Mum

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

Paul Curran is a Canadian who can be found commenting often on this blog and many others. He always has much to say, and I find him to be wise, funny and smart. Paul definitely caught my attention when he sent me a photograph of he and his golfing buddies after they’d dunked their cart in a pond up there north of our shared border. You can find my blog post with his photo here.

I’ve frequently urged Paul to start his own blog. He always says he’s not ready. However, he’s stuck his toe into guest-blogging waters with a regular Sunday “Cuppa” feature at willowdot21’s place across the big pond. I’m a regular reader there, of her work and his Sunday Cuppa posts, where he reflects upon world events, Canadian happenings, and life as he sees it. You can find Willow’s blog here. You can find his latest post here.

Last week, one of Paul’s comments to my review of “The Judge” did not show up on the post, and our emails afterward resulted in his accepting my offer to write the guest post below instead. Lucky us.

She has always been an enigma to me – seldom understood and better left alone. Interactions result in explosions. I recently read Mark’s post and review on “The Judge” and the relationship between the father and his son reminds me a lot of my relationship with my Mum. WordPress ate my comment on the post and when I inquired of Mark if he had seen it, perhaps in his spam folder, he suggested that I write a guest post. I pondered this for a bit and realized that I had never actually thought much about this relationship – I’d only ever reacted, and seldom positively.

My Mum (she has asked to be called that, the Canadian “Mom” not being to her liking) is a complex person. I honestly can’t say that I love her but I have found that her approval means a great deal to me – perhaps more than it should. That being said, I seldom did as she asked, preferring to cut my own path through the world. When I would present my successes to her, she bypassed them without comment and then proceeded to criticize my choices and achievements. Always. This interaction basically defined our relationship.

It never occurred to me to wonder why this was so and perhaps in hindsight it would have served me better to investigate this sooner than now. I now know, after a few days of pondering, that all the clues were there – I was just too busy reacting to pay attention to how and why the relationship was structured as it was. You see when my Mum retired she wrote a book about her early years growing up in Nova Scotia. Her reasons for doing so were mixed but, in part she said that it was to allow young girls to recognize bad situations and inform them of what abuse looked like and that they weren’t alone in their situations. For my Mother was abused as a child. She was the youngest of a family of eight and her father was an alcoholic. He would often drink away the family food money and would be gone for days before returning home drunk to beat the children and his wife. Mum did not mention sexual abuse in the book, but it seemed to me that it was an unspoken part of her story. The book was never published but I did get to read a copy – for me it was enthralling as it was my family history. Perhaps because there are so many such stories out there as our society deals more with abuse that a publisher never picked up the manuscript.

My parents married at 25 and I was born the next year. My Mum worked part time once I was in school and I often stayed with neighbors or baby sitters. Being an only child, it made child care a little easier. Although I lived primarily in the world of adults, I did have a few good friends. Once I reached about 12, my Mum decided to go back to school.

This part of my Mother’s life is one which I think is amazing and she does not like me to tell. She has chastised me upon occasion for telling the story but I think it is inspirational. When I was born, my Mother did not have her high school diploma. She decided to go back to school and got her GED (General Education Development – or high school equivalency). After that she decided to do an undergrad degree in social work. She worked for a few years and then did a Masters in social work. While she was studying, my parents divorced and my Mum moved to Ontario when she was done with her degree. She ran a Children’s Aid Society branch in St. Catherine’s, just west of Toronto.

At this point Mum came to the realization that as much as her work was important she was inevitably called on to help the children after the damage had been done. She wanted to have more of a say in how child welfare laws were developed in Canada in order to prevent child abuse, not just react to it. So, in her 50s, she went back to university and earned a PhD in social work with a specialization in child abuse. Her thesis was published as a text book and is used still as required reading material for some graduate social work courses. She was hired as a professor at UBC (University of British Columbia) and reigned there until her retirement. She did a lot of consulting work for the government and the judiciary of BC and helped to rewrite their child care laws. When she retired she was doing precisely what she had wanted to do with her life – a life that had been informed by her childhood abuse. She never wanted another child to have to go through what she had gone through.

In order to achieve what she had achieved, my Mum took complete control of her life. She didn’t believe there was any higher power or meaning outside of her actions and the actions of others (if there was a God how could he allow children to be abused?). She drove herself to meet her goals and viewed every thing that happened to her as under her control and/or caused by her and her alone. She seldom showed much emotional interaction with me as I was growing up and I have complained to her before that I often felt emotionally abandoned as a child. I was never mistreated and had whatever I needed to prosper except emotional ties.

I have had an unusual life in that I have wandered a great deal, experiencing life and enjoying it while still working. Mum always said that my choices were beneath me and that I could do better. It certainly seemed as if she was judging my life the same way she judged her own life. I owned and operated tractor trailers and traveled North America. She looked down on my accomplishments, having my own business, as blue-collar and worthless. Sigh. This attitude resulted in many arguments as I often called her judgmental and elitist. As my life progressed I was diagnosed with cancer – and I got the feeling she thought that was my fault as well. I take responsibility for any of my actions, but not that which is out of my control. The arguments continued – for her anything that happens to anyone is their own fault as we are completely in control of our own lives. This was an attitude she developed to deal with her abuse as a child (it must be my fault – something I did that caused this) and then leveraged to beat all odds and many years later become a professor who helped write child welfare laws.

This belief of hers – that all is controlled by the individual and that those who fail to reach the higher levels of our society are failures – has put between us a wall that is insurmountable. Last year in one e-mail conversation I mentioned in passing that my phone charger had stopped working. Her response was –“What did you do to break that?” It sits on my bedside table and I plug in the phone at night – there is no way to break it, it just stopped working. Every conversation is filled with jabs and pokes and judgment like that. It is continuous and intolerable. I point it out and she apologizes and then continues to do it. When the radiation treatment for cancer caused kidney failure and I had to go on dialysis that was my fault as well.

I respect my Mum a great deal and think that she has achieved an amazing amount in her life after starting from an abusive family. I do not have the same philosophy in life and our differences are so great and fundamental that for my own mental health I have no choice but to not communicate with her. I have broken off communications numerous times in the past – all for the same reason – sometimes for years. I finally got so disgusted with her judgment that I last e-mailed her about 6 months ago. I don’t see much hope that our relationship will change.

Thank you, Paul, for choosing to take the time and effort to put your deep feelings about your relationship with your Mum into words and accepting my offer to to publish your post here after reading my review of “The Judge.” As I always do here, I am going to end the post with a series of questions. This time I will pin them to Paul’s heartfelt and serious post about this relationship.

Have you had to reinvestigate your relationship with your parents as you’ve grown older, and if so, what life events caused this reflection? Have you had to cut off a relationship with a parent or offspring because of behavior you could not tolerate over time, even after telling them of the effect it had on you, and if so, what was that behavior? How do you think cutting off a relationship with a nucleur family member like this would affect you?

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64 thoughts on “Mum

  1. Thank you very much for this opportunity to guest post here Mark. I am honored by your compliments and the chance to blog. I have to upgrade my hardware before I can set up my own blog, but I’m working on it. I hope my words today encourage your readers to ponder or respond to your questions. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I finally got so disgusted with her judgment that I last e-mailed her about 6 months ago. I don’t see much hope that our relationship will change.

    No matter what rec you do at least send a card for those special occasions even though any other contact is toxic for you. Beyond that I think removing toxic people from our lives is a wise choice.

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    • Thanks Carl – and yes I will and do send acknowledgement of Xmas and her birthday. I have to admit, it has lifted a weight off my chest knowing that I don’t have a verbally abusive e-mail or letter on the way. It’s like a breath of fresh air. I used to feel oblidged to respond to her jabs but now I have a new found freedom just knowing that I don’t have to tolerate her any more.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment Carl.

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  3. My parents are both gone, but there was a time where I had to set limits with my mother, so that our relationship could keep growing and remain healthy enough to leave room for the both of us to be who we were. That was not easy, but it was a good thing. The other thought I want to share, after reading Paul’s thoughtful piece, is that — in my role as psychotherapist — I work with many people who are in relationships where somebody needs to cut off contact, at least for a while. That is never easy, also.

    Thanks to you, Mark, and to you, Paul, for this post.

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    • Thank You Ann for your feedback. It is greatly appreciated. I admire my Mum greatly, which of course, exacerbates the problem. She does not treat others the way she treats me. I have found that no amount of discussion with her will help ths problem and the negativity is more than I can handle right now. Thanks for dropping by and i’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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  4. Awfully brave of you, Paul, to share your mother’s story with us. The example you give of her reaction to your broken phone charger perfectly crystallizes for me exactly what you have lived with all your life. Sometimes the only thing one can do is remove the toxicity from one’s life and move on. But nothing could be harder than to have that disapproval and poison coming from one’s own mother, the person who is supposed to nurture, approve, and give unconditional love. I feel sorry for her. And blue collar workers ROCK. Where would all the professors be without a plumber, I ask you?

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    • Thanks so much Silver. The worst of it is that I admre her greatly for the decisions she’s made in her life and how hard she’s worked and the positive changes she can literally say she’s made in our country. That being said, her treatment of me is intolerable. It feels like a weight off my chest knowing that i no longer need to deal with it.. Thanks for the support and for dropping by to read and comment.

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  5. I never intentionally stopped communication with a parent. Though my father became angry with me and stopped talking to me…. Maybe it would be more fair to say we didn’t go out of our way to talk to one another. It was short lived and never discussed once we were ‘past’ it. To be quite honest, I haven’t thought about it in decades, until I read this. My relationship with my mother wasn’t great as a child. Not for reasons as specific or as defined as yours. Though it has improved greatly over the years,

    Toxicity isn’t less bearable depending on it’s source. So your actions to care for your well being are understandable. I liked Carl’s response. And also for your well being, I like that you do send the cards that you send.

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    • Thanks CM. I try to keep it civil while keeping in mind my own mental health. You are right about the toxicity (I like that word – it is perfect) – somehow one would think it more bearable when coming from a parent, but it isn’t. I appreciate you dropping by for a read and a comment. Thank You.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Paul, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story with us; what courage you have!

    If your mum’s philosophy about individuals being at fault for everything that happens to them were true, then we would have to blame children for being abused. Children do blame themselves, in fact, and professionals work hard to help them see that they did nothing to deserve abuse.

    My mother was also abused as a child. It played out differently in my life. She was over-protective and I felt smothered, like I couldn’t breathe at times. Like you, I learned later about her childhood and then I understood why; she wanted to protect me. I bet in some weird and convoluted way, your mum wanted to protect you too.

    Again, Paul, thanks for sharing your story and I wish you peace and joy.

    Thank you Mark for sharing Paul’s story in a guest post. ❤
    Diana xo

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    • Thank you very much Diana. Yes, it is peculiar how it played out in her life. I really think that she used her early life as a reason to succeed. I’m sure she wouldn’t have ever let any physical harm come to me, in fact she would not even spank me (occassionally my Dad would but very rarely and against her desires). In a way I would rather have been spanked – at least it would have been a physical show of some emotion. Beyond that though, she basically allowed me to make many of my own choices. I cannot complain about my childhood, except for the lack of emotion. I think she assumed that left alone that I would make the same choices as she did. Surprise! Ha!

      Thank you for the positive feedback Diana. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Paul that is so deep, you have opened your soul to us all! We thank you for showing you trust us all! I think you are a great man and if you were my son I would be singing your praises!

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  10. This is an extremely touching story, Mark and Paul. Family dynamics can be tough. My mother left when I was 12 years old. You could say we have had our ups and downs, however, as an adult I can forgive her so much easier knowing her limitations at the time. It helps to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Get in and feel around a bit and imagine yourself with the same choices. It can be humbling for both. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Thanks Audrey. I am glad that you and your mother are still in touch. And I am honored that you shared with us. Parental relationships are important and can be hard to navigate. Usually with friends or partners, history is shared with each other and even if it is not, relationships can be broken. With parents, history is seldom shared one way and it is not possible to “leave” as their DNA is a part of you. My mother was so forceful that it never occurred to me to try and put myself in her shoes – until now. And that is very unlike me. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading this post Audrey.

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  11. Thanks for sharing, Paul. That’s so sad that she does not accept you unconditionally. I am far from perfect as a mother (and human being), but as I understand my role in motherhood it involves loving and supporting and accepting my kiddos no matter what. They are young now and perhaps this will be tested, but best as I can see I will always be their cheerleader. And I am so sorry that your mom didn’t do that for you. Though seems to have made you stronger and more thoughtful. ?? Life is funny how it works itself out. Best wishes to you always.

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  12. Hi Liz! Thanks so much for drpping by for a read and a comment. Yes, I think my Mum’s attitude has made me stronger in some ways just as her abuse gave her strength that took her to the top. The world is indeed mysterious. My personal belief is that the universe is loaded so that no matter how bad things are and how wrong our decisions, some good will come out of it. of course we only get credit for the good when we intentionally did it.

    Thanks for the best wishes Liz and for dropping by. I’m glad the piece gave you food for thought.

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  13. This is an absolutely harrowing story! This should be Fresh Pressed so more people can learn from it. I’ve been feeling quite sorry for myself this morning for a bunch of silly reasons. I’m sorry this is part and parcel of your life but it did provide some badly-needed perspective for me. Seeking the approval of someone you don’t love is an interesting anomaly. It’s not likely to end well.

    I never really knew my dad. He was around until I was about 14 and then he left. I don’t recall ever having a conversation with that guy. Not one! It might have been helpful.

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    • Hi Mark! Thanks for dropping by for a read and a comment. I am honored. Thank you for sharing about your Dad -. that must have been rough. For me, the interaction with my Mum was really all that I knew, so I didn’t see it as an issue when i was growing up – I thought it was normal. My Mum and I just stayed away from each other. As I got older, i felt that something was wrong but we just developed this adverserial relationship and continued it, and I never gave it much thought until Mark B asked me to write about it. It was eye-opening for me to actually turn and look at myself. Oddly, as you say, I really craved her approval and that kept drawing me back into the realtionship when ever i left it for mental health. As one of the other readers mentioned – it was toxic to be around her or communicate with her.

      Thanks so much for the read and the compliments and the sharing. I’m glad you enjoyed it Mark..

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    • Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your insight here, as always. I just wanted to pop in to second your motion on the worthiness of Paul’s story for Freshly Pressed status. Hello WordPress editors! Anybody out there?

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  14. this post is wonderful, thank you so much.

    yes, the nature of my relationship with my father, manifested in my inability to establish
    a good relationship sadly I had to separate from my father for many years, eventually I became strong enough to reengage,
    and the process of reuniting has been phenomenal, very difficult at times, but amazing
    (and yes, I recognise that I am very privileged to be able to experience this sort of opportunity).

    as I continued to calmly speak my truth, slowly my father found that he was able to reveal more and more of his own childhood experiences, things that whilst previously unknown to me had transferred and embedded as trauma in my own psyche.
    Our reuniting continues to bring us ever greater respect and joy and as a result I have finally been able to
    create for myself a kind and loving relationship with a wonderful partner.

    revealing is healing they say!

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  15. Thank you Niki for sharing your story with us. It must have taken a lot of courage and determination to re-engage your father after all those years. I am honored that you brought that to this discussion. It is wonderful to hear that your efforts have lead to a happy and fulfilling realtionship with your father. I have tried a number of times to re-engage my Mum but to no avail. Perhaps now that I’ve worked through our relationship I’ll have more luck.

    Thanks so much for reading , commenting and sharing here Niki. I hope that all continues to go well with your father.

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  16. this was an amazing post, paul. it clearly illustrates that life and people are neither black or white, but rather somewhere in that gray area in the middle. she sounds like a complicated woman, and with all of the things she overcame and her accomplishments, she still struggles with her human connection. i can understand why you’ve made the choices you have, and it must be very difficult. thank you mark for posting this powerful piece.

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    • Thank you, Beth, for coming by to appreciate what Paul has done by coming to terms with this complicated relationship in his life. It’s quite a bridge he had to cross in his life, and I admire him greatly for his introspection and his ability to write about it.

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    • Thank you so much for dropping by and joining the discussion Beth. I am honored by your presence and compliments. This post just touched on my Mum’s complexity and you are right – the world seems to me as well to be composed of many shades of grey (more than 50 – Ha!). I enjoy following your blog Beth – you have an amazing way with children and your photos never cease to amuse me with their reality.

      Yes, Mark has been very warm in welcoming me to his blog and allowing the guest post. He is a gentleman blogger for sure.

      Thanks again Beth for your read and comment – I’m glad the piece had meaning to you.

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  17. Mark – Thank you for sharing your space here with Paul to tell his story of this tricky dynamic. To answer your question: Too many – too long – too much.

    Paul – YES!!! And you KNOW how much I could write about here? – but you know – I will save it for another time – and probably place.
    Thank you for sharing those moments.
    SO many people who can relate to your story 😉 ❤

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      • Well now see – thing is:I tend to generalise so much in my thought process that to place an elaboration on something so very personal would be completely out of line with the nature of this lovely piece of writing. 😉
        AND dear kind Sir – I did not have the time – at that time – to do it any justice – only wanted to assure Paul that I had not forgotten his invitation to come share some soulful words here in your home. I thank you for having me.

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    • Belinda! Awesome to see you here. Thanks so much for dropping by. Yes, I suspected when I wrote this that you would be able to identify. Your compliments are greatly appreciated; without a doubt Mark and you have been amongst those who have been instrumental in encouraging me to write and to post. For that I shall be ever indebted. Yep, my Mum (that term is used in both England and South Africa isn’t it?) is a complex person and I apparently have inherited some of that complexity. I suppose you could say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – but in my case it’s more like the apricot doesn ‘t fall far from the apple tree. Ha!

      Great to see you here IW, glad the piece rang some bells and thanks for the read and comment.

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      • In England it is Mum – in SA it is Mom. I hope that WAS the term you were referring to? 😀
        Paul – dearest dear Paul – you are MOST welcome. Perhaps we shall have to get you onto Idiotwriting some day? But THAT will only happen under certain provisos – you know the ones .
        There IS much I could say about the relationship with mummy dearest… I have seen similar in various areas. The fact of the matter is this: YOU have to cope the best way that is healthy for you.
        Though I would be interested in what Mums outlook on child welfare was/is. The many thoughts that spring to my mind here are certainly JUST not public arena material. Could all be discussed at great length…many of bottles of wine later.
        Should they be, is the difficult thing to determine?
        Learning from our folks does not only encompass following their good example – but rejecting their bad example too. And if that means only having the essential dealings with them that we must. (sigh) then that is what it must be – life is too short to spend debating horse-shit.

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      • Ha! A little horseshit makes good fertilizer. That and a bottle of wine go a long ways. Actually it is interesting that you ask about her idea of chid welfare. Her thesis was entitled “But you should have known” (the texbook title was “Who’s to Blame?”) and it dealt with non-offending mothers in sexual child abuse cases and society’s belief that the mother should always be held responsible for the safety of the child. In fact quite often the abuse occurs without the mother’s knowledge by a trusted family member (father, uncle, family friend, etc) .

        So she explores the tribal concept (without naming it such) that a child is really raised by a “village” and that the mother should not be held solely responsible for the safety of the child. There are legal ramifications around this as the guardians are held solely responsible under current law and social norms. For physical responsibilities, most people don’t realize that any adult within a certain distance is legally responsible for the physical safety of a child under a certain age. So, if you are walking by and see a child climbing on a parked motorcycle and the the motorcycle falls over and injures the child – you are legally responsible, even though it is not your child or your motorcylce- and you can be charged. It has never been so for child abuse. And a part of her argument was that it should be. We should all be responsible for the health of children within our knowledge.

        Anyway, it is clear how this belief (and I agree) links solidly with her own childhood experiences and with increasing the safety of children in general and help in reducing abuse, perhaps stopping it before it happens or at least not allowing it to continue. Do you want to know someting interesting? She got an lot of flak from her PhD thesis advisors when she proposed this and it almost didn’t get approved. Wonder why?

        Anyway, that’s a thumbnail. Hope this helps IW.

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    • Thanks for dropping by Linda and sharing with us. I am surprised at how many people can relate to this story. I appreciate your comment and hope that your relationship with your mother improves.

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      • Heh. At the moment I’m at fault for putting her in a retirement home instead of having her live with me… which would result in me living in a home – and not a retirement one. I’m an only child too.
        I think you have more of a chance of things changing than I do, but thanks so much for the good wishes. 🙂
        Nice to see you posting! 😀

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  18. That must be hard – going against your mother’s will. Yet the alternative is obviously not acceptable. My Mum is OK with that but she still lves in her condo in BC. That is her biggest asset as she spent much of her life on education and only started a retirement fund at about 55. She’s currently 81 and still mobile and able to live alone. She knows that eventually she will need assisted care and has planned for it.

    Thamks for the comment – I am pleased that Mark has given me this opportunity to post. I enjoy it. Best of wishes Linda.

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  19. Hey Paul – can’t reply to previous reply of yours 😉 so here’s said reply:
    Yes – it does help. As in answer the question hey 😉 It is quite wonderful that she was able to do this – as you rightly say she should be respected for what she accomplished and her focus on it. Living in a shadow almost I imagine…which is pretty sucky. It IS odd how she did such big things – but left you out in the cold (so to speak) with who YOU are and your achievements. I remember my Mom always correcting all I did. Well it was not really correction but more of telling me how to do things. I imagine (well I do not need to imagine – LOL!) that it is tricky for moms to advise children without it coming across as criticism. I know from my perspective that when I tell my babes what is what – I do so because I am NOT always sure they DO know. I think that is fairly different from what you describe here – as it is never a ‘its your fault thing’ that MOm used to do. Still it grated me endlessly – until I understood it. She was just trying to make sure I was equipped to do things. I NOW take that feeling of frustration and whenever I feel I must direct the kids in a task or a choice – I basically do a ‘FYI in-case you did not know’, I think some folks just find it hard to put across concern and love without coming across as pushy. I think the fact that your Mum was abused is evidence of her difficulty with relationship and in fact – probably love – giving AND receiving. She had you to guard with her life to protect you from harm – and she did it. She did it with her all and probably did everything she could to make everything ‘perfect’ – for you. She missed such an important thing though for yoU.. Hard wired as she likely is to be cold and logical and formulaic almost in her approach to life. Survival mechanism. NOTHING can harm her ever again.
    You know I never got to tell my mom how proud I was of her? She did not achieve much as a career person – but she raised two girls under pretty awkward circumstances. She died thinking she had not done enough to prove herself worthy of praise and love. She died rejected because she felt – alone after sacrificing her entire life in HER way to provide what she felt was important to her children. I think a lot of mums do that – but often get it wrong because we do not always judge according to what the child’s needs are – but rather according to what WE have come to value as a safety mechanism in our lives. So for your mum it was success and stability and protection and control from all harm – and everything revolved around that. I bet if her charger stopped working she would blame herself for that. If yours stopped working – she is thinking you blame yourself…because THAT IS what she does. Does she WANT you to blame yourself? Probably not – but she may think YOU feel unsuccessful within yourself because you these things keep happening to you (like broken chargers and cancer etc) It makes HER feel like a failure – like she did not teach you well enough how to avoid these things – that can make life hard – and hurt us. She doesn’t like things going wrong in your life…because if they do in hers – it hurts her, therefore she may feel it hurts you too…so she gets mad because you keep hurting yourself. When my kids are not being careful sometimes, you know – like being aware of a bag strap tied around their foot and trying to get out the car – I bark..I do not MEAN to bark at them…I get a fright as I see the impending fall. Their fault> Sometimes – like if they keep slipping on the wet floor that I just said not to run on – and bash their heads. I get scared that harm will befall them. It must be so hard to have gone through abuse and then try to not be overprotective of your kids. For you THAT is harder still – because you are second generation down of the harm that abuse causes – but she has done something to help change things for the better for children – you SHOULD be proud of her – and she should know that she should be proud of herself. I hope she does dearest Paul. You have no reason to explain yourself to her as an adult, and as toxic as she appears to be to you – you love her. As much as she drives you crazy – she raised you to be who you are – even with the bad stuff she did – she showed you what NOT to do 😉 Rock and a hard place Sir –
    Hope this was enough horseshit? 😉 TTFN!
    (I hope Mark does not mind me taking so much space – I did not want to just jump in without your leading to pursue conversation 😉 )

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    • So what you are saying is that I caused that long relpy? Ha! Just kidding – you know that I encourage all to take as many words as they need – of course, it isn’t my blog. I get what you are saying Belinda, and I agree. the hard part is toxicity. I’ve tried many ways to get around that even with direct conversation that it was not acceptable and still it continues. I agree again that she is treating me the way she treats herself – that may be true but it is not helpful in reducing the toxicity.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments IW – your opinion is as enlightening as usual (that’s a good thing)/ 🙂

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      • Oh Paul…trust me – I get the toxicity thing. Just trying to cover all bases – really trying to see if I can get my head around the whole dynamic, because, it is SUCH a frequent occurrence for a lot of folk. Understanding the WHY is often beneficial (YOU know the why already I am 100% certain) – seeing if I DO?! (if that makes sense?) and though knowing the why gives the understanding – we STILL have to know how to DEAL with it…and really – NOT blame ourselves – but rather unfortunate circumstances. It is kinda like this: If folks can KNOW that the parent LOVES in their heart the best THEY can – it makes it easier to deal with the burden of almost being forced to separate oneself emotionally or even physically from them.
        So you see – you pay SO much attention to the things I write (ie – you are happy to talk and banter it around with your insight and thoughts) HOW can I do any less here? THIS post is along the lines of things – I CAN actually – talk about 😉

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      • My problem with that IW, is that I really don’t think i love her – the sense of wanting to be “one with” is not there. I admire her work and achievements and cringe from her head (i.e. her acidic way of approaching things). I do find myself wishing for her approval – on anything. But for me that is not the same as “love”. And I’m not an immature/insecure person that needs constant approval – I just would like some positive comment. And only toxic judgement and criticism (not constructive) seem to be available. Even knowing “why” does not seem to help in this case – although you are right, it often does.

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  20. I did not get this notification of this comment Paul. Sorry hey.
    I think we all need some affirmation from those who are supposed to care. WHATEVER the relationship.
    In fact it is not about affirmation either – just a nice calm vibe! I am sure it depends on the degree and level of then negativity. whether there is any hope left to show the person what they are doing. But that takes years of deprogramming… or completely overhauling! Possible? I suppose sometimes – but the truth is, as you sadly discovered (and have surmounted and moved beyond) that in some circumstances – the ONLY solution is to go no contact. Hard much? yes – but getting to grips with it and knowing that it is not you (not referring to YOU personally) is the what we so need to know with these relationships, and that often can happen when we can see the why.
    It is tricky to know in these things whether it is changeable or not – and that REALLY depends on severity.
    I think what you describe has key traits of a much talked about personality type that often stems from abusive situations – I believe you have read Navigators book? I leave you to build the picture I am painting here. Not in a gender bias way toward your Mum – but in the traits of the constant breaking down of an individual and feeding off of them as a supply of their image of themselves. You – or others with these circumstances are a direct extension/reflection of picture Mum has painted for herself of her life – and you JUST do not fit the perfect mould.
    As far as the love thing goes… I think we are running out of space here. But you can feel nothing for someone and still act in love. You can feel LOADS for someone and act absolutely awfully toward them.
    There are many dynamics to ‘love’.
    A positive comment is always a nice thing.

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    • Ummm, I do tend to see a commonness with Nav’s book – that thought crossed my mind – but it plays out differently. You are right about love – not sure how to feel that though, i.e. is all caring love? Let’s continue this conversation off line. Thanks for the comments IW, much appreciated.

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  21. Finally! I realize it is “not my fault” that I cannot follow Paul’s blog. He does not have one. I would dare say if he does finally branch out and do one, he will have plenty of followers from the beginning.

    Speaking of questions–how does one deal with siblings who kick you out of their lives? Of course Paul has no siblings, but what about others who do?

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      • Some siblings who become financially better off can be the elite as Paul described, and of course they do not want to “be seen” with common folk. Others can be lost in a sibling’s shadow and they do not want to have to measure up. Even the youngest in the family do not want to be “the baby” so they have to move on to prove themselves. I have seen all kinds of reactions from brothers and sisters who disassociate from each other. Then they marry and mates cause trouble between family members. It is all so sad.

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  22. You shared with me your mother’s accomplishments when you were new on my blog but I’m glad to know your – and her – story better, Paul. It is easier to show compassion as a third party than in the first person; the obvious ways in which she has hurt you and been difficult notwithstanding, I see a woman still bound by fear even after all these years of meaningful work and great accomplishments. She grew up with a parent who failed her (and I suspect feeling Mom had failed as a wise overseer as well for the poor choices she made with spouse) and so continued to live fending for herself emotionally (but shutting down). Her stoicism with you was an extension of her self-protective mechanism growing up. I doubt that one could shift such gears when one becomes a parent after years of being a certain way. She made the best of her situation, against great odds, both for herself and you and so would naturally expect the same in the least for you. That is HER way of loving you, those higher aspirations she had for you. Not to defend her, of course. And yes, I believe love is receiving and affirming someone the way he wants and needs to be received.

    I appreciated the realization that what you’d done most of your years as a son was react more than try to understand your relationship with her. Yes, we do need space. I certainly helped myself to it – I moved to the other side of the country. But freedom isn’t how far we remove ourselves from the thorn. I’ve learned it’s not where I go or how much space I put between me and them. It’s what I take there. So it’s great you dared to touch the sleeping dragon of confusion and pain.

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  23. I apologize Diana for steering you over here when I’ve already spoken with you about this. I had forgotten that I had done that and I apologize. Thank you for commenting anyway.

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  24. Wow, I hadn’t read this. I have issues with my dad, and like you, we have not spoken off and on over the years, sometimes with no contact for years at a time. Usually this happens because I just get fed up with the shit. We had gone over 6 months without speaking last year, and he “unfriended” me on Facebook LOL, and then he finally called me on my birthday. Without going into a long diatribe and going way too deep down a long hole – I learned a long time ago, and have told my siblings this . . . our dad loves us the best way HE can, the only way he knows how – though it’s not the way we want, or the way we deserve, it’s all he can give and that’s his loss and we have to be okay with that. I have never tried to win his approval, and actually the fact I don’t need him tends to piss him off. I love him, but I do it on my terms. My siblings, on the other hand, do still strive for his approval.
    Unfortunately, WE ARE NOT always in control of what happens to us, that is just not realistic. Bad things do happen to good people. Please don’t take this the wrong way, Paul, but as a mother this makes me so sad. Your mother is a very strong woman and accomplished great society-changing interventions – but personally, I think she missed out on so many wonderful moments in life. And from what I can tell from your posts and interactions with me and others, you are kind, considerate, empathetic, and compassionate. ❤

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    • Thank you so much for dropping by Sadie. I do take my Mum’s opinion too seriously. That has always been an issue. It leaves me little room to react other than to stop communication when she gets toxic. I’m not complaining, she has certainly blazed a trail that is enviable but we are two very different people. She may have missed out on wonderful moments in her life, but I honestly cannot see her being any different than she is. She is brutally honest with herself and true to her experiences and in that way she has progressed. Having learned that is her path to success, she seldom wavers from it – regardless of how compelling the reasons may be to do so.

      Thanks so much for checking out my past posts Sadie. It is a pleasure to see you here.

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