There’s a signed, sealed, stamped letter sitting in my desk drawer and it’s been there for a week or so. Prior to that, it sat in my car for a few weeks. Something in me just wouldn’t allow myself to put it in the mailbox. It’s not that the letter was bad; it might have been the best letter I’ve written to my mom, full of compassion and love and “I” statements. The thing is, I wasn’t sure I could emotionally deal with the response I’d get.
Although I’d written a rational, heartfelt, loving letter, I know it would fall on deaf ears. More accurately, it would be read by someone who can’t think rationally and clearly, someone who will read it only to find how she can manipulate and distort what was said. “Whatever you say can and will be held against you” is a great phrase to remember when dealing with a borderline or narcissistic person. It’s even more true when the words are written. So, I chose not to send the letter.
At first, I felt guilty. I had trouble resisting the irrational thought that it’s my job to fix my mom — if I don’t keep trying, who will? She’d already exhausted her support system years and years ago. I also felt irritated — why can’t my feelings and experience ever be validated by her? Why can’t I even have a “normal” fight with a parent?
After those feelings subsided over months, I came to a different feeling. I started feeling proud of myself for choosing to avoid the aftermath of a letter and what it would do to me. (Most likely, I would receive a long, stream-of-consciousness style reply with a lot of foul language, guilt trips, threats, and distortions that would upend me in some way). I also began to feel compassion for my mom, but in a detached, healthy way. I thought to myself, If I were mentally ill in the way that my mom is, would this rational letter from my daughter help? I always want to think that this type of thing will help, but so far it never has. Something in my mom refuses to look at herself and how she affects her relationships. Maybe it would just be too painful for her to hear critical words from her only child. I can relate to that; I take my children’s comments to heart, deeply.
I gave myself a break. I decided I’m not unloving for giving up on fixing my mom. I’m not unloving for choosing to take care of my own mental health and get on with my own daily tasks. The fight that never ends is not helping either of us, nor are the occasional bursts of enmeshment (even if they briefly feel good to both of us). I can choose to “send love” through prayers and loving energy. I can respond when I feel loving and able to do so, and I can choose to respect my own boundaries and limitations even if my mom does not. How can I really love her if I can’t love myself?
The truth is, sometimes I feel crazy like my mom… sometimes, I just want people to forgive and forget. Even if it’s on a broader scale with someone who is borderline, is it really that different? Is it apathetic to let things go, or just loving? For me, it remains to be seen. For now, I’ve felt the most inner peace when I engage less. Yes, my heart yearns for more. I’d love to have a mom to run to, and I know she’d love to run to me. But, knowing the bounds of our capacities, and the damage that has been done, sometimes it seems most loving to leave the letters in the drawer.