When in doubt, or I should say riding some kind of mini-breakdown, I call my semi-alcoholic mother.  Over the years I have figured out perfect timing before she goes in for the kill--"utter disappointment" is her nickname for me after say, 5 minutes on the phone. But until that point I find a kind of comfort, the imaginary mommy/cookies kind. Not that she was ever that person.

Despite my 15 years of wanting to live in a lovely white house on the beach, instead I have lived those years in a crowded, unkempt home, albeit a nice one, though meant to be five years, add to that 3 kids, 2 dogs, 25  fish, 3 reptiles, a challenging job, low funds and no help.

Here is the house I saw myself in dammit.

 


And of course the pristine and perfect interior, replete with a grand piano, a chef, an assistant and masseuse.

 



Now and again I toy with the idea of driving off a cliff, but it's another fleeting fantasy, more like a default, since I don't drink, smoke, have affairs, gamble, or shop. Basically there is no escape. We all have our bad days.

After accomplishing some difficult work, "top-notch" per client, instead of taking any kind of pride, I focused on how I still needed to go to the grocery story, make 5 complicated meals since everyone has an allergy to something, hang with the girly-girl twins, help with their homework, bath them, blow-dry their precious hair, read stories, tuck them into bed, speed-clean the entire house, spend 10 minutes with my eldest boy child, and catch up with my husband so we can get up and do it all over again.

Then I retreat to my bedroom/sanctuary to read, my greatest pleasure, and also a way to avoid a potential rabbit hole that is my "desk" filled with bills, papers, unfinished writing projects, pictures and artwork never framed, thank you cards never sent, a call sheet that is 2 weeks old and forget the calendar, all skyscrapers of tedium and unresolved issues.

The next repeat morning slogging through my local village and burdened down with Rite-Aid shame-bags (I never bring my own,) I am hit with my own tsunami wave of grief and my immediate impulse is to call my mom. It was good timing because she hadn't hit the NyQuil yet. She in fact has the life I want; lives on a remote island, white house, white gorgeous furniture, writes, paints, and has 2 PHD'; hence a shift in our normal greeting.

"Oh, Dr. Judy, I'm falling apart, this is not fun, my life is over! I mean I love my kids, but the crocheting, knitting, reading books I already read, the homework, emails from school I ignore, when all I want to do is write, read, and walk on a secluded beach.

I am sobbing now, sitting on a curb, sandwiched between two Prius'.

"Sweetie....I understand. But you need to change your attitude. You've accomplished so much, have beautiful children and husband that does so much. The girls adore him. I'm not a big fan but you can't afford to lose him. You certainly couldn't do this on your own! I know all about four point restraints. You don't want that. Where is your gratitude?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, not feeling it. He's not going anywhere. I want to!"  She went on, ticking off all the good things in my life, like my bathroom tile carpet. Her pep talk helped, or maybe not, perhaps just sitting down and taking a break for five minutes was what I needed; thus I forgot my time limitation as she rattled on about how great she was, so  I wasn't prepared for the gut shank twisting,

"What the hell were you thinking having more kids? Yunno, for being bright, you are well, not. And the way you dress them! They look like Bosnian refugees. And you have a sense of style, I made sure of that, you also could have married a very rich man, what were you thinking?"  And on....and on...

"Look here sister, you have 20 more years of hard labor, there is no escaping it, you have to see those girls through until they are at least 28, then you can have your house on the beach. You have to earn it. I certainly did. You wanted more children so now no playing little miss victim!"

"I'm not being a victim, I just wanted to talk. 20 years?" I was stuck on this 20 year comment.

"20 years! I can barely manage a day."

"Oh nonsense. Stop being a baby. I didn't raise you that way. I did it! And I had six kids and NO husband, that rotten good for nothing monster."  (My memory of my dad is this; he played board games with me every night, taught me how to ride a bike, took me out for ice-cream and also taught me card tricks.)

Here, of course, she never elaborates. Yes, she had 6 kids starting at age 15, done by 26, left the monster and doled the kids out to various strangers, one to my father, the others, well, just people and to this day I can't remember their names. I am the only one that stayed with her, mostly out of fear. At 10, I felt she needed someone to take care of her, given she was drunk most of the time and would often disappear for a few days. She was a Playboy Bunny at some lounge and I worried, constantly. This is when my insomnia kicked in.

 

I eventually left at age 15, determined to make something out of my life. And I did so, successfully.


My mother is different now, stopped drinking, but still hits the Nyquil at night.

 


Maybe she merely got too old for her insane Marin County life style, falling off of bar stools, going home with complete strangers, jumping out of sailboats, getting arrested for drunk walking.

I glanced up and saw a pretty mom, laughing and enjoying her two small children.  I did that once...and still do with my girls, on a good day, but her carefree attitude was something that had become foreign to me. Her children were well groomed, hair clean, faces washed. They were all having so much damn fun, I had known that life.


With my son, my entire life existed around him and I also maintained high profile jobs. I even enjoyed building Lego rockets with him, using all 14,000 pieces.

My mother was still talking. "You think you have it bad! I made sure all of you kids went to great schools, ate well balanced meals. I taught you piano, we listened to great composers, went to incredible museums. ALL ALONE, no help from a supportive father...libraries, dance, we we were cultured!!! And I loved every minute of it. Sure we sometimes slept in the car, in community parks, in someone’s attic. But I paid a mighty price.

"Yeah, mom. I know. I was there."
"So stop complaining. I did not raise you that way!"

I hung up my phone, knowing this was just the beginning of her rant. Clearly, she hit the NyQuil earlier than usual.

I looked around at my village and knew I was blessed. I just wanted to go home and bake banana bread with the girls. I long ago broke the neglect chain and sometimes need a reminder.

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Tags: breaking, chain, gratitudel, mom, overwhelmed, parenting, persective, the

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