Although I have been known as a chronic daydreamer and an outward over-optimistic person, my grasp on reality has always been firm. While this momentarily causes me to be figuratively and literally unsteady while recalibrating myself, it has been the reason that throughout everything that has erupted throughout my life, I have managed to stay upright. But at this point in time, more than ever, all I want to do is run as far as possible beyond the grasp of the reality surrounding my mother.
Right now it is a struggle to accept the person my mother has become, trying my best to learn to love her as she is now, but is beyond hard. It has been so fucking hard. Perhaps this appears harsh or selfish. Despite my best intentions to convince myself things will go back to the old, not-even-close- to-perfect normal, the reality playing before my eyes cannot be ignored.
This is not the first time I have had to reconfigure my senses regarding my mother. At barely twelve years old, I was forced to adapt with the changes our mother-daughter relationship endured under the strain of chronic illness, as her physical and mental health conditions became the fourth member of our household. For over sixteen years, more than half my existence, I’ve lived with this adjusted role as my mother’s only child. Now as an adult who is acutely aware of the gravity of what is happening, the realistic outlook for the future and the pain plastered across my father’s face, this shift to this new ‘normal’ has been absolutely gut wrenching.
The situational anxiety tends to catch me off guard at the most unexpected times; during my commute home, taking off my makeup after a date, making breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. In those moments I allow my thoughts to wander without restraint, where I envision unleashing my pent up frustration at my mother, evoking her to fight back, to scream and throw things at my head in a fit of rage.
But most vividly, I imagine her demonstrating an ounce of livelihood, somehow sparking who she used to be while providing me wth a sense of assurance that there is still some logical fight inside of her that can be reached if I just try hard enough. Ultimately, reality snaps back into focus reminding me that the person I am desperately attempting to reach no longer exists.
Just like grasping onto a fistful of sand with all of my might, the grains will always slip through my fingers only leaving traces of dust on my palms. No matter how hard I cling to who she was, it will only leave me empty handed.
Sometimes it is a struggle to pinpoint when the tides began to change and our present situation arrived. For the entirety of 2016, I went no-contact with my mother. Initially, my decision was solely fueled by her increasingly erratic words and actions that introduced a whole new level of unpredictability in our interactions. Over the year leading up to going no-contact, an undeniable change in her mental and emotional status started, however the specifics tend not to be so glaringly obvious while residing in the midst of dysfunction. Though being fully aware that what was transpiring was far from normal, there was no reprieve to digest. After a particularly emotional outburst that left me physically sick for three days, it became apparent something had to change. As time and space dedicated to reflection filled the void left by the absence of her turbulence, I realized that breaking contact was because of my actions. I was the one who needed to reconstruct my expectations, my reactions.
Those twelve months of no-contact provided necessary space between myself and the situation for the first time, allowing the ability to grieve, mourn and understand the emotions intertwined in our mother-daughter relationship without her constant chaos present. When I stepped back into my mother’s atmosphere in late January 2017, there was no emotional breakdown or exchanging of harsh words. In fact, she was unaware that an entire year had gone by with her daughter removed. Though there was a recognition of my absence, no comprehension of why I had stepped away or the length of time that passed was present. Perhaps it is for the best that she was spared the heartache, but it served as confirmation of the truth that my greatest fears had already foreshadowed.
While this notion is ridiculous to fathom during the moments when my heartache is particularly raw, I know that there will be a day in the not-so-distant future where this period of time will be sorely missed. Similar to the wistful way I yearn for how my mother used to be, with the current circumstances now making her previous life lived on the cusp of unpredictability seem endearing. Because even with the firmest grip, reality has a funny way of making anything but the present moment seem coveted and nostalgic.