Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another mother

Have you ever known anyone who always tries to present a falsified/better image? This person is so caught up in maintaining this unrealistic image. Ultimately, you would respect the person more if the person was just more authentic and not so caught up in being "perfect."

For me that person is my mom. I suppose it would be easier if I was the only recipient. Unfortunately, she's like that to everyone. She is perfect, the rest of the world is very flawed. The rest of the world makes stupid decisions.

There's that people in glass houses saying that I want to tell her, but I know I would be subject to death if I even alluded to her not being perfect.

Nothing specific precipitated this post; I've been feeling this way for decades. In the back of my mind, I had hoped things with her would change once I became a mother. She might let her guard down at least once and have a real conversation.

I haven't ever had what I would call a real conversation with my mother. By a real conversation, I mean something like a blog entry (I know it's one-sided, but humor me here) that involves talking about what you're thinking and feeling. I'm not one to voice my thoughts very well, so instead I do tend to blog. But in the right environment I do talk about things with people I know and respect. I'm talking about getting to the blog level of discussion. As in this entry where I say I've never had a real conversation with my mother. I wish I could voice that concern to her….without her going apeshit.

I was an only child. I didn't envy friends with siblings. My dad wasn't around. I didn't envy kids with dads who were around (although I'm appreciative that my daughter's dad IS around). But I did envy those who could really talk with a parent, most of the time their mothers. I envied being able to have a real conversation, with someone who would listen and give you advice if needed or a hug if needed.

I didn’t have that.

It's a peculiar construct, I realize this now. Mothers are supposed to give you hugs and gentle words of advice and support and all those things that are at the very essence of motherhood. I didn't have that.

I'm not coming from a place of anger. My mom is odd, and as I proceed on my own path of motherhood, I'm realizing more and more how odd she actually is. I'd say she has Asperger's plus a few personality disorders (borderline, maybe a light version of bipolar).

So much of what she does and says revolves around maintaining a picture of perfection, particularly in being orderly and scholarly. Nothing bad that happens is ever her fault and nor does she contribute to it in any way. There is zero ownership of the bad and 100% ownership of the good.

A friend I knew gave me this button: "Neurotics build castles in the sky. Psychotics live in them." Sometimes I think my mom lives in this fantasy world that she built, and it's impenetrable from the outside world.

So what do my mom and I talk about? Not much. I don't trust her. And she's only focused on facts from me. There's no support from her, and I'm surrounded by constantly feeling like a failure even though in actuality I should be very proud of myself.

For instance, growing up I was expected to have impeccable grades. I did have great grades, for the most part--an endless string of A's and raves on my report card for citizenship, being a hard worker, thoughtful, etc. But when I got an A- or a B+, she would make a huge deal that would basically say I was headed to a life of homelessness because I'm "lazy." I never bought her arguments, and it's hard to argue with crazy. I was more of the type to walk away and retreat into my room. And she was the type to continue on by opening the door every few minutes, yelling an insult and slamming the door.

I couldn't wait to leave the house. Aside from a few other personal and financial reasons, that was the reason I started college at 15. The more quickly I could amass college credits, the sooner I could get the hell out. I LOVED not living with my mother anymore once I transferred to a four-year university at 17. I didn't miss her mood swings, her insecurity disguised by emotional abuse, her weird sense of self. There have been other indications, like her employment history is somewhat speckled, and my aunt recently told me that she didn't do well on her current performance review.

My college report cards were sent to her house instead of the dorm. One day I had to compile all of the classes I had taken for one reason or another, and I was going through the big filing cabinet of important papers to collect all these report cards.

I have to admit that I was interested in finding more about my mom. She was always so quick to evaluate me, but she was always so secretive when the shoe was on the other foot. I wanted to know more about her. I remember finding her college transcript in that filing cabinet. It was littered with C's, D's, B's and a token A here and there.

My mom's GPA sucked, and she was on me about my 3.92 GPA being awful??!  When I looked at that alphabet soup, I knew there had to be something going on behind the scenes. My mom wasn't that bad of a student, was she? Maybe she didn't adjust well to college. Maybe it was a boy. Was that when her mom was sick? I gave her the benefit of the doubt that something went on for those few years that caused the poor grades.

But it's not like I could ever bring that (or anything else) up with her. She would accuse me of spying despite our records being in file folders right next to each other. She wouldn't be honest with me or herself. She would shut down.  

Another question that makes her shut down: "What attracted you to my dad?" I just want to hear something for goodness sakes!  Was it his smile? Was it how he told her a joke? Maybe I want to see her giggle and tell me a story about the day they met. It's not like I'm asking how to get into Fort Knox. You fell in love with him for some reason. Yeah, it didn't end well. Some of my relationships didn't end well either. But I can still do that little sigh and remember all those tiny details from 20 years ago even with the ones that didn't end well. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to conclude from her refusal to answer, but what I come away with is that she doesn't want to be reminded of something that didn't end well.

There are so many instances and examples of why I have never had a real conversation with my mother. I feel like I have to compensate for the weirdness with my mom by overtalking with my daughter. I probably overshare. I've written journals and letters to her that I want to give her on her 18th birthday to explain myself and how I'm the crazy mother she ended up with. I don't want to pretend to be perfect with her. I want her to feel like she can talk with me. I don't have answers most of the time, but maybe I can give her a perspective that helps in some way.

I do envy those with a mother that they can actually talk with about things. Over the years, that void has somewhat been filled--mostly with my husband and various friends and sometimes just blogging, yet I don't think it's the same as it would be with an emotionally present mother.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Norman Rockwell image

My immediate neighborhood isn't very interesting. For the most part, families bought their houses in the early 1990s (in their 30s) and now in their 50s. Their kids are out of the house or close to it. There's a few newbies, like us, that have younger kids. This neighborhood sprawls a bit more and it's on a hill, so it doesn't have that "kids all hang out in the street" atmosphere.

The adjacent neighborhood has a different vibe. The houses are much close together, and it's arranged like a four-leaf clover with four cul-de-sacs. It seems like each house has at least 3 kids. I enjoy walking in that neighborhood because it's so freaking fascinating.

Tonight is the night before recycling pick-up. Most recycling goes in the big blue containers with the exception of bottles (i.e., empty wine and beer bottles) that go in a bin. My neighborhood really doesn't have that much in the way of bottle recycling. Out of 30 houses I walked by, there were 2 houses that had bins out, and there wasn't much in the way of bottles in there. Maybe 3 beer bottles and 2 wine bottles. For two weeks, that doesn't seem like much. In the other neighborhood, there are so many houses with alcohol bottles. And not a measly few bottles. We're talking 20 wine bottles and 20 beer bottles per bin. I'd say that some houses were having big parties, but it's the same houses putting out all those bottles every two weeks. It could be that they have a lot of people living there. It's not my place to judge; I just notice a lot of alcohol consumption in that neighborhood for some reason.

That whole neighborhood seems so confining. Stepford Wives + Truman Show. It's like all the air is replaced with a haunting spell that compels you to have 3 kids and a dog and reminisce of a time when you didn't need to lock your door.

I want to tell the people who always have their lights on and still haven't bought blinds or curtains to do so. I try to politely avert my eyes from the living dollhouse as I walk by, but it's sometimes difficult.

The undercurrent -- I want to find it. The alcohol bottles in all the bins are a hint that everything might not be as Norman Rockwell as the building developer had hoped it would be. They don't have streetlights in the neighborhood. Instead, they are these stubby lantern things.

One thing I want to ask the builder is why he chose so many of the houses to have detached garages. It's Seattle, after all. It RAINS. Putting your car in the garage and then walking from the garage in the rain to the house seems odd, particularly when it doesn't save space and there are many house floorplans that have attached garages. I don't understand.

That neighborhood always makes me want to write. The subversive under the Norman Rockwell image intrigues me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Embracing my introverted ways

I've always known what personality was desired in a person. People wanted to be around extroverts--those people that could thrive in any setting with people, who could get anyone to laugh and go along with their ideas. When I took those career tests, I knew the correct answer was "I prefer groups of people" over "I prefer being by myself."

You might say there is no correct answer. Then you haven't seen the results to those tests. An extrovert gets a whole list of possible careers, and the introverts get a short list of logger, mathematician, coal miner.

There is a correct answer. I could talk myself into the correct answers on a good day. After all, I really enjoy talking with people and meeting new people. Just one-on-one versus an overwhelming party with loud music where you can't hear anyone and have a real conversation. After I got my real estate license, I thought about becoming a real estate agent. It's actually an interesting job where you mainly work one-on-one and my psychology degree would come in handy. When they gave me the personality test, I knew I had to up my extrovert quotient. That combined with my excellent contract reading and writing skills & math skills, I was a shoo-in. Alas, I didn't end up pursuing it because my day job is too time-consuming.

During the summers, I have more time off. I could take more time off during the school year, but the nature of my job is that more than a day off during the school year is hard to swing. Usually I take the summer to reconnect with friends that I don't see as much during the school year.

This year...nah. I've basically been a recluse. That might be a tad dramatic. Maybe it's only a semi-recluse. I've spent my time off blueberry picking, grocery shopping, reading, doing yardwork, binge watching shows on Netflix--all activities I do by myself.

Last weekend we were invited to a barbecue on Saturday and going out on a yacht on Sunday. Eh, I passed on both, which I know was stupid because how many times do you get invited to go out on a yacht??? I preferred just staying home.

So, yeah, I'm embracing my introverted ways lately. I'm not even trying to fake it this summer.