The Calm Within The Storm

Going cold turkey is never easy, whether it be alcohol, drugs, too much time on the internet, or carbs. Going cold turkey with regard to people is the hardest thing of all.

This Easter Sunday was the first in twenty years I did not spend with my parents. My mother is still fighting with me over the perceived inadequacies of my life. I didn’t realise it to begin with, but she is prepared to go all the way to prove her point. Where going all the way will take her is anyone’s guess, but she’s prepared to go there.

I was upset about all this initially. My son asked where his grandparents were on Sunday morning but when I explained we weren’t seeing them he was fine with it. He has also felt the strain of their bitter complaints. A look of relief passed over his face which pulled at my heart a little. What must he think of all these adults and their obstinate games? I am sure he often must sit there shaking his head.

Yesterday I felt a little flat. It’s hard for me to belong to a family that I might never see. I like to fix things rather than let them drag on and on, but my mother, she likes the blow-things-out-of-proportion, how-much-melodrama-can-one-person-take approach. She also doesn’t like to admit she may have been out of line. Ever.

Despite feeling flat I also felt calm and very relaxed. It was good to avoid the waiting that inevitably occurs at family events. The waiting for the fighting to start.

Not one cross word was exchanged all weekend. We laughed, we ate, we talked, we smiled. I didn’t feel bad about myself once.

On Easter Monday evening there was an electrical storm. The sound was so great it was as if everyone in the street had put their stereo speakers outdoors and had turned up the bass to the maximum, simultaneously. The sky was that black-white way where it looks as if the night has been painted on glossy white paper, the colour patchy because the paper’s not absorbent.

As the lightning jumped it was as if the storm god himself was running his fingernails through the sky, leaving track marks that flickered and spat like an old 8MM film, jittery for a moment until they disappeared.

And as the sky was seized again and again by the storm god’s wrath, a peace descended in my heart. It was as if that most powerful of gods had taken my worries and fears and thrown them up into the sky to be transmuted into something less potent than a shadow. And I knew in that moment that going cold turkey on a person is hard, but might just be good for my mental health.

24 thoughts on “The Calm Within The Storm

  1. Well, it comes hard to say it, but there’s truth in the saying that you can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with your family.

    My mother said some pretty hurtful things once … I neither spoke to her nor even saw her for three years. Then Auntie Margaret came round, and said she’s sorry for what she said; I said, let HER come round and say that.

    Got to say, I was really surprised when she did!


  2. Sweetie, also know that WHAT IT IS today ain’t necessarily WHAT IT WILL BE tomorrow, or next week, or next year. You know as well as I do that people weave in and out of insanity and good/bad behavior.

    I’m glad you had a lovely holiday. Just beware of extrapolating it out to think that EVERY holiday will be spent in estrangement.

    I adore you – and HEY! I set up a new blog!


  3. This post shows how far you’ve come, in terms of letting go of this situation with your mother and letting it be, for now. I can relate to what you are saying, so much. I’ve been there and it is SUCH a relief to finally come to the point where you are at, to give yourself a break and to step back and let the other person know, it’s not going to be me feeling bad about this anymore. In your case and mine, it was a mother to deal with. But this is a lesson for everyone to take with them. And oh, what calm comes with it! Hang in there Sel and stick to your guns. I am so glad that you had a nice Easter weekend, in spite of these issues with your mom. They will pass and you two will be closer in the end. I know…

    Hugs, G


  4. Removing my older sister from my life has proved to be a really good decision too. So much less stress and drama. Every encounter with her used to stir me up for days. Nothing positive ever came from that relationship. It did seem a weird thing to do, and it still does, but it has helped preserve my sanity. I’m glad that you had a good Easter weekend inspite of family absence and that you are feeling more at peace now. If you are meant to work it out, it will happen when the time is right.


  5. Selma, glad that you had a stress-free holiday. I have dreams all the time of cutting ties with my family but because it’s just me and my boy, i feel like the holidays/special days will never be festive enough with just the two of us. It won’t be enough. I applaud your courage. Does this mean even though your mom might contact you–you are done? Or done until she stops?


  6. I can understand this all very well. The last time I visited with my parents I got so depressed I can’t even put it into words. I can take them individually but together all the negativity is enough to make me feel like life isn’t worth living. Sometimes you just need a break from some people – even if they’re your parents.


  7. Its difficult at first, but when you look at a person – completely separate from the idea/context of family – then you gage how healthy their presence is in your life. …for you and your son…

    I’m glad you had a nice holiday.


  8. Sometimes cutting those ties can be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing we can do for ourselves. Like Nanna said, that doesn’t mean it will last forever, but we can reap the benefits, and when we’re stronger, give it another try if we’re so inclined.

    You did the right thing, Selma. Strength and healing to you, m’dear.


  9. KEITH:
    Thank goodness for Auntie Margaret. My Aunt Jo is the same. Problem is, she is also fighting with my mother. Looks like I might have a long wait on my hands. I’m glad you and your mother reconciled in the end!

    It’s true. People do weave in and out of bad behaviour. And just because we are estranged now doesn’t mean we always will be. What would I do without you, you wise woman, you?

    No doubt we will resolve it in the end. I really appreciate what you are saying, G, because I do think the feeling of lightness comes from moving through it. Thanks, hon.

    I know the troubles you have gone through with your sister and I can’t imagine the strength it took to remove her from your life. Sometimes we just need to take that step, don’t we? Sometimes we just need to put ourselves ahead of all the drama. Good on you!

    I will speak to her and stay in touch if she wants to, but she has to behave. I can’t have her speaking to me like that any more. It’s just too upsetting. I guess the ball is most definitely in her court. I know what you mean about wondering if that small family unit is enough. I feel that too. Only time will tell, I guess.

    That’s what I don’t get. Why be so negative all the time? It’s so counter-productive. My parents are healthy, they own their home outright, they have a massive retirement plan and lots of disposable cash, but they are so negative. I would be jumping for joy if I were in their shoes. I ‘m sorry you have to go through that too, hon.

    I call that the ‘stand alone’ test where you size up someone completely out of context. Many people don’t hold up well out of context. It can be an enlightening process. All I want is for us to be civil and to get on. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

    It was a tough decision but I do think it was the right one. You can’t really put a price on positive mental health!

    Thanks, hon. When I am stronger I will try again. Lately, I have felt myself sinking under the glare of my mother’s censure. That is not healthy. We’ll see what happens!


  10. Auntie Margaret’s Dad’s best friend, and his brother’s widow. Back in the 30s, Dad was engaged to her … I often wondered if I’d be here at all if things had worked out between them?


  11. Sending lots of good vibes and hugs your way Sel. Hang in there. Your mom loves you even if she isn’t showing it very well right now. Take care, G


  12. Oh, Selma, if only your mother knew what she is missing. The greatest joy of my life is the knowledge that there is not so much as one shred of contention between me and my six offapring ,or between themselves. Next week my four daughters, two from Pa., one from Fort Lauderdale and the other from Jacksonville, FL, are coming together for a few days here in Port St. Lucie and they want me “ready to party” when they get here. I might be a bit subdued because I am not yet completely recovered from what I call “walking pnemonia”, but you can bet the laughter will be hearty and meaningful when we get together. I had a mother-in-law that remained a bitter, unhappy old woman until the day she died. What a lot of love my mother-in-law passed up when she refused to accept me into her heart and home.


  13. We put so much pressure on ourselves to “do the right thing” in the eyes of others or the other person…..especially when it has to do with family. The sense of relief in your writing voice is strongly felt here….

    I read a piece by Henri Nouwen a couple of years ago which hit me hard. He was writing about his own experience with a trip home for Christmas….in his 40’s and how anxious he was about having to explain to his father and siblings the choices he had made in his life etc. It was during this particular trip when something happened in his thinking….like he stepped across the last threshhold of moving beyond their “approval” etc. He wrote about it being the last big step in adulthood. I was in the right frame of mind (and situation myself) to personalize what he had to say. It was cathartic to me. Respect for myself and my own decisions and how I am living my life is where I needed to be…and then I consciously stepped across that threshold.


  14. Family is so terribly difficult. And well, I have sister issues. I’m glad you’ve been able to find peace with it all… I’m still struggling with working really hard to make it work — being really angry.

    Guess there is advice there.


  15. It always makes me sad to hear families having such riffs and playing games with each other. I am forever reminded how lucky I am to have the family that I have. I mean, we DO NOT always get along, and we certainly DO NOT always see eye to eye, but at the end of the day, we truly appreciate and admire each other.

    I am especially sad for you. and I really cant believe your mother is willing to take it That Far (however far it may be). However, the fact that your son was relived they were NOT coming, speaks VOLUMES. Maybe it IS better off this way. At least, for now.


    Wow. That is really something to consider. A woman I know used to go out with the man who is now her brother-in-law. She says that sometimes it still freaks her out to think of it!

    I’m sorry to hear you haven’t been well. I can imagine you having such a positive relationship with your family. How wonderful. Enjoy your time with your daughters.

    That is so true. This is my final step into adulthood. What a revelation. Thank you so much for telling me that. I am truly grateful.

    It’s just so hard to sort things out sometimes. I have a lot of anger too. Mostly because I feel all this nonsense with my family is so unnecessary. Hope you can sort things out with your sister.

    Sometimes when I read your posts I wish I had a family like yours. You just always seem to be there for one another and that’s so important. Having that support makes all the crap we have to deal with in life easier to bear. I am really pleased you have that.

    You’re right, the fact that my son wasn’t too keen on seeing his grandparents says it all. It’s probably best to leave it as it is for now.


  17. my dear, my heart goes out to you. family, can unfortunately be a quagmire in which we can drown. I think you have taken the hardest step – one that many people can never take, so bravo and hats off. I have much more empathy than I wish was true – you go girl!! take care of yourself!!! hugs and best energy is headed to you!!


    Cheers, hon!

    Thanks so much. I am actually beginning to feel better about the whole thing. I plan to stay out of that quagmire for as long as I can!


  19. a little bit of distance can be a really big help. i actually have a polite surface relationship with my mother now, which would not be possible if we lived nearby. we would need other types of boundaries to survive.


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