perfect in our imperfection #recovery #mentalhealth #familysystems
July 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Grandson, Husband and I went out for coffee and banking errands yesterday at midday. We had planned to go out earlier, but it just didn’t happen. We ended up picking up our coffee and sipping it as we walked home because I had to leave to pick up my friend and go to an NA meeting in the afternoon.
As we approached the house, my daughter was walking toward us from the opposite direction. She had just arrived to check in with Grandson and also, as it turned out, she had a couple of hours free to hang out with me. Daughter first broke the pattern of estrangement early last spring. She was in town with her two daughter, Granddaughter1 (8 years old) and Granddaughter2 (4 years old). They came by for a visit and we drew and painted pictures while Husband fed us homemade mac ‘n cheese. I wanted to debrief with Daughter about the estrangement, in hopes of growing a new relationship as we move forward. Debriefing about the estrangement would be a new pattern of behaviour for us. I had asked Daughter for one to one time for us, so we could get this done, but there hadn’t been an opening. Yesterday, 5 minutes before I was due to go and pick up my friend, she let me know she had time RIGHT NOW.
My old behaviour would have been to call my friend and cancel our date because it was a SPECIAL EVENT for my daughter to be in town and I would drop everything to accommodate her schedule. Instinctively I knew this was a bad idea. When my daughter dropped the hint that she had some time now, I let her know I was due to pick up my friend. I let her know I would be back at 4 pm. She seemed to take it well. I felt uncomfortable with the new behaviour, but that is what recovery feels like. A little uncomfortable and strange, even when we know we are doing the right thing.
However, I couldn’t get away without compulsively crossing a boundary. This is very old behaviour deeply encoded in me by my mother’s inappropriate body obsession (mine). From my earliest memories my mother has been too interested in everything about my body – my bowel movements, what I eat, the way I dress, my hair, my (lack of) makeup, nail polish, perfume, and scented powder, my clothes – undergarments, dressing gowns, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, etc. Whenever she gives me a gift, it is inevitable in reference to my body – something to wear, to pain on, to apply. It has always creeps me out, and she continues to do this to this day. I think her last gift to me was another canister of lavender bath powder. Yuck. So I have this history of inappropriate body concern from my mother. In the past, I acted on this inappropriate concern with my daughter, and later, with my grandson.
There is at least one, maybe two infamous incidents, when I actually cut Grandson’s hair without Daughter’s permission. Not taking him to a barber, either, but sitting him down with the buzz cutter and basically cutting his hair to 1/4″ long. Not good. There is worse between my daughter and I. I don’t know if I can go into it now, I have never told this one to anyone. Suffice to say I have had bad boundary management issues with my daughter and grandson and I am determined to change that.
As my daughter approached us on the sidewalk I admired her outfit, which was a striking summer combination of pants and sleeveless top. She proudly told me that she had made it herself. It was a cool, cloudy day, and she mentioned it was a little cool out that day, and rubbed her shoulders. A little later, as I was getting ready to leave to meet my friend, I turned to her and asked if she needed anything, like a sweater. I immediately felt foolish and ashamed. I had acted out again. To a bystander, this might look like an innocuous request, no cause for alarm. But to me, with a lifetime of shame and psychological injury from personal boundary violation, it was much more.
First, my daughter is 39 years old. She is surely capable of asking for a sweater if she needs one. Second, who am I to tell my daughter whether she needs a sweater or not? Surely I can offer her the respect that she knows how to take care of herself. Third, it is so hypocritical. I have been a mother that has not met the most basic needs for the protection and care of my daughters physical, mental or emotional health when I was solely the one to do so. She has managed, despite my colossal mothering errors, to turn out to be a fine mother and a wonderful human being, despite the deficits of her childhood (for example, she only managed to get a grade 9 education because her home life was so chaotic). And here, I have the temerity to question whether she can clothe herself properly? Such a contradiction of history versus compulsion.
So I did it, within 15 minutes of spending time with my daughter after 4 years of estrangement, despite my conviction that I want to grow a new relationship with her. I had compulsively enacted the very behaviour that leads me to avoid spending time with my own mother.
You know, now that I think about it, my sister does the same thing with my mother. She clothes my mother. She is always sharing the latest stories of going clothes or shoe shopping with my mom. I think it is safe to say that my mom’s entire wardrobe, at this point, has been purchased on shopping trips with my sister. Huh. Strange.
Anyway, I attended my NA meeting and shared a choking, sobbing account of what had transpired before I left to pick up my friend. I had no idea all that raw emotion was sitting below the surface. It felt good to share and I realized I am a work in progress, I am perfect in my imperfection.