A Change of Season
Fall is approaching. It’s not here yet, but I can definitely feel the retreat of summer, and I’m particularly glad to see this one coming to a close.
I’ve had an inordinate number of wonderful memories in the past few months (half marathon, wedding after wedding, bridal showers, Boston, baseball games, good books, a fresh new tattoo), but amid all of the pleasant commotion, I’ve been making my way through a significant life transition, and I think that transition has largely reached its close.
Even before this summer, I felt that I was becoming someone new. Someone who was healthier, more active, more confident, thinner… someone comfortable in her own skin in a way she’d never been, who after decades of feeling like someone not quite good enough or cool enough or pretty enough or charming enough suddenly found herself feeling like she was just another person in the world, just as worthy, just as cool as the next person, and on occasion maybe even a little cooler.
That feeling came with the weight loss and the mental changes that come with pushing yourself to be the best that you can be, but other feelings came along for the ride too. I found myself in a life that was largely healthy and wonderful and drama-free, and the things in my life that didn’t fit into that overall picture started to stand out like glaring irregularities.
The people who didn’t fit into that overall picture started to chafe as they failed to embrace the new Me or just perpetuated unhealthy patterns that didn’t fit into the new life I had built for myself.
It’s amazing how people react to a person who makes major life changes. It threatens a lot of longstanding ideas people have about whether we’re capable of that kind of change, like I am walking reminder that a person could be making the same changes. It also challenges the views those people had about me, and who I am within their social structure.
A few male friends suddenly realized that, without all that extra padding, baggy clothes, and insecurity, I was a girl (*gasp!*), and suddenly I became an alien creature whose language they no longer spoke. A few gal pals like spending time with me a lot less now that I’m thinner (and often, no longer their “fat” friend). A couple of co-workers have hinted that I might have an eating disorder (have you SEEN me dig into a pizza? it’s called planning and portion control, people!).
None of that was my goal, and observing those things isn’t about my ego. It just is what it is. Ultimately, the positives have vastly outnumbered the negatives anyway.
One relationship that really stood out like a sore thumb was one that should have been at the forefront of this journey, one that is usually core relationship in any woman’s life: the one with my mother. I crossed the finish line of a half marathon one rainy day in May without a single family member (other than my awesome husband) present, and I suddenly realized that one crucial part of my new life hadn’t been resolved: family.
Explaining the history between my mother and I would take too long and just isn’t worth the time or the emotional toll. Suffice to say that the already complicated relationship between a woman and her mother just isn’t sustainable within the strangle hold of a mental illness that goes untreated and is constantly excused by other family members (even with a shared and tangible history of abuse). It’s impossible to make it work, and it’s impossible to be healthy within that prison.
I realized in May that I was working toward an unachievable goal: a functional relationship with a dysfunctional person… a person I will never be able to consistently please, who only wants me to affirm their view of the world, who loves conditionally and sparingly, who had already done enough to me in thirty years to warrant walking away if it had been anyone other than my mother. I spent some time thinking, I spent some time talking with trusted people in my life, and finally, I spent a great deal of time constructing a firm and final goodbye.
It was a terrifyingly huge relief.
The terrifying part of it was the uncertainty of what my life would look like After The Goodbye; whether any of my family would remain in my life (they didn’t), whether my mother or some other family member would find a way around all of my blockages (blacklisting her number, filtering her email to trash, etc) and create an emotional storm (she thankfully did not), and ultimately whether I would regret such a huge and final decision (I haven’t, for even a minute).
The relief has come in small but increasing doses in the past few months, as I’ve learned that life without my birth family is not that much different from life with the dysfunctional family that I hadn’t heard much from in the six months leading up to my decision, and realized that I have a family in a great number of friends I trust more than I ever have my mother, and a husband who is helping me to make a whole new family, one with unconditional love and (someday) children who will know that love.
I trust the life I’ve built around that new family, and I feel better about myself with each day that passes, free of concern for whether I’ve tripped some invisible wire in my mother’s inexplicable mental alarm system, free of fear that something is going to fall apart for a reason I won’t be able to piece together, free of obligation to apologize simply because it’s easier and safer than trying to present reality to an unrealistic person. I don’t have to wonder about love, because I know love in a way that I couldn’t fully trust when some of the love in my life was conditional, unsafe, and unpredictable.
The process hasn’t been easy. I’ve spent a few months in therapy (something I think any good therapist should do for themselves from time to time), I’ve spent months processing the grief of losing something (even if that something was dysfunctional and painful), and I’ve spent a lot of time allowing myself to believe good things about myself without the unneeded filter of one powerful person’s view of me.
It’s been exhausting. It’s been rewarding. It’s been amazing, and surprising, and terrifying, and I think I’ve finally come out of the toughest part of it with some closure. There’s certainly still work to be done, and I’ll probably still have things to say about the journey, but the end of this season marks the end of the hardest part of the journey for me, and I’m ready to let it go.
I’m ready for autumn.
- brandicesays posted this