A while ago, I read that children who have been adopted or are being fostered having a hard time with their birthdays. It was really comforting to me to read that, and I felt like less of a weirdo. Which is always nice.
At its core, it brings up issues related to simply being alive. Why was I even born if my mother did not want me?
I used to walk by a walk signal post some idiot pro-lifer (so-called) had pasted a happy face and something like, “Thank your mom! She chose life!” I eventually scraped it off.
Some idiot who really could not conceive of how it feels to sincerely think of life as a very long bad patch one simply has to get through, or the mixed feeling a child growing up might have being raised by parents who cannot and do not know how to care for her.
Anyway, it started off rough.
I have been thinking more and more about how this is permanent. This is the present and at the same time it is permanent. I don’t talk to my mother. I haven’t in more than 25 years. She is still alive, and she still exists in my imagination, as I perhaps do in hers.
And she does not want me. I don’t know how she thinks of me, but she does not want me.
I have been thinking the pain I feel around this—which, incidentally, is new pain–does not have that much to do with the physical danger I was in or my child’s state of dependency. It has to do with how the brain is fundamentally wired in human beings to need relationships in order to function. It hurts just as much not to be wanted by my mother at 44 as it did at 4.
It’s not uncommon to try to cope with this pain of a relationship with an abusive parent who lacks empathy or warmth by dehumanizing that parent, and seeing them as someone not worth being concerned with or hurt by. But I think that’s essentially a clever form of denial. It hurts to be rejected and unwanted in the first significant relationship one has in life. It’s like starting off life in the midst of a bad breakup.
I feel like the more I am able to cope with the grief around my relationship with my parents, the more I am free to experience positive feelings. You don’t vomit out this grief. You gradually create some kind of context for it, and you build the skills you need to manage the difficult feelings that allow you to feel what needs to be felt in relation to that context.
That’s my theory.
So I woke up this morning, the morning of my birthday, and I cried a lot. I felt slightly insane and managed not to actually do anything destructive. It’s hard to explain that feeling of insanity–it’s just a knowledge that my brain is no longer working properly. There is real nonsense in there, but it’s not like I am seeing spiders all over my body or something. It’s a logically nonsense–a lack of actual, reasoned connection between ideas–rather than a sensory nonsense. What I feel is real, but I can’t organize those feelings effectively.
I eventually just admitted nothing actually makes sense right now. I have no idea what any of this is about. And that kind of made it better.
In the midst of this, I was also trying to decide whether to turn on my notifications on Facebook to tell my friends it is my birthday. Basically, no one will know when my birthday is aside from my sister unless I tell them, and I had not told anyone, and my Facebook preferences are set to maintain the privacy of my birthday.
But I really wanted C to remember. I wanted her to feel glad I am alive, even if my parents never have been. I had told her in a message that it was my birthday, but she doesn’t always read these or remember them later.
I vacillated while feeling insane.
The thing is if I do get attention and well-wishing for my birthday, it touches all of those wounds, and I wasn’t sure I was up for it. On the other hand, if I am in a position of nudging C into acknowledging my birthday, the way I had been about Mother’s Day, my wounds would get touched more intensely.
I finally activated it.
She said this, “Mom m sry …. i hve to be first wisher bt i got late sry hapi bornday mom u may live long m proud to be ur daughter ….. hapi bornday mom.”
And it felt good.
One of the things I have been thinking about is how important and also difficult it is for me to take in and feel positive feelings. I am sure as a child I wanted positive feelings. There is a direct correlation between the positive feelings I was seeking and terrifying forms of abuse, even if I didn’t know why I was behaving the way that I was and had no conscious thought the abuse was intended to prevent me from getting it.
I have been thinking about this in terms of the two dogs I am living with. Dogs are so happy to see you, and I am well aware I shut off my reflected happiness in order to protect myself from everything that goes with it, and I have been consciously working at allowing myself to feel happiness around the dogs. I think this pays off in other ways.
So I felt some happiness at C’s birthday wishes. Actually, quite a lot.