My aunt is a fairly conflict-avoidant person, and also doesn't like to give the impression that she's judging anybody or spreading gossip. This means that she says only vague things most of the time, although slowly slowly slowly she's relaxing more and being more open about the fact that my mother has always been awful to her, and that my father has been very passive in order to avoid rocking the boat. But mostly the sense I get is that she's super-uncomfortable with the family yuck (as siblings/extended family so often are) and naively optimistic about the possibility of everybody forgiving each other and holding hands and singing kumbaya.
So this time around, in addition to a heavy dose of "you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family" from my uncle, the main theme was "healing." My aunt is under the impression that my mother is getting really freaked out about the possibility of never seeing me again. My aunt thinks that this dawning realization is causing "a change" in my mother and she advised me to remain "open to healing." She encouraged me to attend a family wedding alone, presumably so that I will be 100% available to this "healing" with my mother.
What exactly do people think that healing will look like? This seems to be part of the "you just need to sit down and hash things out" overly simplistic advice file that people dip into so frequently. They seem to imagine that all that is really needed is for the two of us to each take turns sharing our sorrows while the other one patiently listens. Presumably, this would be followed by a good cry and I-love-yous and hugging and everybody would understand each other and live in peace and harmony forevermore.
I found myself feeling so defensive, because there are a bunch of assumptions that people carry with them into these "helpful" discussions. Perhaps I'll write about the bulk of those assumptions later. Right now, I want to focus on one in particular: the assumption that estrangement is always the worst outcome, and that the ultimate goal is reconciliation, AKA happily ever after.
In response to this, I want to quote myself:
Family estrangement is considered such a sad thing in our society, but nobody considers how absolutely wonderful it can be from the point of view of the person escaping an oppressive, soul-sucking relationship. It's the kind of wonderful that makes you want to spin in a full skirt in the middle of a breezy meadow.I like not having my mother in my life.
No, I love not having my mother in my life.
I don't love not having a loving mother figure - that kindof stinks sometimes - but my mother is not ever going to be one. I'm working with what I have here, and I am pretty darn happy to have zero contact with the woman who gave birth to me.
It's erroneous to assume that a fractured family is a miserable one.
I told my aunt that if my mom is really changing, if she's really serious about "healing", then she'll take action. Words mean nothing to me. I'm not going to let her pour out hear heart to me at a family wedding and I'm not going to go to therapy just because somebody says she wants therapy. But I'm not going to extend any invitations, because I've done a lot of my own healing, and have no desire to have a relationship with my mother unless and until she heals herself. I told my aunt and uncle that honestly, the onus of reconciliation is on my mom, if she wants that, because I'm a happier, healthier person without her in my life. I'm ok with never seeing her again. I don't see it as a crack that needs repair.
If real change happens, I will know it when I see it. I'm 100% open to that. Open, but not holding my breath.
I'm going on with my relieved, happy, skirt-twirly, motherless life.
Sometimes letting a cracked thing just be broken is better.
The scene: front passenger seat of a rented van, on an interstate. Day 1 of a road trip. Text notification beeps on my phone. It's my sister's girlfriend.
Her: Hi, this is [sister] on [girlfriend's] phone. When are you going to visit Aunt B?I reassured her that there was - hopefully - no ambush in the works. My aunt was hosting a gathering of her own siblings, and my parents were expected to be long gone before I visited her at the end of my road trip. So no need for concern.
Her: I'm worried about you being ambushed.
Her: Mom and dad are driving to [aunt's state] right now.
So thanks to my sister for the heads-up.
And also thanks to her for indirectly reminding me that my mother is somebody for whom ambush seems a pretty reasonable first assumption. That's messed up. You definitely don't want to have a person in your life who seems more likely to be planning an ambush than setting out on an innocent family vacation.