“The tongue like a sharp knife . . . Kills without drawing blood ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

 

“Pandora,” by John William Waterhouse (1896, oil on canvas)

“The evils of the body are murder, theft, and adultery; of the tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and idle talk; of the mind, covetousness, hatred, and error.” ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

I’m sitting here in a white cotton sweater that is probably sixteen years old. I love this sweater, even though it is torn. It is soft and comfortable, and it reminds me of my friend Mari, who gave it to me one Christmas.

"Pandora and Her Box," by Warwick Goble

I have a lot of things that are this old. I’m not complaining, just noting. Why? Well, I’m a tad upset, actually more than a tad, and once again, it has to do with my mother, the woman who can cut me down in two sentences and never glance back.

Today Corey stopped by her house to use the fax machine. My mother had a bone to pick. She asked Corey if we (more specifically, I) had made any big purchases lately. He was, understandably, confused as our purchases are limited to groceries and shampoo. My mother told him that she had heard we had bought a new big bookcase for the living room. I know where she heard this from—my other m-i-l, whose visit I mentioned a few posts ago. My other m-i-l noticed the large wardrobe that is sitting in the living room, the one that is supposed to go in the bedroom, but the bedroom has yet to be painted or carpeted.

This piece of furniture is very large and heavy. Moving it is not simple or easy; hence, we have not moved it into the bedroom. We purchased this piece of furniture four years ago with cash from our tax return at a time when money was not a concern as we were both working in good paying jobs. That this furniture is still not in a bedroom is a reflection of the state of our life right now. However, it is not a reflection of careless spending on our part, or extravagant purchases.

Try telling this to my mother who got the information from my other m-i-l, who lives in a constant state of confusion. Corey explained this to my mother, who informed him that he needs to keep me in line. Corey told my mother that I don’t buy anything, that he pays the bills and does the budget and that I don’t even go shopping, all of which is true. I have been shopping on my own once in the last 12 months—at Christmas—and even then I was very restrained and made no purchases for myself.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.” ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Pandora's Box," by Arthur Rackham

Now let me pause here to interject a bit of history, and I apologize if I am repeating myself. After Caitlin died, I shopped my way through my grief. I have admitted this and owned up to my mistakes many times over. I worked very hard to overcome the need to shop to fill the emptiness in my life. I still like to shop, when I have money, but I do not have a fierce need to shop, and there is a big difference.

I no longer go out every Saturday and buy things just to buy. I no longer go from store to store to store, picking up things indiscriminately simply because I can. I no longer do this not because I don’t have the money. I no longer do this because I realized why I was doing this, and I no longer have the deep well of emptiness inside of me.

I have moved on. My mother, however, has not. She still thinks of me as that person who shopped and shopped as if my very life depended upon it. I don’t know about life, but definitely sanity. I have tried to tell my mother repeatedly that I am no longer addicted to shopping (and yes, it is possible to be addicted to shopping). I have tried to tell her that I do not spend money without any thought of the consequences.

She, for whatever reason, does not believe me. Hence, the snide comment about a recent large purchase on my part. Why does this bother me so much when I know the truth?

Well consider: How would you feel if you had made a mistake many years ago, and you had learned from that mistake, and you had taken measures to correct that mistake only to have said mistake thrown in your face at any given opportunity?

I can tell you. You would feel like a failure, an abysmal failure.

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.” ~  Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Psyche Opening the Golden Box," by John William Waterhouse (1903, oil on canvas)

I truly believe that I will never really understand my mother, no matter how long either of us lives. She can be loving and generous and kind, but mostly with anyone but me. She will talk trash about me to just about anyone: my spouse, my children, my friends. She will believe anyone else before me.

There are so many little stories from my life that exemplify this, far too many to bring up, but one in particular illustrates my point: The homes in my parents’ neighborhood had septic tanks before the city installed sewage throughout the area. One time, the tank became clogged, and my parents had to call one of those companies that specialize in fixing such problems. My mother told the workers, my father, anyone who would listen that she was certain that I had thrown a bottle of nail polish down the toilet, and that had led to the clog. I was about 9 years old.

Nail polish . . . really? Why? I never even contemplated doing such a thing, even as a child. I mean, to what end? I didn’t have any nail polish of my own, and as far as I can remember, my mother did not paint her nails. Did the polish appear by magic? I protested my innocence, but to no avail. I had already been judged guilty, so that was that.

I hadn’t remembered this incident until a few nights ago when for some reason, it popped into my head. Funny how memory works.

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”  ~  Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Pandora Atop the Opened Box of Evils," by Frederick Stuart Church

I know that I should not let what my mother said affect me so much, nor should I continue to be surprised when she makes these declarations. But it takes a great deal of self-confidence not to let disparaging words spoken about you affect you, especially when spoken by someone who is supposed to love you in the way that a mother is supposed to love. And self-confidence is something with which I still have a hard time.

At the same time, I know that my mother is a product of her generation, a product of the Great Depression, being the youngest in a family with 12 children, being the daughter of a mother who died when she was only eight, and the daughter of a father who drank. I realize that her life as a child was very hard, and not having her mother definitely affected her ability to show love outwardly.

I try to remind myself of these things when she does something to irk me. It helps, but truthfully, it does not lessen the hurt that I feel. I sound like a petulant child. All that is missing is the stamp of the foot and the protestation that “it’s not fair.” So of the two of us, I try to be the adult. All that being said, it would be so nice if just once I felt, truly felt, that she was not sitting in judgment of me.

All I can do, I suppose, is try to remember not to treat my own family in the same way, to let them know that I am proud of them, to tell them that I love them, and to refrain from interjecting past failures into the present. I hope that one day I do not have to read something written by one of my own children only to find that he or she sees me in the say way that I see my own mother.

Counting to ten doesn’t work. A hot cup of tea helps. Writing about it helps to lessen the sting. Time, healing, and all of that . . . scars remain forever, but my scars are the map of my world, each one a wound healed, a memory filed away, a piece of mortality tasted.

Patience. Is. A. Virtue.

More later. Peace.

Music by REM, “Everybody Hurts”

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6 thoughts on ““The tongue like a sharp knife . . . Kills without drawing blood ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

  1. I don’t know – feelings are sometimes displayed in the most odd and twisted ways. Remember, some people are only able to display affection in terms of violence – it’s how they’ve developed. Other people display emotion through absence – not saying something is a sign of their love. Your mother’s probably doing what she thinks is best for you, but has a limited, or warped, emotional vocabulary for expressing it – which isn’t much help when she says such things, but maybe puts things in a better context.

    And tea, lots of tea, is always a help. Oh, and going into a corner, stamping your feet and shouting “it’s not fair!” at the top of your voice is perfectly acceptable behaviour, even for an adult – especially for an adult! I really don’t know why you should give up such fun – my mum certainly hasn’t!

    Take care,
    Andrew

    • Andrew,
      Thank you for the kind words. I do stamp my foot on occasion, but mostly as a reflex. I suppose that I’ve never grown out of it.
      Tea is the great balm, and since I’m trying to give up chocolate, I turn to tea more.
      I understand what you are saying about the absence of words and skewed affection. I have no doubts that my other loves me, but her words still have a way of cutting to the core. It’s that old psycholgical dynamic of parent to child and how that has an immediate diminishng effect on the grown child.
      Lita

  2. Flashback! I know exactly how you feel. I don’t know if you remember but my father,much like your mother,had a very acidic tongue. He could make you feel as if 1,000 knives had been shoved into your soul. As I was getting ready to walk down the aisle, he said to me “You’re going to have it hard”. Thanks Pop, make me feel bad on my wedding day. Appreciate it. He was just plain mean and nasty sometimes and his sister is the same way. I don’t know but maybe there is some part of their psyche that is so skewed they feel like they need to throw these daggers. He could make me cry at the drop of a hat. He was just as bad to Leyna sometimes.

    I miss him but I still hurt.

    • Sarah,
      Oh, I remember your father, and yes, he did have an acidic tongue. I agree with the skewed psyche part. Mom’s words no longer get to me enough to make me cry, but they used to. For years, I always thought that there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t please her until someone once said to me, “she’s probably jealous,” which may or may not be true, but I have had many more opportunities than she has. Who knows the whys or wherefores of parents who can be cruel. I don’t think there is any way of really lfiguring it out.

  3. Hi Lita,
    Thank you for sharing such intimate feelings. I know exactly what you are saying, Fortunately, you have broken the chain with your own family and for that you should feel incredibly proud.
    Big hugs
    Maureen

    • Maureen,
      Yesterday was the first time in a very long time in which I wrote two posts in one day. I was so upset by what my mother had said, and of course, Corey felt bad for telling me, but I believe I needed to know. I truly hope that the chain has been broken with me and my own family. I would hate to wake up one day and realize that I have become my mother. I love her, but sometimes I do not like her very much.
      Big hugs back,
      Lita

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