The Pain of the New
It was my son’s 16th birthday last week. I didn’t talk to him. I am trying to find a new path forward and I can’t see it right now. I love him, I sent a card and a few small gifts. It is hard to know what to give a person who is living in a hammock.
What I realized more than anything else yesterday is that I do not know what I am doing. I am lost. I only know how to do what I have always done and that has made us both pretty miserable. I love my child. I miss him. But our relationship is foundering and I am not sure where to go from here...
Motherhood provides a delusion by its title that you are granted knowledge. But in my experience, motherhood is the greatest winging it of all. I have been fiercely committed to a path with my kids, only to find out, usually too late, that I was completely wrong.
I have pushed when I should have pulled. I have pulled when I should have pushed. I have been absent when I was needed most and there when they could have cared less. I have gotten it more wrong than right. And I still have to keep trying. Because motherhood is the job that you can never quit, even if you do.
There are some ties that cannot be broken, even though the tethers to those relations are severed. I am forever his mother but in taking a step back, I can see that I am just as much of the problem as he is. I do not know where to go and I do not know what to do next. I seem to fail in my assessment at every fucking turn.
I do not know what he needs. I do not even know what I need except I need something new. I need to be new to him and I need to be new in my self. I cannot meet him as I was, because like I said, I died that mother a few weeks ago. Now I seem to roam the earth lost and forlorn and without a clue how to carry on.
It sits in my chest, this hollow vacancy that only he can fill. And I do not know what to do without him. I am lost, losing ground and flailing even as I show up for work and help others fight to remain a part in their own children’s lives. Lost is all I feel.
So I didn’t talk to him on his birthday. I did it for petty reasons, for good reason and for self preservation. I did it to make a point that something had to change. And the dynamic where he apologizes and I accept it and then move on, both of us doing the same thing over again, ended. I took a step back with the hope that I might gain some new perspective.
I have cried myself to sleep. I have felt awful. I have regretted my decision. I have wished for another chance. I have wished that I had not been so upset by his complete lack of consideration. I have wished that I could have reached for a more positive reaction. But all I could do was withdraw. Step back into myself, retreat into silence because all the words in the world were not going to change things. They have all already been said.
Doing something different is hard. Every fiber of my being wanted to behave like I always have. To show up, hold my tongue, support the progress and ignore the dysfunction. Praise the changes that I do see while wholly ignoring the discoloration of the present with the taint from the past. I wanted to believe that a new present was on the horizon, one that did not require an accounting for the past. But I know all too well that a future that does not deal with the hurts of the past, isn’t really much of a future at all. Because the past will come to reclaim itself. Every damn time.
So I did something different and I hated it. I feel insecure about it. I held myself in the lowest of esteem. I hurt. I cried. I tried to explain. All I felt was awful. I am walking through my days numb, mildly angry at him and me, feeling bereft and lost and losing.
I know that something new will grow in the fallow field of our old relationship. I do not know if it will grow wildly out of control or if it will move us both forward to a richer harvest. A cornucopia of support and love or a tangled mess of ties that bind and choke.
I do not have answers, only some vague, almost fleeting hope that doing anything different at this point is better than spending one more day doing what I used to do. It is cold comfort. It is not warm or fuzzy. It is not assured and confident. It is hard and painful and new. I hate it.
But I have also gained a new accountability with myself. I realized that the way I used to do things was supremely selfish. I didn't want to feel the discomfort of cutting him off. I didn't want to feel the pain of changing, so I demanded to both our detriment that he be the one to change. And I have had to learn to accept, that may never happen...
And I have done the same thing over and over again, all in an effort to avoid that fear right there. The fear that he will never change and we will never make any progress. But really my fear has been that I will not be able to withstand that discomfort of my own decision. I can see now that I have forgiven him over and over again not because I actually really did, but because I was too afraid to do the hard thing and end the dynamic. So long as he was the one that needed changing, I was free to continue the relationship. And that was more important for some reason than the quality of the relationship. Truly there was no one else in my life that treats me the way he does. No one. But because he is my son, he got a pass. He was exempt from the basic tenants of most other relationships. And that is a pass that I can no longer grant.
I say all of this to just honor that I feel very overwhelmed by the new. Swallowed. Chewed up. Spit out. I feel lost and am not sure what comes next. I feel saddened and heartbroken. I grieve though he lives still. I wish for a new relationship with him but I have little power to make that happen. I am pretty sure that my new way of relating to him is not going to go over well...at all.
I guess what I am really trying to say is that it is incredibly painful to change the way you love. I can't believe at 51, I fostered and continued this most dysfunctional love relationship that was anything but loving. There was no support, tenderness, kindness or real love. There was just dependency, manipulation and avoidance on both our parts. I am praying that I can tap into the love that I know is there. I love my son. I love him with all of my heart but I also know that I cannot allow that love that I have for him to drive what I do going forward. It has to be my love for myself that moves us to the next chapter. He has taught me that love coming from any place but emanating from a real, true love of me isn't really love. It is many, many other things but love is not one of them.
In the meantime, I will pray for him, for me and for us to find a new path. A new love that is based on both of us loving ourselves first and then working the us part out from there.