If you’re in a relationship (with your boss, supervisor, partner or client) and you suspect that you are continually being used and/or abused, admit it – you’re eating shit. Without the courage to put an end to it, you’ll never create great work. Put an end to it. – George Lois, Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent)
After a year of no contact, my mother decided to make contact by emailing me, announcing of her impeding arrival and for me to make a wish list of things I wanted to get from my birth country, as if our year of total silence is normal. But I couldn’t shake the image of her glare of unhappiness over my childish behaviour boring down into my soul, like how people in her life kept constantly “reminding” me of how gracious my mother had been towards my ungrateful ass. Even her lawyer sent me an email (my mother’s brilliant idea was to let her lawyer talk to me instead of her telling me honestly what she had done with my father’s inheritance after 4 years of complete silence on the matter), chiding me by spewing nonsense that my mother was gracious and benevolent enough to part money in order for me to shut up and stop asking about the inheritance as (in the lawyer’s words) “she was still grieving her husband’s death” 4 years on. In others’ presence, I was the ungrateful bitch who caused her untold grief by living aboard or saying inappropriate things. In private, my own mother doesn’t even want to touch me, much less hear my voice. This very same person who once told me to shut up and forbade me to speak at home, simply because “my (shrilly?) voice hurt her ears”. In her world, I was ungrateful and a scum. But in the world outside my mother’s realm, I am nothing like what she portrayed me to be. I am jovial, intelligent, kind, cool, accepted and most importantly, loved by my friends. It wasn’t my intention to keep myself and my son away from her, I just needed to protect myself from her. I simply couldn’t carry on my life with her any longer. I simply can’t carry on with her lies, her rejections and her immense hostility towards me. It took me 38 years, I finally took my therapist’s advice and cut off ties with my mother.
My father’s dying put an end to any delusions about having had a normal happy family life. Growing up, I feared my mother most. Not because she was fierce, but because she was strangely hostile. If I bought the wrong peanut butter home, she would screamed at me and forced me to finish up that bottle of peanut butter (and I avoided peanut butter for the rest of my life after). If I had hung the laundry the “wrong” way, I would be cursed and sworn that my offspring would abandon me. If my relatives wanted to throw me a birthday party, she strongly opposed that and refused to even be in the picture of my last birthday party (I was only 13). When I was 14, she made it known clearly that I was to be blamed if she ever got a divorce from my father and that I should butt out of her family affairs. My mother dressed me so shabbily, my aunt and grandmother got me nicer looking clothes in order to dress me up more like a girl. And as usual, my mother would blame me for dressing shabby and announced to my relatives that it was my choice to dress like that. I don’t even have allowance to get my own clothes. If my father got mad at me, my mother forbade me from eating dinner with the family for a whole month. My siblings never got that treatment. I stopped inviting my friends over to my house when one of them noticed that I became a complete different person at home: outside, I was jovial, chatty and lively; at home, I was a terrified mute. I would be a poster kid for child abuse, except that I bore no physical scars of the terror I endured living under that roof. Internally I was a total mess. It wasn’t surprising I was suicidal as I had almost daily nightmares, partially resulting from my mother’s open hostility. The only saving grace was that I was too chicken to see through the suicide successfully. And so I rolled along with my inner demons until the age of 28, when I moved overseas. It wasn’t surprising I chose to move aboard when opportunity knocked on my door. It was a choice between life and death. And I chose life.
My father had always been the buffer for my mother’s hostility. When she cursed at me, I would run to my father crying. He would tell me to stop believing in her. “Do good and gain good karma,” that was his motto. Sometimes, I would follow my father to his predawn, bimonthly trips to the temple to pray. I loved taking car rides with my father. When life throws problems at me, my father had always been the anchor of safety. When I got into troubles from schools or was too ill to go home alone, my father would come and pick me up, no matter how busy he would be. So when I and my father knew that his end was close, he struggled to let people know he wished to pass at home. But my mother stubbornly clung on to the idea that hospital was still the best place for him to be. I fought for his last wish: I endured humiliating screaming fits from my mother in a hospital public corridor. There she was yelling and accusing me, the ungrateful bitch, of wishing to see my father sooner end in his grave so that I could return to Turkey. I pleaded with my other relatives to talk some sense into my mother as my father was getting agitated with the passing days. All of us knew the inevitable was near. It was after my cousins made some necessary arrangement for my father to be taken care of at home that he was finally allowed home. I was comforted by the fact at least his last wish had been fulfilled: he passed at dawn the next day after he was moved back home. When he died, my whole world died together with him, including any delusions of a family life.
My mother pushed me away from my father’s bedside as she and my siblings circled around to say goodbye and sent him off. I could only watch my departing father from afar, like a bastard child. Except that I was the legitimate first-born of my parents. My mother continued her hostility by refusing to talk to me or sit at the same dining table with me throughout the week funeral. The only time my mother spoke nicely to me was when my signature was needed for some legal documents over my father’s inheritance. My mother’s lies finally was uncovered when my sister sent me a long email detailing all the trespasses and sins I had (not) committed and how much my parents had suffered at my transgressions (which I didn’t commit and my parents painted a different picture to me), and finally announcing her decision to never acknowledge me as her sister again. We never spoke to each other since. My mother had not only destroyed my relationships with both my siblings (we stopped talking to each other), but had also blamed my sister for being immature (she was already 24). It took me 3 more years and a couple of destroyed friendships which my friends heard a different spin of her story, to finally acknowledge that I am eating shit from her.
In the past, I had made a lot of poor choice with regards to relationships: I took in whatever shit they dished out to me. I married a husband, who not only repeated the same pattern of emotional abuse and neglect I knew so well from my biological mother, he also used physical forces on me. I remembered distinctly the reason why I took in all the abuses was because I truly believed I deserved these. Like how I thought I deserved all the shit my mother piled onto me. Even though he beat the shit out of me, he never took the sense out of me. My life changed when I became a mother.
My maternal instincts kicked in when I realized how close my son was to death after a night of the ex’s trashing. My maternal instincts kicked in once more when I witnessed my mother yelling at my son to shut up and that “his voice hurt her ears”. I couldn’t save myself because I was once a child but now I am no longer that child. My son shouldn’t be that child I once was. There was no other choice, so I packed up and left. The last time I spoke to my mother, her words were, “she has only two children, my brother and my sister because they live in the same country as her”. My reply? “You have been treating my whole life as if you have only two children – my brother and my sister.” I hung up the phone, and wept long and hard. Unknowingly, my life changed since.
Within a year, I am now living with my boyfriend who takes care of me and my son, and most importantly, makes me feel safe, like once my father did. I now have friends who support, encourage and give me sound advice. I also hung out with a couple of much older friends who treated me like a daughter/ younger sister. I now have a non-biological family who made me feel safe and less alone in this terrifying world. Family is not always blood related.
As usual, my mother’s recent email threw me into an emotional turmoil. Part of me will always yearn for a mother’s love, which I may never be able to experience in this lifetime. Part of me also refuses to believe that a mother can be that cold, that cruel and that hostile. Because society wants us to believe the fairy-tale of a mother’s everlasting love. But mothers are humans after all, and humans can be that hostile and cruel. Still a part of me was wondering if I had been too sensitive, unwilling to believe even in my own horror story. One friend whom I had reconnected, recently confessed that the reason she ghosted me was she could not bear witnessing how hostile my mother treated her own flesh and blood (ie. me). Her words snapped me out of the confusion and I am thankful that she made me realized I am not delusional, that what I had suffered was real. Still, she is my mother, how bad could she be if she wanted to visit? I turned to my other half and he replied, “why waste time keeping toxic people in your life?”
That’s how I know I have made the right choice.