Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Did Freud have a term for this?

My mother recently proposed to me. She got down on one knee, opened a little jeweled ring box and, in her best effort to prove that she has come a long way from the addict/alcoholic years (11 years sober), asked me, "Will you be my mother forever?"

Yes, you read that right. She meant to say "will you be my daughter", or "I will be your mother", but she goofed, and I think that goof is important, though not at all what she intended.

Then she slid this blue topaz ring surrounded by diamonds onto my finger and I felt very strange.

We've been doing big, hard work in therapy for a year, that in some ways has only just started to crack open in the last few weeks. She's skewered herself open for my scrutiny, dipped deeper into the well of her emotions than perhaps since the age of 18, when her beloved brother died and her parents moved quickly to center stage with their pain. She has listened to me talk about how stark and scary those years were when, going back and forth between mom and dad's house, I was always afraid that if I left one house, the other parent would be gone: Dad, taken away by the police for his illegal sales, Mom, dead of an overdose (which, I learned in therapy, was a very realistic mom was suicidally depressed, it turns out, most of my early years).

Weekly I volleyed back and forth between these two poles, these two fears, gathering up my things in a suitcase I carried, and wanting sometimes to just stop, stay at whichever house felt safest, and never leave.

But the fact is, I don't want to commit to being HER mother forever. I want to have absolute faith in my mother's ability to hold herself up as an adult in the world, so that when her age makes it impossible for her to work, that is a contingency she is well-prepared for.

The proposal felt odd, and I knew she was hoping for a reaction that I couldn't quite muster...some delight and validation, some moment at long last in which I threw myself into her arms and allowed her to mother me. But what is clear to me is that while she has many more opportunities to be a mother now, and I, more opportunities to be a daughter, the construction of my self is such that I will never be that little girl throwing myself into her arms. In some ways it is too late. What we can have together is our grief and our shared memories, an understanding that we are adults who want a relationship with one another.

I knew that she was offering it as a request with that ring: please don't go away from me when we keep exploring the past. Please don't go away. Which then puts me in a bind. If it takes her giving me things to keep me around, naturally, this is proof that she doesn't trust that outcome.

There is something so sad about this whole thing. Because I know how much she loves me, and I know that to her this gesture was symbolically very huge. But in her fashion, she did it off the cuff, haphazardly, so that I felt as if the moment of the ring-giving was no more sacred or special than us being about to sit down to watch television. And, of course, then she wanted praise for it, a praise I couldn't quite pull up from the depths of my being, much as I wanted to.

I DID appreciate the gesture, but I was equally unsettled by it. And it took my honey bringing up how he felt about, his perceptions of what it meant, for me to realize that I glossed right over it in therapy last week, though we did another important session. The ring needs to be addressed. It has a lot of power that is just sitting between us, weighing down my finger.

What a life.



At 2:26 PM, Blogger Myfanwy Collins said...

Wow. This is intense Jordan. I applaud your honesty and think you are very brave.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

By 'brave' you don't happen to mean, 'crazy' do you?

Thanks Myf.

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy guacamole, I think that is the Freudian phrase. Though we have our own shtuff - my mom is also capable of the grand gesture and then hope/demand for praise. I feel so uncomfortable about it we usually end up in a fight. I think you're such an adult. Very grown up, which I admire so much. I so often feel like I'm 13 again in those situations. I love reading your blog recently. It's so hopeful and optimistic. It always cheers me.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Thanks Claire! Your comments are also very cheerful and encouraging. I'm going to track down your email address again and check in with you...



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