I’ve always said my parents were a potent combination: my mother convinced me that everyone was looking at me, and my father convinced me that I wasn’t worth looking at.
Guess it’s no wonder that these lines from the Pink Floyd song, Mother, made it into the quote book, then.
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you.
Leaving out the fact that my mother would’ve lost her shit if I’d ever called her “Mama,” it’s a decent encapsulation of our relationship. To my mother, the world was a scary place full of judgemental people, and she made sure I knew I should be scared of it, and worried about what other people were thinking, too.
She wanted to keep me by her side, and I spent my youth there, absorbing her fear. But as I got older, I began to realize that while, sure, a lot of the world is scary, and a lot of people are assholes … a lot of it’s pretty okay, too. I also realized that I didn’t want to keep hiding, and began to push boundaries and explore.
She got very manipulative during those years. When I decided I wanted to do something she thought I shouldn’t, she’d say, “You get to tell your father,” because she knew that would shut me down. But eventually I learned that I didn’t have to tell my father squat, and she lost her last hold over me.
In a lot of ways, I feel bad for my mother. Her life was a nightmare, and I can’t imagine living the way she did.
Except I don’t have to imagine. Because I spent 20+ years living that way, and she did everything she could to make sure I kept doing so. For a long time after I got out, I resented her for it. A lot of her fear was the direct result of her choices – she told me more than once that the only reason she married my father, who had always terrified her, was that she didn’t like the thought of people gossiping about her being unmarried at her age – and she tried her damndest to limit my growth so I’d make the same kinds of choices as she did.
The resentment’s long gone, now. What I feel now, when I even think about it, is more a mixture of pity and relief – pity for her and a life barely lived, and relief that I didn’t follow in her footsteps.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.