You know that part of the movie Dumbo where the crows (ravens?) get Dumbo to fly by giving him a “magic feather,” that is how I am feeling after my therapy session yesterday. I have hold of a magic feather and the state of mind that comes with it is freeing, clarifying, and exhilarating. But Dumbo also believes for a period of time that the feather is the reason why he can fly so when he starts to lose hold of it he tries desperately to hold on, believing that if he lets go the magic will be gone. That is also how I am feeling today. I am trying to hold onto the magic of yesterday.
New thoughts and revelations have been coming to mind since the end of my session yesterday and I am trying very hard to maintain the state of mind those realizations allow. I don’t know if I can explain succinctly. Probably not, as it would require a long explanation of my family history.
This is only one of the revelations I encountered yesterday. I suppose the easiest thing for me to say is that I began to see my Mom more clearly as a separate person. I mean I have known this since I began to differentiate between things that are me and not me (i.e. a very long time) but I realized yesterday I don’t have to fix things for Mom anymore. In the past if I did something wrong or even if I wasn’t the cause, I felt responsible for returning Mom to a happy state of mind. It was scary (like psychologically terrifying) for me to have Mom be unhappy and so I made myself into being in the wrong or the one responsible for others emotions. Yesterday I saw Mom more clearly as a separate person. My stuff is not her stuff. This past weekend I told her how I felt. I said, “I have always felt like a disappointment.” I did not say, “You have always made me feel like a disappointment.” Before I left she got angry because she felt I was blaming her for my problems. I tried to tell her that it is not about blame. It is what it is. Or in the words of my therapist, “you cannot unring the bell.” I was simply telling her how I felt. In session yesterday I realized Mom’s anger was her stuff. I wasn’t bad or wrong or whatever because I told her how I felt. I wasn’t accusing her of anything and still she got angry. (My therapist pointed out that it was probably a sense of guilt.)
This morning it reminded me of how we deal with prickly customers at work. As a cashier you do what you can to meet them where they are, fill needs, make allowances, and still sometimes they are grumpy or down right mean and nasty. At work all we can do is just shrug our shoulders and let them go. It is not our problem; it is them. To apply this to Mom is freeing to me. I can only do what I can do and it doesn’t make me a bad person if it is not enough. To realize this and apply it is grounding to me. I am not so much at the whim of others anymore. I am not tossed around on a sea as much. I can navigate. And this is part of what I am trying to hold onto, my “magic feather,” so to speak.
So I’ve been struggling the past few days. Yesterday was really, really, rough and I had to go to work. It felt like all of the life had been drained out of me. I was far from the welcoming cashier I normally am. When days or weeks like this happen I try to figure out what I’ve been doing wrong. Too much salt? Too much sugar? Not enough protein? Too much sleep? Not enough to eat? Not enough sleep? Do I have a sleep disorder? What is wrong with me? Then I wonder can it all be mental? Is it really depression? And what can I do when I can hardly bear to get out of bed and the act of raising my arm to get coffee or help a customer makes me want to cry?
This morning I likened my feelings to like being a baby and crying out to have my needs met but I’m nearly 30 now and it is my own responsibility to get my needs met. I’m crying out for Mom but I’m far past the age or should be, where needs are met by an outside primary care giver. I am responsible for getting my own needs met but I don’t know how. Sure I can manage the physical ones of food, water, and shelter, pretty well but I am at a loss when it comes to the emotional ones. A hug? Maybe, but the awkwardness and discomfort that comes (for me) from asking for one clouds or overpowers any positive reinforcing benefits I may or may not experience. At least that is how it works for me most of the time…I’m trying to remember the last time I had a need met by a hug…I am remembering the power of touch that came from a therapy session a while ago.
I am a very obviously nervous kind of person most of the time so during one session my therapist reached out and took my hand. She said it was to see if she could feel my anxiety. I calmed down as we held hands and the feeling, for me, was indescribable. The simple act of touch is so powerful I can understand why there are therapeutic cautions for or against it. It really depends on how either participant, therapist or client, might respond to it. But to have my hand held by someone who has been so empathetic and a person I admire so much was…not what I have felt at home. That feeling is what I need today.
Something my trainer said at the gym this morning kind of triggered me. Since the semester is over she asked if I had thought about moving home for the 3 months over the summer. A relatively innocuous question right? I’ve built a life here though. “Home” is not as much with Mom anymore. I’ve gradually developed the feeling of visiting rather than going “home” when I travel to see her and my sister. Anyway, what triggered me was thinking that I am 29, almost 30, years old, why would I want to move home for 3 months? I know a couple of my classmates who are doing that either because they have to or they want to. They are a few years younger than I am but still I feel it is more okay for them to move home. For me it plays into my sense of there being something wrong with me. 30 years old and still living at home?!?
Then there is all of the logistics. Pay for an apartment to sit empty for three months? Quitting my job? Do I move stuff “home?” It does’t make sense.
Being short on money, I’m thinking that if I mention my money problems to Mom before my sister’s baby shower she’ll say something like, “If it’s too much trouble, you don’t have to come. We’ll understand. Stay and work and make money. Do what you have to do, honey.” It bothers me to think of Mom excusing my presence at something that should be so important. I know if it were me I’d feel hurt if my sister missed something important, a life event, like that. It would, for me, play into my feelings of being less than. “It doesn’t matter.” Oh, but it does! I don’t mind that I missed her bachelorette party/ weekend because it is just not my thing, as much as I minded missing her bridal shower.
And it is weird when Mom dismisses the importance of something like my sister’s baby shower but will get angry at something like my sister’s Mother-in-law paying for my sister’s hairstyling for the wedding. That whole thing was about the in-laws showing off their “wealth” though. If it is about making money or spending money something is triggered for Mom. Or maybe something is triggered for her around the emotional importance of events.
I want to go because I feel obligated to go and I know the significance of the event but emotionally I feel disconnected from Mom and my sister.