On June 16, 2012 I saw my mother for the very last time. It was brief; she was just dropping off my sister, thirty minutes late. I was getting married and my sister was my flower maiden, she was going to be a freshman in high school so flower girl didn’t really seem appropriate. At the time, I didn’t know that that would be the last time I would have any sort of contact with her. The morning was crazy and just got crazier and unpleasant, mostly because of her. But despite her trying so hard to be the dark cloud on what was the happiest day of my life – that’s not why she’s been cut out of my life.
I’ve never really had a mother – not really. My biological mother was unstable, cruel and violent. Police were involved on several different instances by the time I was fifteen, teachers made concerned inquiries and every day that I lived with this woman was a day at war – not knowing how I would come out of it okay. My mother would threaten to kill herself because of me almost every day. She would fly into a rage, throwing me across the room, beating me, kicking me and sometimes someone like my sister would be collateral damage, which was also my fault.
By the time I was fifteen I was out of her house, the streets were safer. I don’t stop to consider this, but I know such statements make other people pause. Part of me is sad I never got to be a kid. From the age of seven I had to learn how to survive and tried to shield my two younger siblings from her. I was the oldest… I could handle it. Better me than them.
I was always the only person who could handle my mother. I brought her to her knees with pictures of the time she strangled me and the majority my body was black and blue. Usually she was more careful than that. I blackmailed her with those pictures – the cost was the safety and happiness of my siblings. The threat was that I would always be watching, and the moment I suspected either of them was abused, I would go to the police. For once she wouldn’t be able to put her violent acts on me. She couldn’t justify them.
In private, I would know how to shut her down. Everyone else seemed afraid of her, they would just let her scream and throw things or make threats, but I was never afraid. In fact, I was mouthy. She would tell me what a worthless piece of shit I was and I would make some backhanded comment to her. She’d tell me to go to hell, and I would tell her so long as I was with her, I was already there. Some adults would tell me that I was just making things worse, but they didn’t understand. The physical stuff never hurt at much as the mind games or psychological warfare. She wouldn’t let me socialize or communicate outside of the home and I would be given impossible chores to do on top of my homework, she would refuse sleep or food until the list was complete. She was calculating and trying to break down my spirit. My mouth was my defiance, a message that she could not break me. I feel like if I just tried to be submissive and physically safer, a part of my soul would die. And if that happened, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it out alive.
As an adult, she no longer was a physical threat to me, but she was still able to play those mind games, make threats, do horrible things, use my siblings as leverage and just make me feel like shit. A lot of my wedding planning was about how to handle her. My wedding party had buffers, we had meetings about possible scenarios. What to do if she tried to stop the wedding, if she went into a verbal rage, if she physically attacked someone. It was all about how to shut it down as quickly and quietly as possible. She only had the invite because my sister was a minor. No mother, no sister, and my sister means a lot to me – it mattered that she would be there. So, I jumped through every hoop and hurdle, even when the only unpleasant wedding stress stemmed from these things.
The day of my wedding, my mother tried to ruin our morning with threatening texts, saying she would come get my sister and skip the wedding. She was frustrated she couldn’t go waterskiing two hours before the ceremony, and then she was frustrated I still refused to let her be with the wedding party as we got ready. That was a boundary I would not let her cross. At the ceremony she tried to make a scene, and when unsuccessful she snatched my sister away immediately after the ceremony, so my sister wouldn’t be in any of the pictures. We tried to contact her, and nothing, and then when she showed up at the reception she told off the people sitting at our guestbook table and tried to punch the photographer before being removed. Of course, before the reception was over she was already texting saying she was so happy for my husband and me, and she wished she could have stayed longer… because that’s my mother.
If she hadn’t made the scene that she did that day, I don’t know if I would have gone the last three years without her. Not because that was the reason I cut her out, but it was the push I needed to follow through. Every therapist, and every close friend told me for years that I needed to cut her out of my life in order to be truly happy and healthy. And I did a couple of times. But it would always last a few months and then it would be over, and somehow I’d give in and she would be back. For the first time, I was able to follow through. No texts or emails or calls or visits under any circumstances.
I credit my husband for this. He is all the family that I need. He has never given me advice on what to do about my mother, just offered unconditional support. But seeing him – us – as this family, and how good and sweet he is… I don’t want him to have to put up with that. I don’t want him to have to put up with the person I become when I’m around her. My husband makes me a better person, but my mother has the opposite effect. I’m a big knot of nerves, someone who is stressed out, on edge and defensive about everything. I don’t want to be that person anymore, and for the last three years I haven’t been.
I wish what went down at my wedding didn’t – that there wouldn’t be this shadow on such a perfect day, my sister would be in the pictures preserving our memories, and everyone could just be happy until the day was over. But I can’t change the past, so I try to look for something positive and I find that push. I would like to think I would have cut her out anyways – she would have said or done something that crossed a line and that would be that, but who really knows. This pushed me to do what was right for me – to have the courage and strength to see it through.
I know that I play the part of the villain in my mother’s eyes and most of the family’s. I am being petty and only doing this to hurt my mother – some sort of passive-aggressive silent treatment because I’m cruel with no appreciation for the people in my life. And that’s fine. They’ll think what they think. I think my friends even thought that calling my mother out on her craziness or putting her down was the thing to do – it would make it all easier. The woman was an absolute monster to me, so why not?
But the thing is, cutting her out of my life, and keeping her out of my life, is incredibly difficult and painful to do. When my mother was still in my life, I held onto this hope that she would get better. That she would become a whole person, someone who loved me without intentionally hurting me. But with her absence… that hope is gone. But so is the anger and the hurt and the regret and the confusion and all of the other bad things I was holding onto, not intentionally, but because she was still there. My mother was like a spiritual cancer to me and you either have cancer or you don’t. You can’t just have a little of it.
I know I did the right thing, for me and the family I am creating, but sometimes it still gets hard. My husband has a mother, my friends all have mothers. They’re wonderful things and influences and they make you angry or may be annoying, but they’re safe and will always be there. I’ve never had that, and I never will have that. Some days are easier than others. Most days I don’t think about my mother at all. Some days I have to remind myself why this is necessary. And some days I find myself wavering wanting to reach out and make contact again. But in these urges I always think of a warm and caring person happy to hear from me because they love me and want me to be happy. And the dream shatters because my mother is not that person, and while people may be able to change, they only can if they want to. In my mother’s head, she is the victim…
I guess I just find myself thinking of her a little more often lately because of the timing: my wedding anniversary and the anniversary I let her go, my birthday… all those days that matter, when it would be nice to have a mother.
I don’t wish bad things for her, if anything I wish that she would get the help that she needs because until she works on herself and changes I can’t imagine she is truly happy. But I know that’s not on me, and I still know, no matter how much I may want to reach out sometimes that my decision is right. I am happier and healthier than I have ever been, and I believe her absence is a factor in that. Cutting my mother out of my life wasn’t about her, hurting her or getting back at her. It didn’t come with “win me back” instructions because she can’t. It had nothing to do her, and everything to do with me. I love myself enough to say, “No.” I love myself and my husband enough to not have that influence in our lives, and to not become the person I am when she is with me.
I have been motherless all of my life, but in this way it is of my own doing. I have eliminated her influence, forgiven her and moved on, not in the way people say they do but don’t, but really, truly moved on. For the first time in my life being motherless is right, and I know that I am better off. And so is the family I hope to have one day.