The secret and the choices
My Brandon is hilarious. One of his many sayings is: “Real men don’t fold their underwear.” For years I folded his underwear. Then I realized that he doesn’t care one iota about having folded underwear, so I stopped folding his. It’s not like anyone can see that it was wadded up in his drawer. It’s hidden and it does the job with or without the wrinkles.
Today’s post is about something hidden….
The source of the sickness
Toward the end of part 4, I wrote that my mom “felt a pathological need to “earn” her keep, her invitation and her very presence.”
Why? Why did my mom feel a pathological need to “earn” her very existence? For more on Mom’s background, see the section called Raised to Be Codependent in this post. But I think there’s more to her story than her stern parents.
Digging for the truth
Now I’m going to dig into the deep, dark truth—the secret—by checking out what my mom didn’t say. My mom was 72 years old in 2002 when she filled out the book I gave her called Reflections from a Mother’s Heart. (This was the year Logan was born and five years before The Showdown.) I asked her to use this book to tell us her life story. She left some things blank or said she didn’t remember the answer. When I re-read my mom’s responses, some things stood out to me.
Her memory was clearly exceptional at that time, in my opinion. She remembered the first and last names of her favorite teachers from elementary school, high school and college. She also remembered the address where she and my dad lived for two months when they first got married. Impressive.
Here’s an example of her memory for detail:
Who are some of the best speakers you have ever heard? Why?
“Chester Swor was a man who spoke on many college campuses & I heard him several times. He was crippled, not at all appealing to look at, but he had a great ministry to students.” Then she wrote about Billy Graham.
Questions and answers
Let’s check out some more questions and the answers she wrote in Reflections from a Mother’s Heart.
Describe your childhood bedroom.
“We lived in several houses, so I have no specific memories of a bedroom.”
Where was your childhood home located? Did you enjoy living there?
“(Interesting that this book assumes growing up in one house.) 908 Mason St. was the first (and only) house Mother & Dad bought, & we moved in 1940. It’s the house I remember best & we enjoyed living there….”
When did you first learn about sex? What was your reaction?
“I suppose like most children I learned bits & pieces from early years.”
Questions she didn’t answer
These are some of the pages she left blank.
♦ Describe a frightening or difficult experience from childhood. How did you respond to it?
♦ What things do you wish you had done in childhood or adolescence?
♦ What are the things you are most glad you tried?
♦ Tell about someone who influenced your life profoundly.
♦ What are your spiritual strengths?
♦ What family custom would you like to pass on to your children and grandchildren?
♦ What would you like to see happen in the next ten years?
♦ What word best describes your life? Explain why.
♦ What advice about life do you want others to remember?
My mom was 10 or 11 years old when she moved into what she called “the house I remember best.” Her parents lived there for the rest of their lives. She wrote about the living room furniture with “ugly brown upholstery” that was bought second-hand. My mom also wrote: “I have no specific memories of a bedroom.” I remember a number of details about her bedroom and I only slept in it for one week every summer when we visited my grandparents.
My mom didn’t want to remember her bedroom for some reason.
I believe that something traumatic happened to my mom in her bedroom.
When I interviewed my mom at her memory care facility, I asked her—after we’d been talking for a while—to tell me the family secret. I knew in my heart that there was a serious family secret. She replied, “All families have family secrets, don’t they?” In other words, “I will not tell you. I will not say it. I will not think about it.” She believed the lies—The Seven Messages of Denial—her whole life.
It’s time to review this important section from The Trauma of Abortion, part 1.
Denial vs. healing
Let’s compare The Seven Messages of Denial with The Seven Messages of Healing. They are direct opposites.
The Seven Messages of Denial
1. Don’t think about it.
2. Never tell anyone.
3. Don’t feel it.
4. If you start crying, you’ll never stop.
5. Just ignore it and it’ll go away.
6. If you tell them, they won’t love you.
7. Hold on to the secret.
The big lie: Keeping the secret protects you and keeps you safe from rejection and pain.
The Seven Messages of Healing
1. You thought about it.
2. You talked about it.
3. You felt it.
4. You cried (and you stopped crying).
5. You looked it in the eye and said good-bye.
6. You are loved.
7. You laid it down.
The big truth: Doing the work of grieving heals you and frees you from the pain of loss and trauma.
What the lies did
My mom thought the lies served her well. She thought they kept her safe. In reality, they kept her sick, they kept her from forming healthy relationships, they kept her life very, very small. And her sickness, combined with my dad’s sickness, created a monster—Pam, The Almighty—a malignant narcissist.
The denial and the lies led to life-altering, traumatic consequences
for at least three generations—my mom’s, ours and our children’s.
That is serious business, Peaceful Readers. Very serious.
What she thought she needed
The bottom line is this. Mom, The Codependent needed someone to serve—someone who really “needed” her—someone like Pam, The Almighty—who would gladly leave her a long to-do list every day—unspoken but understood, spoken and/or written. Jackpot!
On a deeper level, my mom needed someone with an overwhelmingly controlling personality
1. who would fill the environment with monologuing (or freaking out),
2. who would not seek to engage or know her on a meaningful level, and
3. who would keep my mom in a performance-based role.
Why? My mom needed a narcissist so no one would ever find out her secret.
Secret + safely hidden = staying sick
A narcissist would never take the time to get to know her. A narcissist wouldn’t even consider paying enough attention to her to develop the trust required to go into the deep, dark places—the places she’d have to explore in order to take The Healing Journey.
My dad was the perfect choice for my mom since she wanted to stay sick. He talked about himself incessantly. He was pompous and conceited. And, most importantly, he showed absolutely no interest in actually having a conversation with her. He was too busy talking about himself. He made her feel safe. His pathological self-centeredness allowed her to keep the secret hidden.
It also kept her hidden.
Remember in part 4 about Pam, The Almighty charging my mom $650 rent per month to serve as her live-in slave? Well, one time when I told my mom that she could live with us for free, she said, “That would be really generous of you.” I replied, “No, Mom. It would be decent.” Translation: “Pam is stealing from you and using you and you think it’s great. For those of us who don’t live in Codependent Central, it’s offensive.”
A couple years ago I asked my mom if she liked living with Pam and she replied, “Yes! We get along really well.” I stopped offering our home to her after that. She loved slaving for Pam. As much as I didn’t understand that mentality at all, I couldn’t change it.
My mom actively participated in creating an evil person, adoring and worshiping the evil person, paying the evil person, slaving for the evil person, and ignoring all the evil and chaos that surrounded her. She ignored what Pam did to me and my family. She sided with Pam and blamed The Family Feud on me. She ignored the truth and clung to the lies.
In my experience, the defining characteristic of evil people, like Pam, is their goal of ruining the lives of their enemies/victims and the lengths they will go to in order to achieve their goal. How do they do it? They use the drama-making, the lying, the collecting (of people), the gossiping, the stealing—and let’s not forget—the punishing.
My mom made choices. She chose lies and she chose Pam. Since Pam and I were enemies and polar opposites, my mom didn’t choose me. I understand why.
Frankly, I would vastly prefer to be me than to be Pam. My goal as an adult has been to move in the right direction—away from my sick parents—to more and more healthy relationships. I focused on The Healing Journey. It naturally took me away from them.
Let’s dig into the questions I asked at the beginning of part 3:
“Frankie Ann, what did you do to build a bridge to your mom?”
“What did you do to get to know her?”
I’m not going to tap-dance around this answer. I did nothing. I knew that there was something seriously wrong with her. I also knew that she didn’t want to speak or hear the truth. She loved The Lies and The Liar.
To play or not to play
Since my mom adored Pam, I didn’t trust her. She couldn’t be for Pam and also for me. Since she wasn’t for me, she was actually against me. Because my mom was a seriously sick puppy, she had to choose one of us and she had clearly made her choice when we were little. Pam would play the role my mom needed in her life. I didn’t play that way. I wouldn’t play that way. And I left Pam’s Playground. I stopped playing there.
Mom wouldn’t leave Pam’s Playground. It was her favorite place to be.
She wouldn’t leave.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about some events leading up to my mom’s funeral. Get ready for spiders, T-shirts, French fries and much more.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Hebrews 4:14-16
Song for Healing: This deep, somber song grabbed me the other day when I heard it for the first time. It makes me think about my mom. The video may shock you. It’ll make you think.
Drink in “Frail” by Jars of Clay.
Here are the lyrics.