Sunday, February 19, 2012

DIARY 152 - Is It All About My Mother?

Things appear, on the surface at least, to be returning to a vacuous type of normality. I'm back in Cambridge, with the usual people and surroundings providing some sense of reassurance ~ the comfort of the familiar. Tomorrow it will be a month since my Mother died, and well over a fortnight since the funeral.  Jnanasalin has gone off on a nine day retreat, so I'm spending more time on my own. I've been finding communal social situations difficult anyway. The noise, banter and general busyness of it makes my nerves feel raw and I find a blanket of solitude protects me from its abrasiveness. Yet, when I am alone, I invariably find ways to distract myself with emotionally empty things. Logically I'd like the restoration of meaning and a re-engagement with life to return, but the heart for this has currently vacated the vicinity. I keep doing the things of life as I always do, but its as if the essence of me is locked away in some distant annex. The fact that these activities are what my life usually consists of, seems to make me want to reject or push them away, like an inedible meal. There is no hunger as yet for the life affirming present. This lack of congruence between what I do and what I feel like doing, is getting easier to manage simply through patience and familiarity, but its not yet ready to leave.

I have moments, when inconsolable sadness emerges unbidden. Grief appears at times to be an abstracted feeling, one not necessarily triggered by specific recollections, but fed by an underground force with a more existential imperative. A space has opened up in my psychic world, one that wasn't there before, a Mother shaped void that no one else but her could fill.  I loved my Mother, and this was reciprocated. I felt I was my Mother's favourite child. After all I was the most like her ~ or was I? How much did I become formed in her likeness?  It was often noted, how facially like her I was, and this was true, externally we were very similar. But it didn't stop there, I also took it to mean I was 'internally like' her as well. This was sometimes spoken of , and hence reinforced, by my Mother herself. It was a litany I came to loath the size and shape of.  It wasn't that I disliked my Mother, but I did dislike being 'like my Mother.' The constant comparison, turned me into an identical person, one that as I grew up seemed not to allow me space to be fully me. Often her natural mothering desire to protect me from the worst of the world and the worst in myself, I could find quite suffocating. Who my Father is, has frequently remained a mystery to both my sister and I. How he's felt about things, like my being gay, I knew only through what my Mother told me. His quietly benign and genial presence was frequently overshadowed by my Mothers need for attention. Only now in my mature adulthood can I begin to see how like my Father I am.

Emotionally the insecurity and lack of confidence I have experienced at times during my life, is similar to that of my Mother's, but also to countless other people I've met. It it's unique only in the specific details, not in the generality. Its difficult now to retrospectively disentangle how much I picked up from her and how much is just an existential characteristic of me being me anyway. The more extravagant outgoing aspects of my nature has often found themselves fighting against being buried beneath a seeming avalanche of more introverted emotions. Perhaps I did unfairly blamed my Mother for this, for which I must ask forgiveness. Yes, its hard to take full responsibility for this, but now maybe the time to do so. Until my late teens/early twenties, I was too close and far too confiding in my Mother. My life gradually became more concealed as I made a life for myself, and became more active as a gay man. Hiding who I was when I went home, though often internally unbearable, became outwardly second nature. Yet this was just the beginning of my parents not really comprehending or, indeed, wanting to fully understand what their son's life was really about. Gay, artistic, a performer,a vegetarian, a Buddhist living in a community, why I wanted to be all these was somewhat incomprehensible to them. However much I dropped pennies into their well, I rarely got more than distant distorted echoes back. They really couldn't get it. So as they and I both got older, I ceased trying to build a bridge between my world and their's, for it would only have collapsed by the next time I visited.

I was often a shy child, over sensitive to perceived slights or criticisms. I was quite reserved and quiet in company, so my Mother took to talking for me, telling everyone present how I was doing, as if I'd just been suddenly struck dumb over dinner. This was something she was already had practice doing, having spent her married life speaking for her quietly self contained and undemonstrative husband, in public situations. As I moved into adulthood, this tendency to talk for me did continue, and I left it until quite late in my adult life, before I finally took the bull by the horns and told her to stop. I think I did publicly shame her in order to make my point all the more clearer, but it did cease from then on. It took me decades to gain confidence, and feel able to make my opinions and presence felt in social situations. I was rarely able to do that when my Mother was around. In order to feel able to discover and be who I was, had meant moving away, limiting communication, and putting some emotional distance between Mum and I. Sorry for that Mum, I know that must have hurt you. Yet you were sometimes like a radio station that took up far too much bandwidth, leaving an insufficient amount for anyone else. Everything had to pass through my Mother, like she was the whole families emotional conduit and censor. Now she is gone, its possible that my Father, Sister and I could now renegotiate our relationship. If we should want to get to know each other better, of course!

I think only now do I feel able to forgive my Mother and forgive myself too, for all this stuff. Its strange what a death can liberate. This week, I have been thinking what would have been once unthinkable. That, now she is no longer here, its possible for me to accept that I am to some extent like my Mother, and I'm done with pretending otherwise. I can be myself these days, without feeling smothered by the immediacy of my Mother's relationship with me. I've expended too much energy in the past trying to become someone, other than the son who's 'too like his Mother.' yet ironically bumping into it all the time. My sense of being independent was to some extent a necessary artifice, but also a reaction to a past dependence that still felt too emotionally loaded. Yet, my determination to create, to do what I wanted and be whatever I am, however unconventional it may be, my emotional steadiness, my quiet kindness and dependability are as much, if not more, a characteristic of my Father, than my Mother. So, perhaps for the first time, I'm perceiving what the real nature of my inheritance has been from my Mother ~ and my Father. Acceptance and forgiveness,  may be my guiding watchwords over the coming weeks, months, if not years.    

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