how to be your own mother

be on your own side1

I have been avoiding writing this for weeks. But maybe now, that’s because I didn’t have the end of the story.

I had a draft ready about self-parenting, and how important it is after having the latest phone call with my mom. I called to ask for money–this was back in March. She didn’t have any. I called also to check in, since she really hadn’t been checking to see how I was doing. After all, I’ve been in a financial bind for a few months.

I had come to accept that part, sort of–the parentification. Maybe not all the way, yet. But I’m approaching 40 and there isn’t much room for pitching a fit about how un-maternal my mother is.

Or so I thought.

The reason I was going to blog was about a bout of shame I had from my mom asking me about some creditor calling her house. I just told her to ignore it. She kept insisting. She asked if I had given her information to them–they had called her home phone and cell phone. I was so annoyed. Why would I do that? Why would you think I’d do that? And then I basically spat out, like I was shaking off a viper into the fire: hey, if you want them to stop calling, pray I get a better job. And then I hung up.

Self-Parenting: Being On Your Own Side

It took me a bit to recover from the accusation, or really–how she thought I couldn’t be trusted. In that moment, it felt like a deep betrayal. She couldn’t think that this awful car loan folks, so awful that the Better Business Bureau hasn’t given them the thumbs up, would be the enemy. No, I was. The truth of what she implied really gutted me, unexpectedly. It felt like everything was in stark relief.

My mother is not on my side.

Self-parenting is something I’ve had to do for a while, although maybe not as effectively as I want. I talked about parentification in the previous post, and that’s essentially when you parent your parents as a child. But self-parenting, being the parent that you needed and deserved but didn’t get, for whatever reason: alcoholism, mental illness, death–it’s kind of a burden, but who else is going to do it?

After that phone call, I realized that I really needed to effectively self-parent. I had also listened to a personal development podcast or two that had touched on this topic somewhat–parenting styles, attachment styles, being the dad who can cheer you on, stuff like that.

I looked up this blog post from Huffington Post on self-parenting and I wrote down these ten steps:

No, I will not…

Automatically take the other person’s side.
Assume the worst about me.
Hold myself as responsible and to blame for the way I feel and whatever has gone wrong.
Discredit my own feelings.
Talk to myself as if I do not matter.
Shame myself for what I am feeling.
Reject or ignore myself when I am upset.
Put myself last.
Terrorize myself with potential disasters.
Be mean to or bully myself.

And finally: No, I will not accept being treated this way — by me.

My mom had committed the first and second no-no’s. She automatically took the side of my creditors and she assumed the worst about me. She didn’t ask me what was going on, or if I was in trouble. She asked if I had given them her information. I don’t know why I was so surprised. Maybe my journey in reluctant self-employment has caused me to go soft. I’ve known this woman for almost 40 years, but that night, I really saw her. So I decided that no, I will not accept being treated this way, by me or anyone else.

The Great Awakening

On Easter Sunday, I was listening to yet another personal development podcast. When I listen to these podcasts, usually it’s like poco a poco, bit by bit, little nuggets and nibbles for the long journey head. Maybe it’s like grabbing a water while running a marathon–refreshing, keeps you going, but it’s just water. This podcast was about narcissistic mothers.

I was thinking, well, this isn’t going to be about my mother. I’m actually in the shower, washing my hair listening to this, and then there’s something about how narcissistic mothers will blame you for how their lives turned out. “I gave up my career for you…”

My mother had told me something like this years ago, and then when I called her out on it, she said she didn’t remember saying it. I had never been able to put a label towards my mother’s coldness towards me.

The podcast went on to say that narcissists may seem great to everyone else. They overcompensate. Finally, someone was able to explain, ever so deftly, how my mom was so well liked and loved by everyone else, but how when it came to me and my brother, we were burdens.

I remember one time calling her out on how unenthusiastic she would answer the phone when I called vs. when she answered the phone for anyone else. It was always like, “Oh, it’s just you.” How does a child, young or old, not internalize that?

Oh. It’s just you.

By the time the podcast was over, I was crying and raining on the inside, hailstorms of truth was ricocheting off the tin roof of my heart. I can’t remember if I actually cried. I felt relieved, but I also knew that I was entering a new stage of grief.

I had to grieve the life I could have had if my mom wasn’t narcissistic. All the healthy relationships I missed. All the jobs I could have gone for if I believed in myself more–if she believed in me more. And it’s funny–I knew my dad was one a long time ago. Somehow it’s so much more easier to forgive, or at least accept. But if your mother can’t look out for you, who can?

So last week was one of the toughest I have ever had. I’m sure I was depressed–although it’d be hard to tell on the outside, except that I had to push my work and deadlines as much as I could, to have space for the grief. A few days after I listened to that podcast tweeted more of my thoughts here.

Like I said two posts ago, I have had to put a pause on all of my relationships. I feel hyperaware of how I act and react. Am I trying too hard? Am I trying to make up for the middle ground of the other side, too?

I think what hurts worst right now is knowing that I will never know how much damage this relationship did to my future–especially with having a family of my own. I feel like I’ve been spared, and that I spared any kids I would have had. To have a family be the collateral damage of my own family of origin drama–the Universe knows that I want to minimize that as much as possible. So maybe, I’ll accept being…unseen…for now.

Knowing that I have to be my own mother, be the nurturing, compassionate woman who will never leave my side, who will always believe the best about me…it’s so much better going into any relationship now knowing how I’m emotionally gimpy, and how, albeit painful and heartbreaking, I can finally start to heal from all of this properly.

Sunday morning in the shower, I wasn’t really bargaining for a full-on awakening. All roads lead back to this initial wound, from my mother who didn’t even want to remember when I was born–even if it was because it was a scary birth. There was no, “Even though the childbirth was scary, you are my favorite and most precious Christmas gift.”

Even though she has never said that to me, and never while, even writing that, and reading that–that does something to me. It touches me. Like it makes me feel a little more human, a little more connected to others. Oh, it would have been nice to have a sentimental, caring, compassionate mom, not a narcissist who sucked the life and love out of me on demand. But having me be my own mom is definitely the next best thing.

By Friday, the pain–it was actually physical pain. I know what heartbreak feels like now–was gone. I’m not sure if I was spiritual about it. I hope I was. I hope the angels and archangels were close by.

Tonight, I sit in deep gratitude. Do you know what it’s like to have the biggest life question rattling around inside of you, guiding you into the most desolate and desperate places, making you do the most foolish and unseemly things? And then, all at once, on a sleepy Sunday morning, someone strings all the right words together, words you’ve heard before, but just not in that order…

Question answered. I’m not crazy. I’m not unlovable. I just had the bad luck of having two narcissists as my parents.

Even though I had been in therapy for most of my adulthood, my therapists and I were just walking around these caverns of loss, never really arriving anywhere–or so it seems. Maybe it was just the scavenger hunt to the real bounty that I found almost two week ago now.

Right now, though, it’s been hard to think that I’m not permanently damaged, that I won’t find the love that I really want and need in my life. Having a mom-sized hole in your heart is not easily filled. It feels abysmal, like a black hole sucking the life out of everything and everyone. But starting with self-parenting is at least a cement mixer of love that’s on the way.

And even though I may not need to, I’d like to say I’m sorry to everyone I’ve hurt while I was whirling around this gaping hole of sorrow that I couldn’t heal just yet. I was blind in pain, so blind that I’m not even sure how many people I’ve hurt, annoyed, pushed away, sucked dry…I’m just sorry.

And like I said before, I don’t know if I would have had the time to get this message if life hadn’t knocked me on my ass again with underemployment. This gift of freedom, of true self-love and self-acceptance…it’s really invaluable to me now. I feel like I have the key that can unlock all the doors to what I want.

All of this is still unraveling, and I want to keep myself safe, keep my feelings, dreams, and desires, all safe, all with me, like they matter. Like I matter. Whatever happens now, I know that I am on my own side, that I can be my own mother, and that is far better than how I was living before.

 

Oh, Mother

mother-and-baby-1549912

I wasn’t going to post today, but it seems like this week is a week of revelations and breakthroughs, so I’m just gonna roll with it.

Last night, I had two good conversations with two women (A Scorpio Sun and a Scorpio Moon–so Scorpio season isn’t over for me). One convo started talking about holiday plans which delved into family matters, because of course, it’s the holidays–makes sense. We both have water signs for mothers (Cancer for the Scorpio and Pisces for me, the Capricorn), and  I’ve called my mom a fire fish because she has very little water in her chart besides her sun sign. The only water I see is Chiron…in Scorpio. Everything else is fire and air. I’m not sure about her ascendant. Right now, it looks like Virgo, so sun opposite ascendant. Doesn’t seem to fit.

I digress, but it’s important to note the lack of emotion there, because this is at the heart of my breakthrough. As you know, it’s been tough being unemployed–not circumstantially, but emotionally. It’s been very triggering in terms of not feeling supported, of feeling abandoned. It feels like mostly everyone in my life has taken a step or two back. I feel like I am traversing this period of my journey alone. Yes, yes, we are never alone in the Universe, but, whether my aloneness is true or not doesn’t matter for how I feel. All of this feels like an overreaction. It seems that the unemployment spell has been a catalyst to get to the heart of these persistent feelings I’ve had.

This time around, I’m really seeing the frustrating dynamic between me and my mother. I want to be nurtured and doted on, but she has never been really a cuddly mother–to me or my brother. But with others, she’s so supportive and adoring.

When I see fire and air in a natal chart like hers–as a wannabe astrologer–and I couple it with my own experiences with her, I see a go-getter, not a stay-at-home mom, which she was. Although with her Jupiter in Sag (which is Jupiter’s home) in her 4th house–the nurturing for home should be there for her family. Still, I truly believe motherhood grounded this jet pilot from soaring high. She’s basically said as much, which was hurtful to hear. I had even forgotten she said that to me until this morning.

This all started to hit me earlier this month in a phone conversation with my mom. I had been calling her every Sunday at around 3pm. Lately, because she does work so hard, she had started to doze off on me. The last phone call I had before she called me this week, I just felt a cold wall between us, a wall that had always been there. Friends of mine have been a lot more compassionate about my time down here than she has. I have wanted to focus on the good things, on her supporting me financially in grad school and beyond. But what I really wanted, what I’ve always wanted, was her encouragement and support.

I stopped calling.

She called me this week to see how I was doing, but went on to talk about what was going on with her, in detail. And my parents always treated me like this, like I was their living journal. Still, maybe I’m a weirdo for thinking that if my child was in some financial crisis, I wouldn’t wait almost 2 weeks to call her.

(I know I’m not a weirdo.)

What’s sad is, I don’t know what she would say in support of me. Maybe you have some rote phrases your mom or dad would say to you if you were facing tough times.

“We are so proud of you.”

“You got this, babygirl.”

“You will get through this. We love you so much.”

“We’ll always be here for you.”

It’s honestly like writing really bad, cliched fiction. I don’t know what parental words of support sound like, feel like, look like.

It’s really interesting to be a double Capricorn and see my parents, two career people, and think–parenthood was not your calling. I get it, more than they know. And I want kids, way more than they ever did.

So, yes, maybe marriage for then (quincunx realness–Pisces mom, Leo dad), but not kids. Or, maybe not kids so soon. They just weren’t really emotionally there for me. We all were leading our own separate lives. I can let my dad off the hook about this more because at least he has a chronic mental health issue. But my mother? Great childhood, great life–

And I got in the way of it.

And of course, this has been internalized, deeply. Don’t take up space. Don’t ask for help. Don’t think that you deserve good things. Don’t think anyone will really just want you just because of who you are. I honestly have no idea how I’ve even made it this far basically on no gas. On a holiday for family get-togethers (and well, a weird commemoration of genocide), it’s strange but almost fitting to embrace the idea, and maybe the fact, that my parents didn’t really want me. Maybe my brother, but not me. The only benefit of the doubt I’ll give is that Pluto in Leo (the Baby Boomer generation) folks are all about themselves and may also not be good at expressing pride or love or compassion to their children. Meanwhile, Pluto in Libra folks (Gen-X, Gen…not Millennial) are trying to be at peace with everyone.

There’s some weird freedom in knowing that I’ve been trying to make something fit–familial love–that was never there. When I think about my parents, I have never really felt anything. There’s just an empty space. How can you mourn something you’ve never had? Well, I did, when I spent my first Christmas birthday away from home. I could see the interconnectedness, the warmth, the caring about others’ feelings. It was the last straw that broke me into clinical depression for a few years. So at least part of me knew what I was missing. Granted, I was allegedly a daddy’s little girl but I feel like I have no psychic remembrance of that love.

I believe that my parents feel like because they clothed and fed me, and taught me the Bible, that I’m set, and they did an excellent job. Having work end for me on September 30th feels like my car, my life vehicle, has finally grinded to a halt. Today, after much frustration and angst with searching for the answer, I’m realizing what the actual problem is. It’s like a million light bulbs went on, thankfully on a dimmer. I’m not blinded. Or maybe it’s like connecting strings of Christmas lights. I had all the lights, some of them were on, and now I can see the greater design and all the connections. It’s a lot to take in.

I’m now pretty sure if I wasn’t unemployed, facing all these bills, my phone probably shutting off soon, that I’d keep trying to grind and get what I want. I mean, almost 39 years of living like this, riding the E, is impressive but also really scary.

There’s no way I can bring more love and money and whatever else into my life when I keep hoping to receive it from sources that can never give it to me.

I have known that I need to self-parent my way out of this mess, but it really hit me when I was sharing with my friends and hearing their gut-wrenching stories. I have been self-parenting out of resentment. I did deserve loving, caring parents who were on my side. So, out of sheer necessity and survival, not out of hurt, I need to be on my own side. Out of sheer necessity and survival, I have been embracing that today, and will do so moving forward.

One big thing that parents must  teach their children is to be their own person–specifically, how to self-soothe. Parents will not be there forever and their children need to know how to make it in the world without them.

Even in their authoritarian way, my parents created a dependency on them that would never be resolved. It’s like a screaming newborn who will never get picked up.

I gotta stop waiting for them to pick me up. 

Even as I type that, I’m waiting for some tsunami wall of tears to drown me. I’ve actually have been waiting for years to just break down and say, “Oh, woe is me! I’m an emotional orphan!” But I’ve been low-key grieving this since I got here.

Maybe, as I hope to have my own family, this will hit me in real, painful, pointed ways, but for now, I feel a lot of relief.

I don’t have to try to make this work.

I am not Joseph in Egypt and my family coming back to me when there’s a famine in their land.

I do not have to save them. I cannot, even if I wanted to.

The way my life has gone–it’s one of resilience against many odds. I’m proud of that and I’m tired of that. I really thought it was about the circumstances, being supremely unlucky. But it’s not. It’s the gaping hole in my chest of not really being wanted by my own parents. I adapted my life around it, creating the story that I was an unfixable, fucked up person. But that wasn’t it. None of us are perfect, but there was, and there is nothing wrong with me.

There is no deformity of my soul or some awful, impenetrable character flaw that said I wasn’t deserving of love. I just had the parents that I had who just didn’t show me love in a way I understood, nor did they teach me how to love myself.

When you feel that unloved, even when you’ve lived with that empty space your whole life, it feels like you’re a zombie. You’re alive, but you’re not really alive. When challenges come up, you take it personally. You want to implode. You want to completely disappear. You want to give up, on everything.

This really feels like a #majorkey. Or the key, to everything. The answer to the question of why I’ve felt so unsettled, so not at home on planet Earth. And I’m now I’m going to unlock every fucking thing that I can find.

As I’ve kept falling further and further down into myself, I finally feel like I can’t go any further down. That’s why I feel relieved. It means that I’m going to bounce further up than I have ever gone in my life. I may still battle with fears and dread and despair, but for me, nothing can hurt worse than parental rejection. And I’ve survived that.

I’m deserving of love, of affection, of support, of connection, and of all good things–even a job; even financial stability; even inner peace. And one day, I’ll really believe that.