a strange dichotomy of feelings

Do you remember Dr. Dolittle’s famous find, the pushmi-pullu?  It was a creature with two heads.  in order to go in one direction, both sides had to agree to go that way.  If agreement was not reached, both sides could be pushing against each other, or one could pull back while the other tried to move forward, all sorts of difficulties could ensue when the pushmi-pullu wanted to get anywhere.


How difficult it could be for the pushmi-pullu to get from one place to another!  Sometimes the mind is like that, with one half pushing in one direction and the other pushing a different way.  My mind feels like that a lot.


Within 24 hours of my mother’s Facebook message about our meeting at the mall, and my response that yes, indeed, I did have the courage to confront her, I got another message that was a complete turnabout from the one no more than 24 hours before.

Why does it have to be a ‘confrontation’? Are you unable or unwilling to have a conversation with me? Are you so afraid that I might ……………. you name it! I am only your heartbroken mother, worried about the stresses in your life and the false allegations you have made against me and others. Our grandchildren are important to us, and I want them to know they are loved. To whom can I send some small Christmas gifts — to your son’s address or to your dad’s? Or bring them with me when you agree to meet and talk (VS: a confrontation). Tell me, did you see me before I approached you? You seemed not at all surprised to see me. Our future conversation can only be successful if you agree to be less defensive and more open to understanding my position. Why did I leave the reception — I was about to vomit…..wouldn’t that have been a great addition to the occasion??!! In spite of what you think, you are loved — why would I have gone to the trouble of making that two-volume scrapbook for you if I didn’t love you with all of my heart? Check your schedule, and I will meet you in town or wherever it works for you. xoxoxoxo 


The confusion this message gave me is boundless.  I was astounded by the level of hypocrisy in the message. There were so many things I wanted to respond to in these messages, I did not know where to begin!  In the end, with some help from my therapist, I penned and sent this message back to her:

Dear Mom,

I wanted to wait through Thanksgiving before responding to your latest message so that I could give a great deal of thought to what I say here. Having done so, here is what I would like to tell you.


Mom, in your first message to me after we met at the mall, your words to me were: “I doubt that you would have taken that walk TO me, but would have run like a mad woman to avoid confronting the woman about whom you have leveled so many false accusations. You would not have had the courage to confront me.” “if you were so sure, you would have welcomed confronting me with even more lies and delusional memories.” The next day when I called your bluff and said name the time and place, you said, “Why does it have to be a ‘confrontation’? Why did it take you less than 24 hours to contradict yourself, Mom? Did you or did you not use the words confront & confronting in your Facebook message? And then you turned around and hypocritically accused me of it needing to be confrontational. Why does this happen time and time again, Mom? You flip flop more than any politician I know. Seriously done with that now. Now when you contradict yourself following some liquid courage, I will throw your own words and hypocrisy right back at you.


Here is another gem of TRUTH out of you, Mom: “I will no longer insinuate myself into your life. You have chosen to sever our relationship, and I will accept that.” Is this before or after you wrote a letter to my father trying to turn him against me? Yes, I know that you told him that at the wedding you thought he looked like a “broken man” due to the stress and worry I have put him through. Seems to me that by reaching out to my dad, by posting an endorsement for my friend and daily looking at my LinkedIn page, you are far from keeping yourself out of my life.


“I am here if you need me, but I doubt that you would ever admit any need.” I admitted need last October, and you told me that if I wanted your help I had to divorce my husband. I told you of my need earlier this year and you responded with an offer conditional on our foreclosing, and then only to pay my best friend back and to give usnsome money with which we could only do things or make purchases that you approved of. Not really the kind of help I need, Mom. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I have ever gotten the help I needed from you when I asked for it.


Perhaps the single most hypocritical thing out of your mouth, this treasure: “Our future conversation can only be successful if YOU agree to be less defensive and more open to understanding my position.” This coupled in the same text as you state that I have made “false allegations.” Let me get this straight, you are claiming everything I have said is false and you are calling me a liar, but I am the one who needs to be open and less defensive?


Mom, exactly what are the false accusations you say I am making? Is it about your dependency on alcohol? Because the way I see it, you have a lot in common with what I am learning about your mother. You drink bourbon and water every night. It is not uncommon for you to go through ¼ of a bottle in an evening. Several times your husband has called me to help calm you down when you got agitated and angry with him after you’d been drinking. I’m told your mother was fond of port wine and would drink to a point where the neighbors would complain. My father would go and get her and check her into a hospital because you didn’t know how to deal with her. I also know she offered you a trip to Hawaii if you divorced him—how did that feel to you? To be asked to give up your husband for a bribe? Why didn’t you take that trip to Hawaii? Perhaps for the same reasons I did not accept your conditional offer of help?


Okay, I am no expert, but here is a short questionnaire on alcohol use: 1. Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your drinking? 2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? 3. Have you ever felt guilty about drinking? 4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? I know you pretty well, and if you are honest with yourself, you will answer “yes” to the first two or three questions. If you don’t, then let’s talk further about delusions. For the record, a yes answer to two of the questions indicates a dependency on alcohol.


What other lies have I told? Are you talking about my memories of your husband’s abuse? Did you think I would not remember the things he did? Did you somehow think nothing was wrong with what he did? Mom, the first time I remember him hitting me, I was laying on top of YOU, trying to protect you. Lie to yourself all you want, but my friends remember the bruises, they remember how he treated me, and even some of your friends have thought there was something wrong between us. Why would I make up something as disgusting and embarrassing as “button pinchers”? What on earth would be in it for me? Please, explain these delusions to me.


There are some other things you could maybe explain as well. First of all, why did your being refused the microphone at my daughter’s wedding have anything to do with me? You stated in your email of August 3 that I “rejected” you, I “embarrassed” you and I made you “physically ill”. Was that the “about to vomit” moment you mentioned in your second Facebook message? I’m still not seeing how I contributed to that; I had nothing to do with who they chose to speak at their wedding.


More about the wedding. On August 3, you stated that you did everything you could “to be extremely nice to her new husband and even yours.” Why should this even be an effort? If you liked them even a little, you would not belittle them to their wives and “being nice” to them would be an every day occurrence. Your childish “The prettiest person at the wedding was [my youngest daughter, not the bride]!” and “You sure made it YOUR day with your lengthy gushing tribute!” were ridiculous. Seriously, everyone who has read that email has made a comment about it sounding like the response one would get from a high school freshman.


I don’t understand how you think can insult people or their loved ones and then expect those people to not be upset with you. How many times have you insulted my son-in-law? Yes, I know you were upset with him in Boston, but did that merit your cruel review of his a cappella group’s CD on iTunes? Did it merit your cutting emails to him when he invited you to help celebrate their engagement? You just get MEAN Mom, and often when I look at the times on emails and other messages in which you are mean, it is after 6:00 PM, which means they are bourbon-infused.


Anyway, here’s the bottom line. If you’d like to help me overcome my “delusions” and “false accusations” and better understand the reasons behind your actions, please come to meet with me. We can meet whenever is convenient for you, with a few days notice to set up the meeting, which will be at the office of my therapist.   She is located just across from the mall. Perhaps you can help her (and me) better understand these delusions, which I am certain would be very helpful in my treatment and recovery. She welcomes you to bring a support person along if you’d like. She assures me that our meeting will remain cordial and courteous; she is trained to make sure that happens.


Please let me know the earliest you would be able to make such a meeting.




And then things just kind of went from bad to awful.  A package showed up here for Jamie, one from “St Nick”–a tradition that goes back to my earliest holiday memories.  St Nicholas Day was to me as big of a deal as Christmas in many case, hanging my stocking at night then waking on December 6 to find it filled with little treats and prizes!  This year for the first year ever, there are no St Nick gifts from my mom.  Even the gifts she sent my daughter were odd–some candy that she loves, wrapped in a paper bag, and a Christmas t-shirt stuffed into a Ziplok bag.  Given how meticulous my mother is about wrapping gifts, I know this is supposed to be some sort of message, but I just don’t get it.

I am so torn right now.  My husband is so proud of me for standing up to my mother and calling her out on her BS, and I know it is the right thing to do, but I cannot help but think how much smoother everything would be now if I had never opened that closet door and tossed my hand grenade.  I am tired of seeing her flaws; I want to make Mom better than she is, better than she ever was, but I don’t know how.