I just got back from stocking up at the grocery store. Every time I leave, I think, "I ought to call Mom." I used to call her in the car on the way home from the grocery store. This seems like a significant thing to muse upon, and I haven't just yet ... but I was thinking about this blog post on my way home. As usual, I bought something to eat on the way home - a sandwich and a can of carbonated flavored water. My thinking: Well, it could be worse.
Anyway, so I'm driving along thinking about my dear mom that I love so much and miss so much. I'm not maudlin, and I don't believe in heaven, so I don't talk to dead people very much, even those I love. But I was thinking about what I'd tell my mom at the moment, if that made sense to me.
I'd tell her not to worry about me. Interesting to realize how often I had to tell her not to worry about me. (It never helped.) Of course, I was so well trained by her frequent concerns about me that I worried about myself all the time too. I don't blame her at all. As a little girl, she probably had to worry about herself a lot -- she didn't have an easy time. It makes sense that, when she had kids, she worried about them too. A lot. I've stopped worrying about myself, most of the time -- I sometimes worry about events, but even that is just fortune-telling. There's no way to know the outcome of anything, and there's only so much you can control, but the future isn't one of them.
Anyway, as a teenager I defied her worry sometimes. As an adult, I did too, but I got a lesson in keeping anything from her when I went out of town for a couple of days and didn't tell her, because I didn't want to hear how much she would worry about me. I called home to get my messages (this was before cell phones, doggone it), and heard a series of messages that were more and more frantic as I didn't call her back. She was afraid I was dead in my apartment, and she was going to call the police to go look. This has actually become an ongoing joke for me, something I realize I remind myself of every day. Hmm, I might need to rethink that joke.
Much of my life, I heard how worrisome I was. And then, when my dad died, I realized how afraid I was of her worrying about me. I worried about her worry. I became paralyzed, almost literally, when I realized that, if I went to do my dissertation fieldwork (in Canada, for god's sake), she would be worried all the time (she told me many times that she was worried about me going to a foreign country. Remember, we're talking CANADA!), and I couldn't be held responsible for that. Instead, I just got almost catatonic with depression and everything fell apart, for years.
At this point in the drive home, I realized I was eating that sandwich. I stopped and evaluated: Am I actually hungry? Am I eating this because I was looking at all this worrying? Well, yeah. It wasn't that good a sandwich anyway. I didn't need it. I wasn't remotely physically hungry. I took a few more bites and then wrapped it up and tossed it out. I don't know the last time I did anything like that.
Again, I honestly adored my mother. She struggled with a very difficult childhood. To her, I think, love = worry. If she wasn't worried about something, she'd find something to worry about. She said several times to me that, if you worry about something, it probably won't happen, so that's a good thing. That poor, dear soul. She fought against her own upbringing in so many ways. She was stubborn and funny, and those things really helped her, and us, so often. But she was paralyzed with certain fears, and I guess the well-being of her kids was one of those fears. Of course, in many ways, that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was a wreck from all that worry.
She raised four children. We all love each other immensely. She doesn't have to worry about any of us, because we have each other. We have all grown into good adults. I am so fortunate to have them and know that each of them is there for me if I need them, and even when I don't. There are times for concern -- but it's not the same thing as a little girl internalizing the idea that her mom feels she's about to do something wrong, all the time. It's very liberating not to worry about myself anymore, and I'm getting better at it all the time.
This week in group therapy, we're talking about families. It's not surprising this has come up, but boy oh boy, it's powerful stuff. By the way, my therapist says I can tell you about it. It's called The Hunger Within. Her name is Marilyn-Ann Migliore. There's a workbook you can get if you're interested (at thehungerwithin.com). I won't talk about the other people in the group, of course. Their stories aren't mine to tell. But it's powerful stuff, and it's apparently working.