other people’s muck

i spent some time with my family a couple of weeks ago, talking to my sister about some relationship issues she was having. then my mom joined the conversation. mom had solicited my advice on helping my sister, and it turned into somewhat of a family discussion on mental health. in the process of this i was trying to explain to my sister about therapy and the value of talking to someone outside of the family about the effects of growing up in our family. using myself as an example, i talked to her about what i came to believe about myself growing up with mom, and how i thought i was a horrible and incompetent person for a long time. my mom was shocked by this information. in her memory, everyone loved me and showered praise on me for my goodness, intelligence, and talent. it’s complicated.

we talked for a while, my mom ended up apologizing to me, really for the first time, about my experience as a kid. she doesn’t remember a lot of what i remember, but she acknowledges she was partying a lot and caught up in her own life. after a while, my mom and sister fell back into their own unhealthy communication patterns and it started to get ugly so i excused myself to go home.

still. as i walked down the hall out of their apartment building, i noticed a shift in myself. in the past if things had ended in ugliness, i knew i was going to take a break from them for a couple weeks. i just don’t like getting caught up in other people’s muck. i’d rather be safe at home in my own little apartment. definitely an element of self-protection because conflict has made me so anxious in the past. but on this night, i felt different. i knew i would check in with both of them the next day. i think that being willing to be close to people, go through their dysfunction, bad behavior, and acting out along with all the positive, happy times… that’s part of being in someone’s life. i see that i’m making progress on accepting and walking toward all of what it means to connect. even though parts were ugly, i walked out feeling warm. and to be honest a lot of it is my mom making the unbelievable step (given her tendency toward a self-centered point of view) of taking responsibility. so it’s not just about me – she took a step forward and i met her. it feels good!

this year i’m very happy to celebrate my mom. in my adulthood, our relationship has been a little strained, i’ve kept my distance. but over the past year, we’ve grown closer. i acknowledge her for who she is, and i’m thankful for many things about her. as i grow and she grows and our relationship grows, i let go of past hurts and can appreciate her more. it’s a good feeling.

Me and Mom

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cards

i’m not generally a card person.  i don’t send a lot, i don’t save them forever.  in fact, i think i have used the same box of christmas cards for the past 2-3 years.  just don’t care.

but this year is different.  this year i have something to say.  or rather, thanks to give.  so i bought a new box of cards and sent them out with loving gratitude to a few people that really showed up for me this year.  as i was writing them out i started to cry, thinking back to the presence of friends during the funerals, before, and after.

the thing that struck me most, that brought a special brand of tears, was the kindness shown to me this year, the care.  from close friends, hospice and nursing home staff, and people i didn’t know as well.  just amazing.

as i was thinking how to sign my cards, i thought back to the last thing my aunt signed for me.  which got me thinking about when i received it.  hours after she died.  and then i remember.

this week has been harder.  in grief counseling on monday, i cried a lot more, wordless tears, than i have since i started.  thanksgiving went better than i expected so i feel optimistic about christmas.  still.  i miss them.  so much.