Monday, December 10, 2007

A new game plan

Some background first:
I've had a friend for over 20 years. I've mentioned her in my posting before...she is the one with the great Dad; the one going through a breakup right now. We were best of friends for years and years. I am a year older than she. We met at a time that I was just emerging from the sexual abuse, still living with verbal and physical abuse and not talking about any of it. She was timid and shy, inexperienced with boys. The way our friendship naturally developed was a big sister/little sister dynamic. She came to me and I always had all the answers for her. I didn't look to her for anything. When I did, I was inevitably disappointed. Not because she's not a good friend but because I had issues FAR beyond what she could comprehend and I'd shut down immediately if she didn't give me a response I expected. As the years progressed, I felt the need to keep up the front of being perfect, composed, having all the answers.

She and I put our friendship on hold while she was in this bad relationship that has now ended. Since they broke up, we have happily resumed our friendship. I found myself very easily sucked back into the pattern of big sister/little sister. Particularly because she came back to me in a time of need. Heartbroken, looking for answers....things I've been through. And then I realized what I was doing. It began as a struggle for me to read her emails or listen to her cry on the phone and not feel the need to rescue her. It took a while for me to find the balance of listening vs solving. And even more time for me to acknowledge when I had to leave her on her own because I had my own issues to contend with. In the past, I would drop anything of my own feeling obligated to help her instead. ie: everyone else is more important than me.

Well, on Friday night, there was a wonderful and VERY vulnerable turn of events. I was upset and stressed. I was on the phone with her. And while I could not be overly emotional about it b/c my DD was with me, I did manage to share with her some of my stresses, stuff that had happened with my mother the day before and angst about spending the following day with her. While J talked to me, I had to fight the urge to be the "know it all"....the together woman who has all the answers and doesn't need input from anyone else. It's so hard for me to be the "needy" one....the taker and not the giver. It was uncomfortable. But I'll tell you, I am proud of myself for riding out the discomfort and really listening to what J had to say. Because she really helped me by just bantering back and forth.

We discussed this whole "no-win" situation with my mother. How no matter what I do, it results in her feeling guilty or apologizing and then I soften up a little. I realized through talking to J that I reacted in a predictable way to my mother. It is our "dance". And since I know my mother is incapable of change, I realized that I need to be the one to put a new step in the dance. So we figured the best thing for me to do is not to react in the same way to my mother. Not to feed into her little guilt trips.

When I was there on Saturday, I was on edge. And then I realized.....why?? I'm wasting what could be a really enjoyable day! DD was having a blast shaking sugar sprinkles over cookies, my mom was having a great time with her "girls". Why should I be in knots over it? I was able to remember that I had a game plan in place....I was prepared. And there was no reason for me to be on edge in the meantime. mother did her usual of jumping hoops around DD trying to anticipate her every need... "Does she want some cheese? Are you hungry? Is she tired? Do you want to lay down? Is she hungry?? I don't have my DVD hooked up, does she need a movie? Does she want books? Does she need water? Is she hungry?" I said "Mom, she's not a baby. She is 3. She is perfectly capable of asking for whatever she needs. She'll tell one of us if there is anything she wants." And I just went on with my baking. My mother made some of her usual little comments about "You're right, I'm sorry, just being stupid, it's hard work raising a mother" etc, etc, etc. Normally I would have taken the bait on one of these and softened things up with a little levity or making her feel more comfortable, easing her feelings. Instead, I changed the dance. There's a new game plan in town. I just keep decorating cookies and didn't say a word. I let her do her thing. And I gave her issues back to her by not taking the bait to help her out. Those are her issues and I hereby officially relinquish them back to her. They are no longer my problem. If she has guilt, she can stew in it. I'm not throwing the life preserver to her again. Sink or swim, Mother....sink or swim.

1 comment:

Enola said...

Good for YOU in not responding to your mother. That is a huge step. Note to Self - remember this game plan and follow during own mother's trip.

I'm glad your friendship is growing. A friendship that survives growth and grows along with the individuals is a true friendship indeed.