I’ve been running around a lot lately. Mexico, North Carolina, DC, plus the new job, my own freelance, and the wedding stuff. Yesterday my new boss and I drove to Rock Tavern, NY for a 1-day shoot from which I have just now returned. I’m exhausted. And my mother is worried about me.
The danger times with my mom are right after dinner, while she’s doing dishes (one night, as I was finishing my glass of wine, she chose Doing Dishes as the moment to inquire pointedly about B!’s family values), and right before bed, when she’ll come into my room to say goodnight. Conversations with my mother, while welcomed without question, are often personally difficult in a way that’s hard for me to reconcile. When I talked to my shrink about this, she suggested that I simply “not engage”, which is kind of like “not engaging” with a speeding bullet, or a slow-moving train while you’re strapped to the tracks. Engagement is a must. She’s my mother.
Anyway, so she comes into my room the other night smelling powdery and fresh, she gives me a hug, and tells me that I need to take care of myself. OK, I say, since it seems reasonable. No, I mean it, she says, her eyes boring holes in my soul. OK, I say again, trying to look sincere. I have a vested interest in taking care of myself, actually, and I think that I’m doing as good a job of it as I can. I take my meds, I see my psychiatrist, and, for the most part, my self-destructive behaviors have ceased. I think I’m doing a good job.
I mean it, she says. Really. Don’t let him push you like your old boss did.
And in that moment, I am undone. I try so hard, I think, so hard to be well, I try so hard to keep busy and move forward and do everything right. I try so hard to be good. Nobody pushes me but myself, and I’m always trying to push my way into her favor… and now, again, it feels like it’s not enough. We spend our lives trying to please our mothers, through no fault of their own. We want their approval, their love, their respect. It was this unending quest, in part, that landed me in the hospital, just as much as it fueled my recovery. My mother is my alpha and omega, my albatross and my salvation. It’s a sword, no two ways about it, and the edge is razor-sharp. I am about to cry, I want to regress, I want to make things explode.
I’m still going to China, if he asks me, I quip, trying to lighten the mood.
She gives me a look. I mean it, she says.
OK, I say. OK. I embrace her, a sign of peace. I love you, I say.
I don’t love you, she replies, and pats me on the back.
I know it was a joke, I know it wasn’t meant to be real. I know this and it helps, but her words echo louder than knowledge can quell. Today I should be writing about my shoot, my work, my triumphant return to the field, and that was my intent, honestly, but here’s how it’s ended. We love our mothers and our mothers love us, but there’s so much capacity for hurt when the love runs so deep. It’s a wonder that any of us survive.