I was there, at my mother’s house, not at all enjoying my spring break, tending to her after her knee replacement surgery, when I discovered she’d been lying to me to get me up there.
Her cats had tapeworms again. After I had taken them to the vet in January, two months before. This was one of the few things I told her I needed her to do for me to come up there. I just needed her to treat them for fleas consistently so I could be in her house without parasites. She said she would
I felt manipulated. Used.
At this point, I don’t trust her anymore. She’ll do whatever she feels she has to and will say whatever she feels she has to in order to get whatever she wants. My needs, comfort, health and safety don’t matter.
That’s not at all to speak of her cats’ health. I asked a couple of people if I should get them treated again and they told me the same thing: if you treated them two months ago, and they’re sick again, they’ll just keep getting infected. There’s nothing you can do for them.
Unfortunately, I think they’re right.
Then I came back here and tried to get work done. I didn’t get anything done up there. Yes, poor me! I have the privilege of being one of the elite few in the world who can earn an advanced degree full-time. I have no illusions about where I am in the world. This is the top, really. I have clean water, a safe place to lay my head, an automobile–this is great. I do get anxiety, though. I’m behind in my work.
And I churned out a book for a contest just now. I’m proud of it, and proud of myself. It’s good work. Poems. No one would read it except for my boyfriend. They’re too depressing. Everyone said to send them some, but they didn’t really want to read them because they’re too down. I understand; they’re all about death. That’s not something people really want to read.
My habit has been to wait for the muse to come to me and then work off of inspiration, and I didn’t do that this time. I just worked through the time I had allotted. There was only so much time, so that’s the amount of time I had to work on it. It’s still work I’m proud of. This means I can do this always–it’s a new skill for me. I feel like I should have had this sooner (I’ve been writing for twenty years! I should be here by now!), but I’m at where I’m at and it’s here.
I also feel bad today because I set a boundary that was the right thing for me, but I don’t think the other person saw it that way. I can justify and explain and make a case to you, but I don’t have to. I know what was the right thing for me to do. I can’t hurt myself today because that’s what I think other people want and need. I have to put my own oxygen mask on first. Besides, I don’t know what they need! I’ve never been that good at figuring that out. I destroyed my own life and showed up somewhere with a shoebox full of most of the pieces and needed help putting them together. What do I know from life coaching?
Boundaries are tough, y’all. But living without them? Way fucking worse. You can take that to the motherfucking bank.
I really didn’t know I was such a bad person. Really, I didn’t.
I have been keeping more to myself than I used to. It started two years ago Christmas when I was telling one of my mother’s friends about my novel I’m writing for my thesis (she asked). My mother was getting more and more testy. She doesn’t like the attention pulled away from her, I think, especially when it’s her house. That’s what I think, at least. And she wasn’t approving of the plot. Mind you, it was sounding extremely convoluted and strange. But I had just explained it to my novel writing class, and after having come through an entire semester with them, they were really excited for me. I was really excited for me. I felt I was making huge progress. Things were looking up.
But as I’m telling the plot in my mom’s living room, I’m becoming more and more conscious of her eyes on me. Her throat, the sounds coming out of it. Squeezed sounds. Small sounds. Dampening sounds. The sighs, the dismissive cut of her eyes. We both do that. Neither one of us knows how to fix our faces. My pops doesn’t, either. All the no comes right to the surface.
“Well,” grumphasses Moms, “I hope I’m never expected to buy any of your books.”
I tried to save it. I always try to save it. I’m the baby of the family; it’s my job to save it now. Now that everything’s gone to shit and everyone else has stopped trying and no one’s in the same place at the same time and everything’s pointed at me: it’s Seer’s fault now. It’s so easy for the baby to feel persecuted, and it’s so easy to blame the baby. Spilled milk and all that.
“You’ll never be expected to buy a goddamned thing,” I said. But I didn’t say it cheerful enough. There wasn’t enough laughter. Too much vinegar. And I was ashamed of myself–for being a bad writer, a bad daughter, a bad person. Look what you did.
I don’t think she remembers saying this. I don’t think she remembers any of this. My brother had a bad habit of coming over and acting like family but wanting to be waited on like a guest. Mom wants to talk like family but be talked to like a guest. And she writes people tickets for minor infractions but has no idea how big the trailer she’s towing is. She’ll swing wide and knock out telephone poles and fire hydrants and then tell you she is hurt you didn’t say something the way she wanted to hear it.
When I won the little poetry contest, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to show them to her. I’m not a masochist. I’m never showing her anything ever again. I’m writing everything under a pseudonym at this point and never telling her if I get published. It’s out of self-protection. After she said the thing about the novel? That little, tiny thing and who cares and blowing it into a huge whatever? Pole-vaulting over that mouse turd? (Yes, she had said something negative about one of the most important facets of my life right now. But it was a fairly small thing about just one thing that lives in one of those facets.) I got into a self-hatred thing and didn’t touch it for four or five months. I’m still doubting it now. I’m too sensitive still. Sometimes it doesn’t get me. But I never know when someone or something will infect me. When you hit me under one of my scales it’ll get swollen and tender for months, years. And I don’t need that bullshit. I have enough to deal with.
I am going up to see her tomorrow to run an errand for her. She’s quite capable of doing it herself. It’s hard for her right now because she’s in pain but people do more than that all the time. But I’m doing it as a peace-offering. I’m not staying longer than I have to, though (see: masochist, not a). She wants me to stay for dinner and: no.
I am really not looking forward to the upcoming surgery. It’s only a week. Only a week. The last time I nearly lost myself. I am scared. But I can do this.
I don’t know when I became this bad a person to her. Or she to me. Why do you hate me now? Why can you never be kind? I think she thinks these things, also. She thinks that I’m the asshole here.
It seems so sudden sometimes, the change in people. The car door slams and they turn and a new face, who is this? Who is this mother of mine? How do I treat you now? How do I let the stones you throw hit me, cover my face and still walk towards you?