"Each day that passes makes me more and more aware of how small my life had become, and how much I just want to LIVE now. There's some guilt with that, but when an unhealthy person dies, if you allow it, the relationship that held you in bondage can die along with the person. It's unbelievably liberating. I feel closer to God, closer to me, closer to life. I had expected to feel like part of me had died, and expected there to be more guilt and struggle, but instead I feel like now I can really live."
This got me considering things in a different way. I am so grateful to be alive. There was a part of me that thought I would die with her, as if it would be impossible for me to be alive without this unhealthy extension of my soul. The truth is that in her death is my beginning. I remember the time when, for a while, we did not speak. It was so peaceful. No drama, no chaos, no constant stress; but in the back of my mind I always knew she was alive. And then that ended and we - I really, I am pretty sure Mr. Wonderful would have given this disaster a miss - allowed her back into my life. And true to form she detonated like a nuclear missile in the midst of everything. I started to slip away from me and enmesh more and more with her. For every success I had there was an equal and opposite detonation of drama or danger or fear. I delivered the manuscript for 2-at-a-Time Socks as I was on my way to the hospital to fetch her from her cardiac catheterization for the heart attack she had on the weekend we had set aside to celebrate my success at writing a book. I delivered the manuscript for Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time on the way to the hospital to check in on her after a major spinal surgery had left her unconscious. She had been on the verge of being admitted to a nursing home due to what was beginning to look like a nearly vegetative disaster. Four days later she woke up and asked for french toast, and the telephone so she could call her daughter. You want drama? We had it!
It felt as if every potentially celebratory or joyful moment had to be accompanied by some stage-stealing drama that made me unable to enjoy my successes. I remember griping about this to friends. I started being cagey about where I was going and when, about what my plans were, what my teaching or traveling schedule looked like. I slipped up when I told her I was going to New York to present at Lion Studio, and she ended up in the hospital that morning forcing the cancellation of my trip, and the event.
I was always very aware that something bad was happening, that I could choose to walk away from her if I wanted to. But for me, for my own sake, I needed to allow some kind of connection, to continue to try to care for her, to try to support her choices without insinuating my own beliefs and thoughts and feeling onto her choices. For a mother/daughter, that's pretty foreign. Most daughters can speak their mind and their feelings with their mother. I didn't really get why until now.
For me, now as an adult and no longer a child easily made to feel guilt or shame or responsibility, it was imperative that her choices not be a result of anything I said or did. I consciously chose not to control her when I knew very well that I could have. She wanted me to make choices for her, wanted me to be the decision-maker I had always been (although she routinely disregarded my advice) so that the outcome, should she take my advice, would not be her responsibility. I needed the freedom, at some distant unseen point in time, of knowing that I did not force her choice. That an extension or a shortening of her life had nothing to do with me, it was all on her.
Borderline kids very, very often get caught up in feeling responsible for their parents in a way that I don't think even a spouse or parent of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder can understand. It was essential to my healing and liberation that I discover, before her death, that we could be two separate people.
I still have a long way to go in healing myself, and not every day is wonderful, but inch by inch I begin to feel joy again. Deep, real joy. I am still taking it very, very slowly as I promised myself. I deserve a year of my own.
I guess the point of my coming here and sharing this is that right now you're out there, readers, and some of you are struggling and feeling like it won't ever end, and feeling guilty for the choices others make, and responsible for people who are not your responsibility. It can and does get better, I promise you.