Sunday, May 13, 2012

don't call me daughter

I probably shouldn't write this post. I'm tired, I'm post-call, and this is sort of the opposite of my general philosophy on posts. But I'll try not to be vitriolic.

So it's Mother's Day. And Mother's Day, well, I find it a strange day. It's sort of a Message in a Bottle (song, not movie) situation, I suppose. You think you're an isolated case, but it turns out there is more than just you in this boat.

I'm not going to go into details, because that is not my style. But I don't have a great, or even a good relationship, with my mother. All these years later, I can understand the decisions she made, the great strain she was under when she raised me and my brother, the burden of unhappiness she's always had to carry. All of that empathy allows me to let go of what I lacked in the past, and makes me slightly better equipped to accept what I'll never have.

We were never close, always like strangers. She could never understand the tomboy who would belligerently mow the lawn to prove her brother should have to wash the dishes occasionally. She never understood a daughter who preferred curling up with ACK comics rather than shopping for dresses. She could never console the awkward teenager who stuck out like the literal black sheep. She does not believe in heartbreak, she can not relate to it, she can only understand protection, self-preservation. She can not give advice. In the end, we are like two figures masked and cloaked and sound-proofed. We can't see, feel or hear each other.

Maybe it's for the best. She was the doubt in my head, the voice telling me I was never good enough, that dreams were not for girls, that I had been a disappointment for not molding into what she had tried so hard to form. When I really let her go, some of my dreams came true, and sometimes I was so happy that I thought I would have a heart attack, and sometimes I was convinced that I was good enough.

But of course, it would always be a little less, because she would never see.

Last year, I once tried to have a frank conversation with my mother about my life, in the hopes of making her a witness. She told me she had simply concluded, from my silence, that having chosen to go into medicine was a big regret of mine. Then she asked me if I had 'met anyone.' I didn't bother responding to either jab. It was the first time she hadn't sent aftershocks through my system, hadn't caused me doubts, hadn't launched me into a cavalcade of defensive arguments. I guess that's what my mother's taught me- to really know myself.

The next time we saw each other, we talked like strangers with a mysterious, dark past, mostly polite with a few passive-aggresive remarks.

I write this not because I feel sorry for myself. I've done just fine, and you certainly cannot blame your upbringing for every wrong you've ever been done. I really have let it go. But I suppose on a day when everyone else is extolling the virtues of their mother, I have to believe that I'm not alone in feeling less than celebratory on this day.

1 comment:

echo said...

this. exactly this. thank you for articulating it so perfectly.