I had two major breakthroughs in therapy today. I did my assignment of making a list of my characteristics; when I presented it, I joked that I did it as a list of pros and cons. She had me read it out loud, then asked me to pretend that all those characteristics belong to someone sitting in the chair next to me. What would I think of that person?
I looked at my list, and admitted that if they were smart, funny, creative, and sarcastic, I would likely want to be their friend. I examined the cons and thought that none of those things were something that would make me dislike someone, things like disorganized, self-doubting, bitchy. She asked what I would tell that person who had self-doubts. Since one of my pros is that I’m encouraging and empathetic, I would tell them that they are capable of doing anything they want.
She then asked what I thought of that person overall. As I looked at that list, a list that I struggled over and thought about endlessly for the last five days, I realized I’m actually a pretty cool person. I’m far from perfect (selfish, authoritative, demanding), but in general, I try to be “good” (kind, caring, giving, generous, fair, ethical). My pros did outweigh my cons, even when weighting various bad characteristics more heavily than others.
That was breakthrough number one. Number two was the big “aha” moment, though… As we talked about my deep-seated parental void that I’m constantly trying to fill, she said that I would NEVER be able to fill that void, that it would always be there. At first I thought that was kind of a negative thing for a therapist to say, but then it hit me.
When I met Ron, I believed with all my heart that he was my missing piece. That if he loved me unconditionally, I would never want for anything or anyone ever again. In a lot of ways, he is my missing piece, and the Universe knows that this man loves me unconditionally and has done so through good times and bad. Even so, I still have that longing, needy, existential void that I keep trying to fill with one person or another, particularly mother figures.
But no one, no matter how wonderful they are, can ever make that nothingness go away. No one can go back in time and re-parent the neglected and abused child to keep that vastness from springing into existence. All I can do now is try to talk myself down off the ledge of low self-esteem by reminding myself that I am worth sacrificing for, I am worth encouraging, I am worth loving, I am worth protecting. And the fact that I wasn’t encouraged, loved, or protected as a child ISN’T MY FAULT. It’s my mother’s.
One of the things I listed is that I am a good mother. I know I’m a good mother because I have awesome relationships with my awesome kids. Matt calls me at least once a week if not more, just to catch up and touch base. I see Aubrey every single day and she hugs me every night before she goes home. In spite of my lack of a maternal example, I still managed to love and protect and encourage my children. I was far from perfect. Trust me, there are plenty of moments where I know I was the worst mother ever. But overall, Matt and Aubrey know they are loved unconditionally. My worst mother moments were my failing, not theirs.
In a hilarious caricature of my entire relationship with my mother, I recently posted a meme about depression not always having a reason. My mother in all of her narcissistic glory, posted, “Now you know how I feel.” OMFG. Are you freakin’ kidding me? While a million and one smart ass comments ran through my head, I settled on replying, “It’s what I aspire to.” Really, I wanted to say, “Way to make it all about you.”
I don’t care who a person is, and especially not if it was my child, if someone I know were to post that meme, I would respond with, “I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time.” Or, ” Is there anything I can do to help?” Or even, “I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but I’m here for you if you need anything.”
We all had a good laugh about it because it is seriously typical. However, while I know it’s a dark humor thing, I also know that it hurts in a way that only maternal rejection can hurt. But after today, I also know that her response is her problem, not mine. It really, truly, absolutely is NOT about me.
That is huge. Groundbreaking. Tremendous. So after a week of making a list, checking it twice, and interviewing my friends and family, I know exactly who I am.
I am enough.