After taking some time off from this topic I think it’s time to return because I would be lying if I said leaving meant it was all over.
It’s not. Oh baby, it’s not.
My senior year in highschool is what I now consider the beginning of the end. I had a job at a restaurant, finally got my driver’s license, had a car. I was making my own money, finishing school, and had my own freedom. All the things my mom didn’t like. More control over my own life meant less control she had in mine.
Around Christmas of that school year I broke up with a boyfriend I’d been with for 5 years already. [See more here.] We were on that path to marriage because everyone expected us to be. In reality we were each other’s first relationship and were still growing and learning. On my side of things, I’d barely been able to figure out who I was and what I wanted. To me at the time, a marriage, husband, children, a home was something that would please all parties. Besides, if I didn’t know what I wanted yet choosing what God expects of all women was the safest route, right?
Right on a small, almost miniscule scale. But in matters of marriage, relationships, and mates it’s WRONG. So so so wrong.
Society gives us timelines for when you should have things all figured out. 18 is the most popular age. God never said 18 was when He’d give you visions of your future. THAT. CAN. HAPPEN. AT. ANY. TIME. IF. YOU. SEEK. HIM. Heck, John Quincy Adams was sent to Russia with Francis Dana as personal secretary at age 14 (to seek aid for the revolutionary cause). We all have different peak ages, folks.
Ok. Back to the story.
Out of a relationship and not really sure what to do with my singleness and sudden change of plans, was I. Jumping from “hey let’s get married one day.” to “Hey, let’s never speak again.” was a jolt.
My mom only said one thing when I told her things had ended. “What do you think you did wrong?”
Vulnerable and anxious, I asked myself that for years afterwards. “What do I think I did wrong?” The mind spins at the lists I subjected my scared, insecure heart to while I figured out how to heal.
She had no idea what to say to a person with real emotions.
Since I was starving in emotional, spiritual and physical ways, needing a mother figure, I found it in other places. A boyfriend was physical enough for support, other moms in my life were there for encouragement and spiritual support. There were a handful of women I considered mentors and felt a better connection with than my own mother. Each of these women prayed with me, rejoiced in my accomplishments, gave me advice, spoke life into my life constantly. All things my mother had no capability to do. (She had the desire, but couldn’t seem to make it fit.)
I scrambled with college plans but still didn’t know what I wanted to do now that I had such an open future. I even questioned what on earth God wanted for me! I felt like I’d fallen from God’s shoulder. He was no longer whispering in my ear and guiding me the way I thought He was.
My parent’s marriage continued to unravel at the speed of light. I’d come home to angry silence or judgmental glances, awkward dinners and more. I stopped caring about why and looked for opportunities to stay way as long as possible.
I took every opportunity I could for extra hours at work. I delayed going home as much as possible. One very serious foundation in my life was gone and I was drowning. I would eventually come home and I’d find a reason to leave again. I began riding my bike 10 miles a day to clear my head. I was so frustrated, scared and angry about everything in my life I pushed myself without even knowing it. I did a lot of thinking on those rides.
I graduated and still felt miserable. My graduation party was all fake smiles and uncomfortable words. My parents barely acknowledged each other, mom fought with me about how to throw my own party. (Sidenote: I planned, financed, invited, organized, my whole graduation party because mom didn’t like how I suggested I arrange my photo board. She said I needed just 3 pictures to showcase. I said I wanted a ton, to feature all the fun and amazing things I did and places I went while in school. She wasn’t a fan and refused to be involved. So I did it myself. Later she told people she was so proud of me for planning it all on my own.)
A slow several months passed. I was working, single (and very unhappy about it), struggling with online classes and beyond stressed out about my home life. My mom took it upon herself to give me daily updates about what she thought of my Dad and what kind of evil spirit he must have, tearing the family apart. I didn’t think everything my dad was doing with his life was right but I knew he wasn’t trying to pit my sister and I against him on the regular (mom was). I also knew how my mom hated people, especially my dad now. (I should note here that I was in survival mode, my feminine cycle had ceased for nearly a year already. TMI? Welcome to trauma responses.)
Finally, I’d had enough. My Dad tried to reconcile with my Mom. She said she was ready to move on but she never acted like it. She was still talking about everything he did wrong, telling friends and family about it like everyone had a right to know, and telling every dirty little detail to my sister and I. The women I considered mentors began withdrawing from me when they heard things from other moms in their social circle.
I’d saved money and was slowly packing necessities up and hiding them away. I knew my mom was going to become hostile very soon. I needed out of my house but didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I started looking at new jobs in distant locations- anything to get me away, as far away as possible. I came across an ad for an English speaking Nanny for twin girls in Amsterdam. I had just enough money for the one way trip. I wrote out an email to the parents. Something so strong told me not to hit send, it startled me. I was angry at first. This was my way out, I’d be able to learn a new language, I had connections in Holland already just in case things went south, I had just enough money for the flight and necessary documents. This was everything I needed and wanted. This was my ticket. My one way ticket to freedom. The path was so clear.
I can still feel my hand hovering over the enter key, staring at the email. It was perfectly worded, with every desire I had within reach. I could disappear. Away from the nightmares; the pitiful stares we were starting to receive; the whispers, on top of what I was getting at home. The noses stuck in the air. My future was just a click away.
The second time was quieter, but a firmness settled over my mind. Like an outside authority had handed down an order I had no choice but to follow. I didn’t like that feeling but I knew it was what I had to do– at the time…
With a broken heart and a chewed lip I deleted the email. I felt sadness and uncertainty creep over me once again.
Soon after that my mom found my stashed moving boxes under my bed. She flew into another rage, demanding to know why I was “hoarding” things the family needed (we didn’t need them), why I was hiding things from her.
I’d talked to my sister a month or so beforehand about getting an apartment in town just so Mom and Dad could sort things out on their own. She was hesitant but in favor of helping the two of them if it meant preserving the family. (Notice the desire to handle this ourselves) I told my Dad I was considering moving. He didn’t seem surprised.
Not having the energy and realizing once and for all, this isn’t something that a parent should be overreacting about, I remained silent. A normal mother should be excited to see her daughter move into a new phase. All my friends had already moved out for college. This shouldn’t have been any different. But it was. It was my Mom. My Malignant Covert Narcissist.
“This is why I can’t trust you! You hide things!” (It never occurred to her to examine why I would feel like I have to hide these things.)
The only communication I gave was a shrug of the shoulders. I didn’t put up a fight, but I wasn’t defeated, I just didn’t care. That angered her more. She could see the difference in my face. I wasn’t shrinking away feeling guilty. I was placid, unremorseful. She wasn’t evoking any emotion but peace on my entire being. I felt sadness but I didn’t know what it was for at the time.
The angrier she became the less I cared. She screamed, waved her arms, mocked me, pushed me and told me to get out.
I was still in my waitress uniform, apron bundled up in the purse over my shoulder. I remember hearing her tell me to leave and never come back, to reject her like Dad had (not what happened, but that’s what she chose to spin in her mind’s web). I wanted to slap her. She had such a flawed image of reality, she was always the victim. She hadn’t even asked me why I wanted to move out.
“I always knew you were on your Dad’s side. Fine leave. Get pregnant, do drugs, mess up your life all on your own. See if I care. You leave you better come back on your knees. I’ve had it with you. You ungrateful bastard.” She ended up hurrying me out the door as she went on.
My sister might have cried, I don’t remember. She was watching everything behind my mom. My arms full of a large box I told my sister over my Mom’s shoulder, “I’m leaving. You can come if you want.”
She didn’t reply.
Mom followed me out to my car for the two trips it took me to fill a box, and pull two trash bags over the first two accessible bunches of clothes in my closet. (I’d thought enough ahead to put the most used things right in the middle so if this very thing happened, I could grab it all swiftly.) I got in my truck shut the door and drove off. She was screaming at me in the driveway, shaking a finger at me, spitting. While I began driving around I wondered if the YMCA would still allow women to stay the night. I looked at a place but I hadn’t heard back in a while.
I called my Dad, before I could say anything he said, “I think I found a place to live.”
“Good,” I said “Because I just moved out and I can’t go back.”
By the grace of God I went from assuming I’d have to find a place to shower before work the next day to stepping into a furnished home.
Taking that step was life altering. I wish it had been easier or just different. I wish it had been me happily packing up for my freshman dorm or happily finding a new house with my sister since we’d grown so close.
I don’t know how much more I could have put up with at home. I was spent in every sense of the word. I was a shell and I knew it. Thank God I took action when I did.
I’ve become an amazing person since that day 4 years ago. I went from residing in a home that wasn’t truly mine, one of constant discomfort, gaslighting, lies, and mind games to a home that was quiet and untouched by any of this. I felt my spirit settle in that new house.
More to come
The Mild Millennial