Vita Nova

I am so proud of my Mum today. For the first time in my sister’s entire lifetime she has stood up to her and has said NO firmly and indisputably.

My Mum turns 70 in a couple of weeks. She is having a big party for friends and family. My sister wants her deadbeat on-again, off-again husband to come. She has promised he will be good, which is subtext for he- will- not- be- drunk- and- will- be- sullen- and -sitting- in- the- corner, or he- will- be- high- and- will- be- sullen- and- sitting- in- the- corner. My mother finds the whole idea unacceptable. ‘He is a repulsive slug,’ she said. ‘I wish he’d never been born.’

This is a breakthrough admission for my Mum because she doesn’t talk trash about anyone. Nor does she express any ill will towards others. It is part of her moral code. I have the semantics of revenge-speak and assassination of character down pat, but my Mum doesn’t believe in that kind of thing.

I realised my Mum had been spending too much time watching British cop shows when she said to me on the phone last night : ‘Millie’s taking me for a right mug, innit?’ I of course am always up for a bit of East London patter so slipped in a few ‘Gordon Bennett’s’ and ‘I’m gonna kick him up the bottle.’

[If you want to know what I’m talking about check this out.]

The actual point is that my sister has been manipulating my Mum for pretty much all of her life. Millie plays on my Mum’s fears about the state of her mental health, her lack of stability in her life, and her seemingly not so bright future.

But my Mum has seen the light. She has decided that saying NO isn’t as damaging to my sister’s psyche as she thought. In fact, she has realised that if she had said NO long ago, things may not have turned out as badly as they have.

‘I couldn’t bear to have him sitting there on my special day thinking he’s won, thinking he can do whatever her likes to my little girl and I’ll turn a blind eye to keep the peace,’ my Mum said. ‘That’s wrong in anyone’s book.’

My sister was true to form when my Mum told her Oliver couldn’t attend the party. She cajoled, she begged. She actually got on her hands and knees, murmuring please, please, please over and over again. My Mum was irritated by her daughter’s inability to consider anyone’s feelings but her own. ‘My capacity to tolerate her constant emotional backsliding dried up in that moment,’ she said. ‘I realised that if I was uncomfortable with something then I shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t allow it to happen. Saying NO to her was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.’

And so it begins. The change. It’s in the wind, catching the tiny jacaranda leaves, yellowed by winter and flinging them up and out to the farthest reaches of the garden. A wood pigeon lands on the wall, a young one. It still has that high-pitched cry peculiar to younger birds, forlorn and full of longing. He looks at me, tilts his head, nibbles at the grass seeds which have blown onto the ground then flies off; as elusive as a divine messenger.

I see storm clouds gather, turning the sky slate. The sight is comforting rather than forbidding, like amber lights in windows at night.

One day it just comes to you, the knowing what to do, the knowing what you will settle for and won’t. But just because you know it, doesn’t mean you will do it because trying to fashion a new life, a new way of thinking is a terrifying process.

My sister’s situation is unpalatable to my Mum. The waiting for something to happen causes another part of her to be lost day by day. She wants things to change. The bitterness and tears haven’t worked. My sister just won’t listen. So my Mum must accept that for now Oliver is here to stay, but she hasn’t given up hoping for a change. On her terms. She will still see her daughter but not her daughter’s husband, for she has accepted an important truth. That the only way to waken up in a different world is to take the first step forward.

22 thoughts on “Vita Nova

  1. Good for/on your Mom!! I know things have been VERY up and down with your sis, Selma, but your Mom making and taking a STAND is truly “Step 1”. Your sis, if she will think about it, should realize how painful it is for your Mom (& everyone) to even SEE this fella she’s chosen to be with, given how he’s continued to hurt her and such! Prayers and Peace out to all of you!


  2. Good for your mom! I wish mine would say no to my brother. By saying yes all the time they become an enabler. Do you think if all your sister’s friends and relatives started saying no to her she might come around?

    Anyhoo, yeah for your mum and tell her Happy Birthday when it comes around.



  3. Wow, your mum is awesome!

    I’m with you on the revenge-speak and character assissination bit. It may not be right, but there are times it just feels good to say it.


  4. whereas i know there is no real formula for handling the painful consequences of another family member,, i can tell you that your mothers cutting your sister off will in the long run save your sister a lot of regret and heartache as well… she may not see it like that now,,, but things that go unshared will not have to be repented for in the future either….


  5. Oh I am so proud of your mum at this moment! Way to go, hope she keeps it up and then maybe your sister will also eventually see the light.

    and wish your mum Happy Birthday from me! I hope I make it to 70!


  6. I am so proud of your dear mum too Selma!!!! Please give her a big hug and a ‘you go girl’ from me!

    I’ve had the “NO” moments and they can be so gratifying. I was always the sucker that was up for cleaning up anyone else’s mess along the way. When I finally learned to say a “loud and clear, I mean it, NO” it was amazing. The results were too.

    I wish your mom a wonderful birthday too and many more to come. Wish I could be there to share the day but in lieu I send hugs and kisses via cyberspace.


  7. Cor Blimey! Your mumโ€™s nobodyโ€™s mug, sheโ€™s a smashing old bird. Good on her for not allowing that bleeding tosser toe rag come to her 70th birthday knees up.


  8. Horay! Yippe! Dancing in the streets in celebration of your Mum’s brave stance and self preservatin steps. I pray this will start a ripple that will wash some sense into your sister’s head.

    Little steps start a long journey.

    And Happy Birthday to her, too!



  9. Hurray for your mum. I know my late grandmother was in similar situations with my aunt. She suffered until her end for it. I’m glad that ur mum is not going to do that.

    Give her a big hug & a kiss for me.


  10. BRITT – it is a breakthrough. I know how hard it was for her to say it but she is amazed how much of a weight has been lifted ever since. It is such a positive step.

    LISA – I am a big believer in ‘The First Step.’ It is an all round good thing. Thank you for your prayers.

    LINDA – I agree with you. Saying yes all the time does make you an enabler. I am hoping that if all her friends and family say NO then my sister will begin to get the message. It’s a plan. I will pass on your kind wishes to my Mum. Thank you.

    KAREN – Sometimes you do have to get it all out, don’t you? It’s not right to ‘diss’ people but somebody’s got to do it! I think my Mum is feeling pretty awesome right now.

    PAISLEY – that is such a valid point. Oh, thank you so much. I do so value your opinion!

    RWHACKMAN – you could be an honorary Cockney with that language. Blimey. LOVE it!


  11. TBALL – seeing the light would be wonderful. And you will make it to 70. I just know it! XX

    GERALDINE – awww, thank you. My Mum will be delighted. Saying NO really is quite liberating, isn’t it? Why are so many of us afraid to say it?

    DAVID – I can’t type for laughing. Are you sure you haven’t just stepped off the set of ‘Eastenders?’ That was a classic!

    MELEAH – I will pass on your wishes. Mum’ll be thrilled!

    SAGACIOUS WOMAN – that ripple effect can be powerful. I so hope it is the start of something good. I really like your comment ; “Little steps start a long journey.’ That is brilliant!

    NAT – me too. The power of NO – who would have thought it?

    ROSHAN – I’m sorry to hear about your Grandmother. Oh, that is a shame. I will pass on the hug to my Mum. Thank you.


  12. >>โ€˜Iโ€™m gonna kick him up the bottle.โ€™<<

    That is so 1950s! The in expression these days is ‘Kick him up the Khyber’ (Khyber Pass= …. )

    There’s a new one been out a couple of years, but I don’t think Myleene Klass approves ๐Ÿ˜€

    Anyway, Happy Birthday, Selma’s Mum, and have a great day, and many more to come!


  13. Yay!!! Give your dear Mum a huge big hug from me too, and please wish her the best birthday ever! I’m sure it will be.

    I finally found the courage last year to stand up to my grandmother and say No. I know the immense freedom that comes when you finally find the words (not harsh words, just true ones) to make someone realise that you will no longer accept their abuse.


  14. TRAVELRAT – well, um, er, I wonder what rhymes with Klass? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I have been known to say up the Khyber (quite a lot, actually). I shall pass on your good wishes. Thank you.

    DAOINE – good on you for taking a stand. It is so important to say NO. Some of the writings of the Dalai Lama cover that very subject and if he thinks it’s OK to say NO then I’m definitely going with it.
    My Mum will appreciate the hug. Thank you!


  15. MICHAEL – so great to hear from you. What a treat. I’m sorry you’re dealing with something similar. I know how hard it can be. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your comment before but you have just appeared right now in my Inbox. Where were you hiding? ๐Ÿ˜€


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