Saturday, June 18, 2011

The wages of manipulation is you end up with no real friends....

Image from Wordprss Burbflies
It never ceases to amazing me how stupidly mean people can be but more than that, how they make a life-long habit out of meanness and a perpetual game of finding ridiculous ways to 'punish' people but have no idea at all what it costs them.

I found out this week that a family friend - a woman who lived a few doors away from us - had been very ill and was hospitalized and since died. ...Two weeks ago.

I happened to find this out through a family member who had also found out after both facts. It should be noted that the non-informative person was my mother and the woman someone my mother claims was her friend for I think about 30 years.

I rarely see my mother, a point that despite being a reality is still raw almost five years on. I did have reason to see her early this week, face to face. She made no mention of the passing of this friend.

The next day, however, I got an email with the detailed story of another friend's daughter having been kicked by a horse and having had her leg broken in three places. Pretty nasty break to be sure and as interesting as that all is, beyond having met her perhaps five times in my life - when I was about nine years old - I don't know the person in question.

I replied to my mother's email with 'thanks for the information,' and added that I was confused why she would related the trials of a near stranger but neglect entirely to tell me of the illness and death of our friend.

She replied with another confusing email about a magazine that is soliciting photographs from amateurs and that I had some nice pictures I should submit (I am a working professional photographer and don't submit work for free).

Below the four lines about the solicitation, she added that she doesn't engage in what she called email wars and that if I had a problem with not being informed about our family friend's demise, I should bring it up with my sister, with whom I speak, every two days or so - according to my mother. I am always amazed but never surprised when my mother neglects to even acknowledge a glaring oversight and manages to blame someone else entirely.

My mother fascinates me in much the same way as serial killers fascinate me. She exhibits the same utter detachment from her actions and the same propensity for blaming anything or anyone else.

It fascinates me too that she pursues opportunities to punish people - in this case by not informing her children of the departure of our family friend - but does not comprehend that the distance and disconnection she has with two of her three natural children and the complete separation from both of her step-children is of her own making. She does not understand, "If I were kind, I would have all the love I seek and more."

Yesterday I had a conversation with another friend who also grew up with an angry, punishing and distant mother; a woman of my mother's age. There are many similarities in our stories including that our mothers both attacked us with knives: he suffered a four-inch gash; the knife did not make contact in my case but having my mother break a door in and hold me at bay in our second-floor bathroom was scary and left its own brand of scar. His mother, weirdly, ran him over with her car when he frantically tried to get into it so that she could not abandon him at a train station - at the age of six.

WHAT happened to the women of our mothers' generation? What happened to make so many of a generation of women so angry and hateful and punishing - there are so many, many women in their 70s and early 80s who seem to survive on fountains of anger and who are alienated from their children.

Of the many unanswerable questions that plague my need-to-know mind, why and how my mother comes to have such a profound pathology is near the top of the pile.

The possibility that such anger and resentment will be hallmarks of my later years is utterly terrifying so I counter it with probably a too-ready "sorry" and by always (I hope always) acknowledging when I react and am mean and by telling those to whom I am occasionally mean (because I am, as are all humans, fallible) that they are in no way to blame for my mood or what is going on with me at a given moment.

I don't believe my mother has ever apologized to anyone with any grain of truth or humility. She has made stabs at apologies on occasion sometimes because she was caught out and in those cases apologized but with obvious resentment; she has apologized but with a subtext of "I am apologizing in order to humiliate you," because she very mistakenly believes doing so in front of people she believes to be her friends will bring them or keep them on her side.

Sadly, she has few friends and is largely surrounded by people who see through her but let it slide because it affects them not and they know they can change nothing about her or how she relates to her family - what's left of it.

I write this simply for catharsis, as I understand those who might read it cannot help her nor can they answer the question "How and why is she like that."

If I leave nothing at all behind for my children except the absolute, cemented-in knowledge that I love them and admire them and respect them, I will have left everything important. I know this because this knowledge I do not have for myself.