time when my mother called me, wanting my support during a trip to a funeral. I felt flattered even though she told me that she had already asked two of my four siblings (yay, third choice!). I wanted to be helpful, and went, even though it meant leaving my still-nursing baby, suffering engorgement, reorganizing my husband's work schedule, and hearing all about my mother's fabulous mother-daughter trip with my sister the year before. "We stayed in that gorgeous hotel and went to this wonderful restaurant and that beautiful museum..." I had never been invited on a mother-daughter trip before. This was it. The whole weekend was filled with driving from funeral location to funeral location and hearing about my mother's fabulous adventures with other people. My baby cried inconsolably every night while I was gone and I had to buy a cheap electric pump to avoid getting mastitis. It was clear that the bereaved family hadn't expected my mother to come and that she wasn't as important to them as I had always been led to believe. It was also clear to me that I wasn't as important to my mother as I had hoped.
Crumbs. Dusty, dried-out, moldy crumbs from other people's banquets.
Well, last night, I didn't dine on crumbs. I had a feast with my own Valentine, who has seen me through almost two decades of emotional development. We had delicious food, we joked, we told stories, we held hands across the table. He validated my feelings and shored my self-confidence back up. I told him how much I appreciate what he does for me. I felt wanted, and loved, and valued, and enjoyed. All of the things that I don't feel when I'm near my mother.
She didn't screw up my Valentine's Day dinner. In fact, maybe she made it just a little better, because of the clarity I felt by the end of it:
There is no place in my life for her.
My children are precious to me and I will protect them.
And my husband is a gem. I'm so glad he's mine.