Lately I’ve been considering how before ceasing contact with my mother, I was on my way to narcissism town. Despite being fundamentally a soft hearted person, over time I felt less and less of the ‘soft’. It was replaced by frustrated annoyance, sarcasm, and rage.
This has been coming up for me because my relationships with loved ones are truly transforming. D & A remark on how I’ve changed and continue to change. Their lives are better for it; which was the initial reason for making drastic alterations to my life. Other people have noticed too.
Today I decided to write a never-to-be-sent note to my mother. What emerged from that has surprised me, but it also makes perfect sense. Another piece of the puzzle clicks into place.
Since my early 20’s when I had my daughter, until age 33 when I finally woke up enough to cease contact with my mother, I truly believed she had changed.
This was the woman who drove off to work with a distraught child (younger sister) begging her not to leave us alone with father. Grovelling on the ground at her feet in the rain and mud. Clutching at her ankles. Mother’s persistent neglect allowed the incest & other torture to happen.
This was the woman who plopped me unsupervised in a very cold swimming pool when I was 3 years old. There was only the plastic siding for me to cling to and when it got wet I slipped and went topsy-turvy in the water. Somehow managed to come up spluttering and grab for dear life back onto the side. I remember the pebbly brown concrete that surrounded the pool and the tips of my fingers grating on it. My mother (watching from the shadows inside the house?) came out then, stood about 2 meters from me and said flat and cold “That was your own fault.” before turning and going back inside. I remember the painfully slow process of waiting for the plastic to dry a bit in the weak sunshine and then inching my way towards the pool ladder to get out. Each time I moved, the siding was sopped with water again. So I waited. Moved. Waited. Moved. Finally I reached that ladder and escaped. I was a very smart kid. This is what I did, and I remember it like it was yesterday. My whole life back then was geared at surviving the abuse and neglect; via plans, probability, exit strategies. Like I’ve said before, I was mute about the abuse. I lived inside where the plans were.
My mother was also the woman who said
“You only wish you had a stalker.”
and when I explained two detectives had visited the house that day to say they’d been to the ex con’s house and threatened him with breach of parole if he didn’t leave me alone;
“Well, it’s your fault for going out walking all the time.”
When I was on my knees by the side of her bed one night during my late teens and I begged for help because I was suicidal, she looked right at me and said in that same flat, cold voice:
“I wish euthanasia was legal for people like you.”
And finally; shortly after I’d met D his first experience of my mother was her spitting the word “whore” at me. D immediately moved me in with him. He said that he knew I was in mortal danger from my family. He never trusted my mother the entire time he knew her. I can only imagine the suffering D went through watching me try for a healthy relationship with my mother for over a decade.
A was born when I was 21 and I believed this woman, this same mother of mine, had changed. Like magic. After all, teenage-parent relationships are always strained, right? I haven’t bothered to mention my institutionalisations nor all the other abuses mother committed against me over the years…
I wanted this new caring mother to be part of our lives. To be a gran for A.
My mother hadn’t actually changed. She merely changed tactics.
She psychologically groomed me. This is what I uncovered via journaling today:
Every interaction with you was a covert power-play. I see that now. Your penetrating look and carefully selected words. The way you groomed me by pushing the envelope on an issue; making a nasty statement and gauging my reaction with a keen sideways glance and lick of your lips. You always licked your lips, like a predator surveying prey.
You watched for my reaction. Rejection? Acceptance?
My acceptance was met with an immediate lightening of your mood.
Rejection was met with you looking like a slapped child. I always felt guilty about that.
Ambivalence on my part was met with another little nudge. You always looked for either acceptance, or rejection. You needed the information, and stored it.
Over and over and over…
This way, over 12 years or so you inched me in whichever direction you wanted me to go.
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
I was your enemy. Without doubt. I’m somebody who holds information about you that you do not want others to know.
During my early adulthood, I believed you’d changed; that you’d become my friend. I became accustomed to your f*d up perspective of other people. This perspective took up residency within me. I always looked to you and acted according to your will. You were my first person to call. Never mind about poor D.
If I became you, I’d no longer pose a threat I guess.
Your sly, protracted effort to assimilate me failed.
* * *
After ceasing contact with my mother A came to me one day and said she was so glad Gran was gone and that she hoped to never see her again.
Amongst other things, A told me the last time her Gran took her to camp she nearly drowned in the lake and her Gran just watched her struggle, from a distance. A’s friend ended up rescuing her. At that point she was clinging to a plastic bouy but kept slipping off over and over. When A got back on land her Gran coldly berated her, blamed her for what happened.
I’d told D about my mother leaving me in the pool as a 3 year old, but A had no idea about it. When she told me what happened at camp it was hard for me to grasp. I still haven’t fully grasped it, to be honest. Occasionally I get glimpses of my emotions surrounding that. In those moments I want to hunt my mother down and knock her block off. I remember the day mother dropped A home from that camp, and how A hid in her room as my mother spun me a bullshit story about an argument they had during clean-up (“I think A might be pissed off at me…”). I still recall the nervous energy pulsing off my mother. Her sideways look, the lick of her lips. I should have known. I should have decked her then and there for fucking with my child.
One of the family stories recalls the time my grandmother, a harried sociopath with 7 daughters, attempted to drown the younger children in the bathtub. The older kids (my mother being one of them) had to fight her off and rescue the little ones.
How my mother went from a rescuer to perpetrator, I’ll never know. Or do I? Was she groomed too? Worn down over years, decades; her psyche morphed into something hideous?