Friday, November 07, 2014

Toxic Matters

It’s just past five in the morning and I have been up since three and even before that, my night has been restless. So many things going through my head that I just can’t sleep. I can’t get the internal loop of dialogue to quiet down and so, after fighting the urge to write it all out for almost two hours, here I am, in a quiet house trying to purge myself of the screaming voices that are shattering the silence.

It all comes down to one person. We all have that one person in our lives who seems to drain us of every positive emotion and then effortlessly and skillfully fill our spirits with such toxic debris. For years, I have dressed myself in an emotional hazmat suit whenever we see each other or interact, and still, each time, I need hours if not days to decontaminate from the experience.

It’s difficult to spend time in the presence of or be open to a person who seems to perfume themselves in misery and unhappiness. I also don’t understand people like that. I know we all have our down moments and times of wallowing. I have been very open about a lot of mine over the past few years. But even in the depth of all of that, I still struggled to not let it define me. I don’t understand people who choose not only to live their lives in anger and guilt, but who choose to hold onto it with all their might in fear they will lose the very thing that is making them miserable.

I know that often times when people are negative or critical of others, it is not really abut the person they are being negative towards, it is about themselves. Logically, I know this. Emotionally, the nuclear fallout from people like that is still devastating. It is hard enough when I am the brunt of it. Harder still when I see others I love being attacked with such shocking brutality.

Normally, I distance myself from people like that. I cut them out and don’t give them the power to influence my life at all. One quote I love is “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.” I’ve been repeating it as my mantra over the past twelve hours. My advice to anyone dealing with someone like that is to get away, as far away as possible and never look back. But I don’t know how to do that with this person. I want to. I know I need to. What makes it difficult is that the person is my mom.

This is not some random fight or isolated event. This has been going on for decades. I have tried to be passive and see if it will work itself out. I have tried every tactic from every book and lesson I’ve had. I have tried ignoring it. Confronting it. Distancing myself physically. Pleading. Reasoning. Bargaining. I don’t know what else to do. A few weeks ago we had an argument over the phone. A few days later, she told me I have a heart filled with anger and hate and she worries for me. I spent days examining myself, wondering if indeed I am a hate-filled person. I questioned if I do really have an angry heart. I questioned my integrity and cut my way through the jungle of guilt. Guilt I felt for things I had nothing to do with but she manages to take me there all the time.

I examined my relationships with the other people in my life. My sisters and I haven’t had an argument in well over a decade, and the last time things were event emotionally tense was when my dad passed away, which is understandable. Our emotions were frayed and right on the surface. But even then, it blew over in a matter of minutes. In over fifteen years and even going through a divorce, Ulco and I never really had a huge fight. We had disagreements, but we worked them out quickly. Jan, my stepmom, and I haven’t had an argument or even upset words in well over a decade. My friend Ken, who I have known for almost thirty years and I have never had an argument. And he an I can both be stubborn and emotionally charged people. The only person that seems to bring up anger in me is my mom.

I have also noticed she likes to bring up anger. She loves guilt. She loves to be the victim. Anything said that she doesn’t like or agree with somehow gets turned into the fact that she was a bad mother. Her words, not mine. The last time she said that to me on the phone a few weeks ago, I finally said “yeah, you were.”

Yesterday, she handed me a very long, hand-written letter, which I knew would be a bad idea to read, but I did. And the letter she wrote my sister was worse by a factor of ten, at least. I got through mine. I only scanned a few sentences of hers.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to respond. I want to and I don’t want to. I know it won’t do any good. I have been here before. Countless times. Each time, I think and let myself believe that maybe that will be the time. That will be the moment there is a breakthrough. For years, I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered what I did to bring out that side of someone. Now, I see that she does it to everyone in her life.

And yet, there is a part of me that still hopes she will change. 

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