So I had a long talk with J in bed a couple of nights ago, after our son had gone to sleep on my super bad social anxiety day. Having a long talk with J always makes me feel better. He doesn’t ‘fix’ things. But just having someone listen and accept all my feelings is extremely helpful. And it’s especially good when he ‘gets it.’ And he did the other night. I’m still not feeling my best. But I’m moving in that direction. And even though I’m still sort of in a place where I feel like nobody cares about anything I think or feel or say, I’m going to write about it here. Because even putting something out into the void helps me work things out in my own head and heart and soul.
J and I know each other consummately well now in our 17th year together. We’ve not gone a day without speaking to each other since December 4, 2003. We’ve lived together and spent significant time together every day J wasn’t traveling alone on a motorcycle trip or for his work. He’s seen how my family operates. I’ve seen how his does. We talk about our pasts and our philosophies and our passions. And we just observe and retain each other’s ways. J knows there’s always a trigger for a bad social anxiety day, even when to me, at least at first, it always seems like it came out of nowhere. Because I have a hard time recognizing and claiming my own feelings and needs. But J recognizes them. And he helps me figure it out. I’ve written about this before.
And my trigger, it seems, is nearly ALWAYS my mother. (SIGH)
And because my memory doesn’t gloss over things or coat things in nostalgic sugar, and it certainly doesn’t let go of things, my mom’s reactions to me and what I think are my natural instincts to reach out socially to her that are still crisp in recall taint my perceptions of how other people value me too. It happens a lot. I know it’s not good. I wish I could stop feeling those triggers and not projecting the hurt my mom’s caused me onto other people. I wish I could turn off my memory sometimes. Instead I have to write about this shit to straighten things out. So that’s what I’m doing.
In late February, my cousin had a baby. She is 10 years younger than me. I am happy for her. She wanted to be a mom for a long time; before she had a boyfriend even. I remember those feelings from when I was in my 20s too. Now she’s just turned 31 and has a new baby girl, who is adorable and cuddly (although because of quarantine, I haven’t gotten to hold her yet), like all babies are, I think. She sends my mom pictures of the baby all the time, which I think is a nice thing for her to do. And my mom forwards some of them to me with a bunch of excited and happy, lovey emojis attached to the text. Which, on the surface, is also nice. Of course my cousin should be happy and lovey and excited about having a new adorable baby, and want to share that with people, and of course, my mom should share her warm, happy feelings. The thing is though? Twelve years ago, when my son, my mom’s only grandchild, was born? My mom told me I was annoying her and sending her too many baby pictures. Of her only grandchild. And that was 12 years ago, before smart phones were so ubiquitous, and you kind of still had to develop film to give a person a photo of something, so I was sending her WAY fewer baby pictures (*of her only grandchild*…not a great-niece…) than my cousin is currently sending her.
Now there are some differences in the act of sending photos and my mom’s life circumstances now than there were 12 years ago. Maybe she didn’t like the ‘clutter’ of receiving actual physical photos of my son versus the digital images she can view on her phone of her great-niece. My mom was still in her workaholic phase when my son was born and she often harshly judged my choice to be a stay at home parent because ‘I had so much potential,’ and even when I was young and she was working, she didn’t like to be called at work, even if that call was to ask what time she was coming home that day for meal planning. So I think even if I had the capability to text her digital shots of my son 12 years ago, she’d have still said I was annoying her, because some of them would have come through while she was at work. And I should know better. And now she’s retired, so my cousin isn’t interrupting something my mom considers more important with sent baby pictures when I would have been. And my mom is now 12 years older (obviously) and a cancer survivor, so maybe she’s softened up for my cousin (for whom she spent about $500 and hours of time shopping for baby items before quarantine happened and hosted a baby shower for…I got a $100 gift off my registry that I purchased for her and she paid me and I wrapped it and my baby shower that she ‘hosted’ was at my own house with J).
And maybe I’m a petty child for even noticing all this difference in the way my mom reacts to receiving baby pictures now to the, ‘Stop giving me all these baby pictures, Jen. It’s getting to be annoying…’ that I got 12 years ago when I had a new baby and wanted (and I admit I expected) some shared happiness from my mom. Maybe it’s juvenile and narcissistic and selfish of me to have hurt feelings about it. But my feelings are hurt. And when something like this happens…when my own mom shows me that she values and likes other people more than she likes me…when she clearly chooses other people over me…it’s hard for me to not see that happening with a lot of other people I’ve always loved and valued in my life whom I want to value and like and choose me, even when they do and are. I just can’t see it. Because social anxiety clouds my view. The social anxiety created from my mom not valuing or choosing me…telling me to leave her alone and I am annoying, but accepting and even reveling in the same actions and attention from other people.
Anyway, I know this sounds real ‘woe is me,’ and I promise I’m working on it. I’m trying very hard to shift my focus toward things that make me feel happy and grateful instead of hurt and unwanted. So here’s a baby picture of my son (who is taller than me now…by kind of a lot) and my dog (who I miss terribly right now) on the Easter after my son turned one, but before he got his first haircut (obviously). I hope you all don’t find it annoying that I’m sharing it.
(Please don’t misuse this photo and make me regret sharing it here. It would break my heart.)