As I get older, honesty becomes increasingly important to my soul.
Recently my daughter commented on my "ruthless honesty". That gave me a strange feeling at first, but later I felt surprisingly good about it.
I am willing to consider other people's feelings but in a genuine way. Not because it should be, or because people assume it is necessary.
I've behaved like this for far too long. Way too long...
I turned around, but I don't remember why. I also don't remember what made me turn around. I just did it: I turned around.
I saw a woman on fire. It was my mother, surrounded by the rays of the setting sun, wrapping her thin contours in fiery gold.
She was crying on the phone. I studied how she moved. she held a glass of white wine in one hand, which sparkled in the near twilight. She took gulps between sobs. I thought it was tragic but also beautiful.
Yes, my mother was beautiful. She was also mean and cruel.
I do not begrudge her that. That meanness, I mean. She certainly hasn't had it easy.
She always had an unpredictable character. It never occurred to me that her drinking was bad until the divorce. She worked nights as a nurse, had three children, and a husband who, between his cheating, insisted on being waited on hand and foot, like a marquis from a sadistic fairy tale. Until he decided to run off in the middle of the night, but not before he looted their bank account, opened a whole line of credit cards in my mom's name with her social security number, and let her foot the bills. We then had to move in with my grandparents, and her alcohol addiction got the better of her.
My whole life was dominated by her alcoholism. Alcohol was her drug of choice. Every weekend there was a party or occasion that needed to be celebrated with liquidity. Alcoholic, of course. The parties in the backyard sometimes lasted for days. There was loud debate and even louder singing.
Everyone kept yelling at everyone to fuck off and shut up, and the next day no one could remember anything. I´m sure it was better that way. That no one could remember anything, I mean.
My motto was to run and hide. That is how I survived it all. Not without trauma, but it worked: I'm still here.
I resented it for a long time that I only realized years later that overconsumption is bad and not a badge of honor.
My father drank too, although he smoked too many cigarettes and weed. I remember he used other drugs as well, but I never knew what they consisted of. When he left, he went cold turkey on us. I know he has two more daughters somewhere. Anyway, I hope he is happy.
Back to my mother. I don't blame her at all. I have empathy for the reality of who she is: an addict. Not that that makes her choices any less heartbreaking. And it does not make the years of dealing with her addiction any easier either. And it certainly doesn't take the sting out of her cruel words. Drunk words.
Somehow, I even admire her. She was smart and could be very funny when the mood took her. She was an unstoppable force who somehow managed to do it all.
As a rule, she behaved stereotypically male. I don't mean that in a transgender sense, but in the way that it brings a freedom that women do not often get. She once told me she wished she had been born a man. She played it well: especially the most toxic parts of masculinity: Always screaming, always commanding, and always having the last word.
She was a nurse by profession and a carer by nature. She also often told me that she would rather have been a police officer.
I am loud myself, a little hyperbolic, and occasionally melodramatic. Not that you will ever hear me admit that out loud.
People think I am funny, but I'm also gruff and unintentionally demanding, often coming across as authoritarian. Yes, in that sense, I resemble my mother, or she resembles me. But unlike me, my mom is a party animal and is capable of drinking anyone she meets under the table.
I allow myself to see my mother as she was, and not as I wanted her to be, or who she told me she was. That helped me reconcile the imperfect parts of her and my father. In the end, I am a result of that union.
I owe it to myself to expose that mess and be honest about it: my mother is an alcoholic, who has done horrible things to me, intentionally or unintentionally, cannot remember anything, and is convinced I'm exaggerating everything or outright making it up to get attention.
I suddenly feel very mean, but how many of us, didn't grow up gaslighting ourselves, because we've always been told things weren't nearly so bad.
-"No, I never hit you, I never told you I was sorry I didn't have you aborted."
Ignoring and downplaying reality only confirms the pain I have felt, and it is the best way to keep unleashing unhealed pain onto others and cultivate the inability to grow.
It is sometimes said that we are co-dependent out of love, which is why we enable addicts to their addiction. I don't remember who said that, but anyway, isn't it our sympathy for their illness that kills us all in the end?
My mother has had a fixed pattern for years: one and a half liters of wine per night, and several bottles during the day. A few naps in between, and she hardly eats. She has serious vitamin deficiencies; her body is wasting away. All that coffee and cigarettes don’t help either.
She shakes her head all day. I hear her body scream:
-"Save me. I am at the end. I am dying!"
Then she starts accusing me again that all I want is for her to die so I can get her money. What money I wonder. She calls me a selfish know-it-all bitch who only thinks about herself.
She lies more than I care to admit, but in the end, it does not matter after all, I am the liar according to her.
When I was little, I loved writing and dancing. My life did not hurt if I could write or dance away the sadness. It taught me to frame myself and to calm my (little) soul. According to my mother, being creative was not the solace of my pain, but the cause of it.
I began to believe that I had a dark deranged mind and resigned in defeat. Being raised by an alcoholic means sticking to the doctrine that their way is the only true and right way. And anyone who does not see that is either a jerk or a wimp.
Now she is telling anyone who will listen that she is going to stop drinking. Well, at least try to. First, drink less and add water to the wine. And then she is going to quit smoking. Then she immediately adds in the next sentence that if she hit me in the past, she did it out of love for me.
It all sounds a bit too morbid, dark, and melodramatic.
-"I hate you!" she says, out of the blue but matter of factly. "If I dropped dead tomorrow, I'd be perfectly happy. After all, I've lived my life."
I have had to listen to that all my life.
Recently she proudly told me that she has no empathy and that she does not want to change.
Nevertheless: I am proud of who I have become. I refuse to hurt myself any longer by living a misconception.
My mother wears her alcoholism - functioning alcoholism she likes to emphasize herself - as a badge of honor, pretending it's okay. It is not okay. It is not right, it is wrong. Period!
Sometimes I still turn around, without knowing why or what moves me to do so. Then I see that woman again, surrounded by the rays of the sun, making her look like she´s on fire. And as she continues to bring her glass to her lips, I watch her pain recede. I no longer try to imagine what she thinks or feels: I know. She told me too many times herself: alcohol makes her feel nothing. Nothing! And that is all she ever wanted out of life.
Her life; not mine!