I wrote a long post about this and then lost it. I am kind of trying again.
I was helping Maths Ma’am in her garden the last few days. She had built a low stone wall behind her classroom, because there is a slope there and the rain washes mud into the gutter. Then she had planted a hedge. She wanted to move the hedge for some reason. I guess it was too close to the edge. There were four of us working together on this. The idea was to level an area that belonged to one of the other teachers and to rebuild this wall and move the hedge. Of course, what really happened is we finished the other portion, and Maths Ma’am’s portion which is a harder piece of work, never got finished. Not even close. I felt sorry for her, that there were four of us working on this project together, but the other teachers dropped out of the project after the first teacher’s got finished. So then I suggested working on it yesterday, only then VP Ma’am wanted company on a trip to the phone office and wanted me to go with her. So, actually Maths Ma’am still got stuck with working on her project mostly alone.
This was a story in itself.
Anyway, that first day, I was doing something or other kind of quietly on my own, and I began to have what seemed to me to be a memory of working in the garden with my mother. Maybe it wasn’t really about the garden. Maybe it was something about what I was doing that triggered a memory of being with my mother, but the trigger seemed to be the garden. The memory was implicit: it was just the feeling that I ought to be quiet and not make too much noise or attract too much attention. I might be tolerated if I didn’t make too much of a presence of myself.
I was thinking about this in the morning today again. I couldn’t risk having my mother’s attention on me. VP Ma’am’s attacks on me lately have been very helpful in elucidating this. I really don’t want VP Ma’ams attention in any way. Particular things that she has attacked me for I feel sensitive about: the National Dress she attacked me for wearing too short I couldn’t wear today at all. I started putting it on and I realized I was too distressed to tie it the way it is supposed to be tied, and I wore a different one. Actually, when she is angry, she will attack me for anything she can think of. She is furious, and she just looks for something to attack. If my National Dress were worn perfectly, she would just find something wrong about me. There were four attacks yesterday and the long walk up to the phone office (because she walks slowly and stops frequently). One was for my message alert (it’s loud—C gets panicky when I don’t answer, and so that is how it is set), a second was because my National Dress got wet (it was raining), a third because I came to a point on a slippery path where I wasn’t sure which side of the path might be best, and a fourth because a car was coming and I was walking in the road. These might not have been as deliberate as some of her attacks. They might have been attacks that came out of a simple failure to see my perspective: that implying at 43 years old I don’t have the sense to get out of the road when a car is coming might attack my sense of competence. I mean, she might simply have experienced me as being vulnerable and gotten angry that something could happen to me. (Three of the attacks were like that.)
C gets worried about me too: it’s raining, it’s dark, the dog might bite me. But it comes across in a different way. Maybe because she feels safer. She might feel more able to reveal her worry in a less defended way
Nonetheless, VP Ma’am makes me think about my mother’s attacks. Many of these were similar—about my competence, actually. And they might have had the same source: my mother’s fears about my vulnerability, but without being tempered by any understanding of how her expressions of them would make me feel.
It’s puzzling to me, that she doesn’t realize it makes me not want to be around her or talk to her, because I don’t know when she will suddenly feel angry and attack me for almost no reason. But it also makes me see how it cuts off any possibility of connection. I really don’t want to reveal anything about myself, because then she might attack me over something important—like C, which is why I rarely discuss C with her anymore. I am sure it made me feel the same way about my mother; when I was small, I needed my mother. I had to find a way to still be around her. But when I was older, and had less need for proximity to my attachment figure, I actively wanted to avoid being around her.
These two things together have been making me think though: that my mother’s attacks made me feel I needed to try to be invisible and at the same time that no one would really be interested in me or want to connect with me in any way, just a profound sense of not being liked or wanted.
And I was thinking children need attention. Everyone needs attention, and I could not ask or want my mother’s attention. I think C feels this very keenly, and it was probably one of C’s needs that I met very early on that helped our relationship, because I gave her a lot of attention. Not fussing, or narcissistic supply, but just attention. Just, “Did you do your homework?” Just watching her at football practice or dance practice.