Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forgive Me

Generally speaking I do not to use this blog to rant about people who aren't here to defend themselves. However, every once in a while I need to make an exception.  Today I am giving myself permission.

I don't know what to do with my mother.  I just don't.  Maybe you folks, with the benefit of perspective, will have some helpful advice for me.

My mother is a complainer.  The glass is always half-empty.  If things are going well, she uses the time to worry about the future.  The truth is that she has been through a lot of very painful experiences in her life.  No doubt.  But who hasn't?

I know that my mother is doing the best that she can.  She seems to be wired to worry and fuss.  She fights every change in her life at every step of the way, even the good ones.  And I get stuck trying to soothe her.  We have these conversations during which sometimes I don't reply to what she has said, because if I can't think of anything nice to say, I don't say anything at all.  If I said what I was actually thinking, it would offend her and give her one more thing to worry and complain about.  It's a vicious circle.

Example:  When I was a kid, I grew up in a lovely neighbourhood.  My street was lined with old trees. The houses were small, detached 3-bedroom, 2-story homes with large front and back yards.  Our house was adorable.  There was a front porch to sit on during the summer, and a back deck for family BBQ's.  It was a sweet little house.  We may have shopped in thrift stores for clothes sometimes, but we always had food on the table and the house was clean and in good repair.

I never heard the end of complaints by my mother about that house.  She said it was too small.  She called it a "starter home" and coveted the mansions a few blocks north of us.  Even at my tender age, I knew enough to be grateful for the cozy roof over my head.  I loved my room.  I found it embarrassing that my mother thought our house wasn't good enough for her.

Fast-forward to today.  My childhood home is getting on in years.  It is in need of some major repairs, but my folks are not inclined  to live through another renovation.  My step-dad wanted more and bigger windows because he gets SAD in the winter if there's not enough sunlight.  So he talked my mother into going house-hunting, and after almost a year of not agreeing on anything they saw, they actually bought a new house.

This house is an almost brand-new, large four-bedroom home with a finished basement.  It's in that fancy neighbourhood to the north of the old house.  It cost a pretty penny.  In other words, she finally got that mansion she'd been whining about for my entire childhood.  Hurray for her!  Glory day!  Congratulations!

Except now she's complaining about having to move.  Suddenly she can hardly bear to be parted from the old house.  All the memories!  The beautiful yard!  How can she leave it?  Of course the staging process will be a nightmare, and moving will be stressful, etc.  There will be no end of things to complain about.  No mention of Thank Goodness my step-dad can afford to pay for a service to do all the actual packing so she doesn't have to do it herself.  Of course not.

Last night I was at home (where else?  I've been stuck here all week) making the best of things.  I got comfy on the sofa and found some free old movies to download from YouTube.  I was feeling pretty good psychologically, if not physically on top of the world.  The phone rang.  It was my mother.

She was calling to check in on me, although within the first two sentences we had gone from her expressing concern for my health to her worrying about my stepdad and whether or not he's going demented.  She's been worrying that he's losing his marbles since he turned 40.  I have listened to this idle speculation for years.  To this, I refused to make any answer.  I wasn't going to get sucked in.

But she did get me with her moving stress.  I thought I'd better play the good daughter, and before long I found myself reciting some inspirational story from the learning channel about a kid who overcame gross physical disabilities, just to try to give her some perspective on her troubles.  The thing is, this tactic only works for 5 minutes or so.  She is never able to hang on to any type of perspective for long.  It's always Oh Dear and Poor Me and I don't know what to say to her anymore.

I'm certain that she doesn't even realize what she's doing.  I know she makes a conscious effort not to complain to me, and sometimes it works, although when she's exercising that much restraint, our conversation is stilted.  And when she's just being herself I don't know what to say anymore. Honestly, these days I have enough of a job keeping my own chin up.  I don't feel that I should be called upon to comfort my mother, whose big problem is that she'll be moving into the mansion of her dreams in a few months.

Yes, moving is stressful, I grant that, and I have some sympathy for her.  If only she could put her complaints within an overall context of at least a little gratitude.  It's the total focus on all the negatives that really drains my patience.

My mother appreciates some things, like good books, CBC radio, works of art, music, and hearty home-made food.  Those things make her happy.  It's not like she's never ever got a smile on her face. Walk her through a historical building or take her to a musical play and she'll be thrilled. But seriously.  When it comes to the rest of life, I don't know what to say to her anymore.  I just don't have the resources to prop her up.

I should add that I almost never call my mother for help with anything.  She's not good at being the strong one.  If I have a problem I'll just end up reassuring her that I'll be fine so she won't worry about me.  The propping up only goes one way.

I can't tell her to F off.  She's my mother.  I can't not care about her.  I don't want to be mean or crush her tender feelings.  Does anyone have any ideas about what to do?  Anyone?  Bueller?


Pixiebaby said...

I feel for you! From all that you said, it seems that she has always been that was and probably is just wired that way. About all you can do is listen when you can, and when you aren't able to/don't feel up to it you can make your excuses to get off the phone. I know that it seems passive aggressive, but other than having a showdown, I do not know what else to say. Sounds stressful to hear all the whining! When you are going through a time when you aren't feeling well, like you have been lately, I would just keep the conversations as short as possible. *hugs*

Sparkling Red said...

Pixiebaby, thanks for your understanding! It's good to hear confirmation that I'm already doing everything I can. I thought so, but it's always better to get a second opinion. I've certainly tried confronting her at times, but that's even more exhausting, and it doesn't accomplish much. As you said, I will keep things short and sweet!

kenju said...

You could (maybe) tell her to be careful what she wishes for - since she might get it.

My mom was a complainer too, and all she ever talked about in our weekly phone calls was all the crime, murders, robberies, illnesses, rapes, that happened in that week. Needless to say, it was never anyone I knew, so I finally told my mom that her calls were terribly depressing to me and I would like her only to talk about things (bad or good) that happened to people I knew or were related to. She was insulted, but I think she must have given it some thought because she tried, after that, not to be so negative.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

{{HUGS}} What ya gonna do? She's family... sigh...

Jenski said...

That must be particularly difficult to deal with if you're feeling less than spectacular physically. Given things you've written before, I imagine it would be difficult for you *not* to feel what your Mom is feeling.

How often does she need a response from you if you're on the phone? Can you zone out and play some mindless game on your computer like tetris or something? :-)

Jameil said...

Honey, you can use this blog for whatever you want. It's YOURS. I wish I had some advice for you but I've excised every person who wears me out w/complaints from my life. I know you can't do that w/your mom. I hope someone can offer you something you can use.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to offer advice, but I don't think I can be of any help to you. But I think I know someone who can.
We don't sweat, we don't belch and we don't fart; if we didn't bitch we'd explode. ~ Diane Ford on women.

Lynn said...

You sound as if you are doing everything you can already. And I imagine that is exhausting and you are not feeling well anyway. Bless your heart!


Sparkling Red said...

Kenju: It's inspiring to hear that you confronted your mom, with good results.
My mother finds plenty to complain about within the sphere of our immediate family. She rarely has to mine the headlines for material. I wonder if that says more about her or about our family!

Ron: That's pretty much the long and the short of it.

Jenski: You are very perceptive! Yes, indeed, I feel physically drained when I spend time with her in person and she gets going on those subjects. And I do have a habit of surfing the net while on the phone with her, which makes me feel a little guilty (how rude!) but does help when I do it.

Jameil: Thanks! Well, I don't know if there's any advice equal to the situation, but all the support sure does make me feel better.

wigsf: Words to live by.

Lynn: Thanks! I'm pretty used to her, I mean, after all, I've had my whole life to adjust to the situation. It's just too much when I'm already working to keep myself calm and positive. I want to be a cheerful and reassuring force in the world, but there's only so much one Spark can take.


LL Cool Joe said...

This didn't turn up in my reader!

I don't have much advice either because she sounds a great deal like mother and to be honest it's very hard to change the way someone is. It's more a case of you changing how you handle her! Tough one though, because as you say, she is your mother!

DarcsFalcon said...

Well, as you're no doubt aware, you can't change her. And it sounds like you're doing the best you can to cope - which is really all you can do. Just maintain the short, sweet, and to the point conversations with her so she doesn't have the chance to run off the rails, so to speak.

So kudos to you dear Spark! It's not easy trying to accomplish that.