I went to my mother’s for Christmas. My sister, brother-in-law, and nieces live not far from her. I looked forward to the visit and time off from work for weeks. While I am glad I went – it is good to get away for a while and I enjoy the intellectual conversations Mom and I have – I always have a sense of disconnection. It’s like I’m there but I’m not. I don’t really know how to describe it let alone what to call it. It is like feeling, emotional connection, is muted, more often than not. Sometimes it is like there is a glass pane between me and everyone else. For example, I was present on Christmas eve with everyone eating and drinking and playing with the girls but was I really there? Not really. It is like I am stuck in the state of the observer, outside looking in. I was able to appreciate how cute my younger niece is. I was able to express appreciation for the various toys my nieces attempted to show me. But did I really care? Not really. (Except for how cute my niece is; she’s adorable.) And when she chose to sit on my lap…I was excited and happy.
I am nostalgic at times for the most mundane things. I went on a couple of walks while at Mom’s, something I used to do quite frequently. Where I walk there are a lot of pine trees and the pine trees always call to mind many memories, impressions, and feelings. Strange things. Remembering holidays and every days with Grandma. Catching a whiff of the cold air brought to mind the occasional visits to hospitals towards the end of her life and walking out of the hospital catching the same cold air. Memories of the pottery show Mom and I went to once. Seaford maybe? Memories of a cultural, history, exhibit at a local park one year on my birthday not too long before I moved to PA. Trips to Carboro and Hillsboro. Hot days at the timeshare in Florida. Days when Mom was more active, healthier… The day after I got back to PA I was driving back from the gym and passed a Walgreens. I had a nostalgic longing memory of Mom and I wandering the aisles of one, God knows how many years ago. I can feel these things but in the moment? It’s like I’m concentrating too hard.
And I always find it hard to really enjoy myself with Mom when she’s clearly not feeling well. I know her health, her body, her discomfort, her responsibility to manage. But I am hyperaware of every grimace, twitch, breathing irregularity. Every outing it is like there is a timer set before Mom’s energy runs out, before her pain, nausea, visual disturbances, are just too much to bare and we have to go home. I was the same way when I lived with her. Every time she was up in the middle of the night, though she does her best not to disturb anyone, I was, I am aware and cannot relax.
Years ago when we would get together with my sister and her then boyfriend, now husband, we would spend hours upon hours upon hours with them during the holidays. I would be ready to leave far far far before Mom would be. My introversion meter would be dangerously low many times. Now I am grateful for the fact that Mom’s ability to spend time doing pretty much anything is lower. She used to spend hours upon hours upon hours doing yard work too and I hated being corralled into “helping.” Then being made to feel ashamed for not being more willing. Now it is easier to help knowing she won’t last as long as she used to. Our energy levels are more equal which leads me to conclude or perhaps wonder whether Mom’s body is rebelling precisely because she never cut herself a break when she was younger. She never allowed herself to rest and now her body is forcing her to.
But, my original problem…I was observing my sister, her husband, and her in-laws. I was blown away by, baffled by, her connection to them, as if she has always been part of their family. To see my sister and her husband work in harmony and discuss the mundanity of raising a family, I have trouble fathoming the connection, the emotional, physical, connection between them. To seemingly trust and feel that trust and emotional connection, vulnerability with someone seems so foreign to me. I do not know what it is like to be purely myself with another person without some part of me worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing, of being misunderstood. And it is this I think that leads, at least in part, to my feelings of disconnection from people and events. It is very rare that I ever really feel like I am a part of things, that I belong without question, that flaws and quirks aside I belong…Maybe there is some…thing about me that has never really allowed myself to be a part of things…Some part of me is the observer, constantly on alert.
And so, my goals for the new year are to be more present, more in the moment, to try and give up being on alert, to devote more time and energy to social relationships (I may not ever be as close to someone as I wish to be.), and to create a better sense of identity and worth outside of work.