The word of the yesterday, according to my beloved AWAD, is anacreontic, and it means “celebrating love and drinking.” How appropriate for the weekend before the 4th of July, which has nothing to do with the first, and LOT to do with the second! Hundreds of years after an event, and we celebrate it by blasting fireworks in the sky and getting plastered on the beach. You gotta love America.
I don’t enjoy the ridiculous crowds, the traffic, any of it, really. So yesterday I had a lovely, mellow time at my sister’s. Lizzie came up for the bar-b-cue, and Sean’s cooking is ALWAYS a treat. I showed them pictures from my road trip (with an emphasis on the squirrels), and caught up with everyone. Everything in life right now is pretty much wonderful, with one exception. I don’t really want to shit talk, so I’m just going to call it like it is, because eventually, whether it’s in movie, book, or column form, I’m bound to get around to divulging the intricacies of my relationship with my mother. Every word in print that does not mention her is like the knife in her heart, twisting ever so slightly.
I don’t want to embarrass her, I don’t want to hurt her, I never did. However, given our last few exchanges, the last few columns I’ve written, some out, some to come out soon, I see that no matter what I say or how I say it, she will perceive herself hurt. This is not an easy thing. The truth is, my mother is a kind, warm, and very giving person. And we do not have much of a relationship. Somehow, I broke away a long time ago, too wounded after certain exchanged words. Now, where my sisters may have smooth skin over their mother-daughter trials and tribulations, my scar has healed, but it is still visible.
The first thing she said when my cover story came out was, “you don’t mention me at all. You talk about your father in, like, three stories, but I’m nowhere.” The other day, in response to my story “I Kid You Not,” she said, “People think you don’t even HAVE a mother.” She told me she felt demeaned by my article stating my stance on children – that I’m happy my sisters are having them, because I don’t want to. I did not set out to demean her, I was surprised she could twist my words into some kind of vindictive attack directed at her. On my way out of my niece’s baptism party a few weeks ago, my mother’s good friend stopped me and told me I should write about Mom. Something “nice.” There’s plenty of “nice” things to say, but I don’t write things to be “nice.” I write what I’m thinking and feeling, when I’m thinking and feeling it. I told her, “Listen… I am trying to protect her. By the way, I hardly see her, she’s not a big part of my life, so writing about her would be disingenuous.” Then I realized I was explaining myself, and I’m trying not to get caught in that kind of roundabout, so I ended the conversation on an honest note: “She wouldn’t want me to write about her if she knew what I would say.”
I will, as I said, eventually tell the story of me and Mom. It’s a heartbreaking story that ends on a good note – she’s happy and healthy and so am I. Although the ending is changing. As this daughter becomes more successful, part of her seems to me bitter, resentful, angry. Like I told her when she explained her pain “caused” by my not writing about her, if she is going to feel demeaned, embarrassed, hurt, upset, that is all within her, and has nothing to do with me. I report my feelings based on the facts. And as I learned from a few miserable wretches when my first cover broke, the truth hurts.
As if I haven’t said enough, let me share an epiphany with you, one I had last night as I was writing away in my personal journal. Growing up, it was drilled into me not to “embarrass” the family. That everything I did reflected on my parents, that we were never to share our issues with outsiders, blood is thicker than water, etc. I learned from Mom to be a chameleon, that in one second you could be screaming your brains out and in the next, answering the phone with a smile in your voice. I APPRECIATE this. Because I believe that is why I am so intent on being consistent in my life. I want to share it all so as not to fear what is discovered. I want to be understood so as not to be misinterpreted. I want to be the same person I am with my friends, as I am with a diplomat of a foreign country. REAL. GENUINE. No bullshit, no hidden identities, no secrets, just me, like it or not. That’s what I learned from watching my mother and seeing how draining it is to pretend.
I just don’t have the energy to fake it. I don’t have the energy to fight this distance she is creating between us. We’re already so far apart. But honestly, I think we get along better this way.