(This title, though originating from Dirty Dancing, is from the Fall Out Boy album – the best one, IMO!).
I think I need to give myself a bit of a slap this afternoon – serious pity party going on!
My mother and I are not talking – again. I really could produce a spreadsheet of reasons why she decides I’m no longer her daughter – this time, it’s because of the new dog (“you’re wasting your life”, “you’ve made us feel unwelcome in your home”) and because I, and I quote, “looked like a cheap, second rate whore” when I went to my graduation ball… in a floor length gown with my hair curled and up. I know she is delusional at best – and as T2 helpfully reminded me today, that’s her stuff, but every single time I let it get under my skin and then it sticks, putrid and rotting and ruining my self-esteem and self-confidence yet again. ‘Her stuff’ has an uncanny way of ruining MY stuff. I hate how weak I am – I did once have therapy about this and the woman taught me set phrases to use – ‘that’s your opinion, but…’ is one I use all the time. Externally, I look much stronger with these strategies – but internally, I still feel like I did aged 13, after the slap. It’s only different because she can’t reach me through the phone.
So there I was, wasting airtime ranting about a woman who does not, and will never, love me as I need her to (so whyyyyy do I bother?!) to T2 and she was sympathising – and the voice in my head said, you cannot possibly understand – your parents can only be filled with pride for you. Because I sit watching T2 talk, thinking that she is the closest thing to perfection I know. My views on perfection are not mine – they belong to my parents. My mother, mostly. I am totally indoctrinated to believe what they believe – I couldn’t describe my perfection, just theirs. T2 is everything my mother hoped I would be – she’s educated, well spoken, pretty (but ‘classy’, my mum would describe her as, not ‘slutty’ how she describes me!). I guess I realised properly for the first time today how incredibly jealous I am of her. I fight constantly to try and impress my mother – and yet here is a woman who would do it so (seemingly…) effortlessly. My mother would swap me, for her, in a heartbeat and that really stings.
But at some point, I’m going to have to stop measuring myself on a scale set by someone. I will never be the daughter that my mother wants – even if I was everything T2 is, I know that in reality my mum would still find something she didn’t like. T2 is completely right that it’s her stuff, so I don’t actually impact it – her negativity will stay even if I was everything she thinks she wants now.
So is the only way to break free from this damaging cycle, to find peace, to stop beating myself up, and accept who I am? When the lights are turned up and the scrutiny is high, I will always be letting someone down. So either that breaks me, or I start to ‘be gentle with myself’ (I swear T1 lives inside my head sometimes…).
I was ranting to a friend this afternoon about this situation and she told me to write a list of things I like about me. Then I cried *rolls eyes* so, over huge mugs of hot chocolate, I wrote a list of ten things I love about her, and she wrote a list of ten things she loves about me. I won’t publish her list – obviously, she’d slaughter me!- but she was happy for me to release hers – so long as I altered nothing. So, deep breath, here it goes (by the way, apparently there is no order!):
1. If I looked your name up in a dictionary it would say ‘don’t fuck with her’. You are the strongest person I know.
2. You have the most eclectic taste in music. Only in your car can I listen to Frank Turner, Ludovico Einaudi, Busted, Fightstar and ABBA one after the other!
3. In everything you do, you throw your heart over the parapet first. This is a strength not a fault.
4. You aren’t easily shocked. You’d make a great ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ doctor. I can tell/show you anything! [she shared a memory here which I have removed to preserve modesty!]
5. You handle half-tonne animals using just the power of your body language and vocal tone. I knew you’ll be fine in life the day I watched you lead [horse’s name] down a hill across the ice using your voice and a hand on his chest.
6. I know you’re ashamed of your Little but if it means we can play with play dough more often, she can stay!
7. You stand for what is right. You never ignore the bad things going on around you. I am proud of you for being the person who makes the stand and tries to right the injustice in your world.
8. You look brill dressed up – but only you can look pretty in the peeing rain, wet through, covered in mud, makeup in streaks down your face and hair like rat’s tails.
9. In a crisis, you’re a helper, not a runner.
10. You always get up and start over. It’s never a question of if you come back – just when.
I’ve deleted and retyped this list 100 times. I keep thinking what my mum would write if she wrote a list. I’m internally struggling against this list – my insides are screaming that I’m none of these things, I’m useless and worthless and… But they’re not my words. They belong to adults who didn’t and don’t have my best interests at heart.
So the list will stay, and I need to start working on adding my own words to it. Be gentle, remember.