I texted my mom today, even though I was angry
My mom and I are generally pretty close. Except, of course, for when we’re not.
My mother called me up two weeks after my wedding and told me, “We need to talk.” She then proceeded to accuse me of being a self-involved narcissist on my wedding day — that was definitely one of those times when we were not close. I’ve always been told that weddings bring out the best and the worst in people — this episode seemed to prove the rule.
My magical wedding day — a day that I had the privilege to share with so many caring relatives and friends, a day when I had gone out of my way to ensure the comfort and happiness of those around me (generally before my own) — had turned into the battle ground for a host of my mother’s personal issues that, by virtue of wearing a big white dress, had suddenly become my issues.
My mom is a therapist, so I grew up in a household where we were always encouraged to express our feelings. Because of good communication, our relationship has grown strong and healthy, with inevitable bumps along the way. Apparently, we had hit a bump.
The accusations hit me so hard because I had explicitly strived to be considerate, to be kind and generous, to not be the “bridezilla” we see in pop culture nightmares. I had heard too many stories of too many brides going crazy before and during their weddings, alienating their best friends and family members in the process. I was determined not to be that bride. I wanted everyone to have a good time; I wanted to show every one of our guests how much it meant to me that they had shared our special day. It was a winter wedding in New England — when the entire bridal party couldn’t fit into the limo, my husband and I volunteered to remain in the cold ourselves so that our friends could get back to the party faster. When our bridesmaid and best man agreed to participate in the wedding despite it being their birthdays, I arranged for all of our wedding guests to sing “Happy Birthday” as an assembly.
By the end of the day I was exhausted. For an introvert, social caring of this magnitude is grueling.
So I was shocked by my mother’s accusations. Her tirade continued to shock me when she said she spent the day purposefully avoiding me. Her claims of self-involvement stemmed from my being 20 minutes late to a pre-wedding photo shoot that I had arranged. What had actually happened was that the venue opened 20 minutes late, resulting in a schedule bump that my mother had been made aware of as expediently as possible.
When I told her I had done my best, she snapped back, “Well it wasn’t good enough!”
And that was it. In five words, my mother had hammered home 30 years worth of insecurities about living up to her expectations.
Needless to say, the conversation went downhill from there, complete with shouting and tears.My mother’s explosion was likely hidden beneath her own insecurities inherited from her relationship with her family — concerns about being left out and always feeling like the “odd duck.” In a way, her FOMO wasn’t so different from my fear of inadequacy: Each of us had been gifted by our families with certain baggage, and each of us felt the other had opened and aired it under a big old sign that said “wedding.” So there we were; poised on the brink of destruction and each holding the trigger that would send the other spinning into the dark and fearful depths of her own psyche.
My mom didn’t want to settle anything in that conversation; it had escalated too far out of control. To tell the truth, I wasn’t in any mood to forgive at that point either.
When I hung up the phone, I was in tears and my heart rate would take about three hours to settle. I didn’t think I could forgive my mother for making this day, the one day of my life that was supposed to be entirely about me, about her and her issues. I didn’t think I could separate my fond memories of the day from the traumatic hour we had spent yelling at each other (with the promise of more to come).
The next day I received several texts from my mother — apologies, loving sentiments, things I wasn’t ready to discuss. I told her so, in as few words as I could muster.
It wasn’t long before I realized that one of my far too expensive fancy running socks had probably gotten mixed up in her laundry before my husband and I had left for our holiday visit, long before this mess had started.
For a long time (longer than I really want to admit), I debated whether I should ask her for any favors, even something so small as “please look out for my sock.” I didn’t want to feel indebted to her; I didn’t want her to feel like finding my sock would make up for the pain she had caused me.
When the news of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds broke, I did too.
My mother texted me one day, “Carrie Fisher died!” and then the next, “So sad about Debbie Reynolds.” My mother and I were both still hurt by our conversation, but now we were also hurt about the starstruck reaping of beloved celebrities. The death of a mother-daughter duo whose relationship would provide material for a lifetime of productive artistic angst made me really think about my situation.
I looked at those texts from my mother, and I made the only decision I could. Life is short, we’re not guaranteed anything, and while I wasn’t planning on dying of a heart attack anytime soon the statistics about fatal traffic collisions are enough to give anyone pause.
Was I going to spend my life angry at my mother because she chose to air her issues on me, a choice that we still hadn’t talked through and we could very well sort out?
No. I wasn’t.
I texted her about the damn sock.