Exploiting the Archives Week: Happy Motherless Day!
Nathan Rabin's Happy Place (or rather, Nathan Rabin) is taking the week between Christmas and New Year's Off to prevent him from going insane (seriously, dude is on the edge! Writing about himself in the third person and everything). So the next week will be Exploiting the Archives week, where we'll be running some of our favorite pieces from the year that was.
Mother’s Day is invariably a bittersweet, if not downright melancholy time for me because I was about the age my precious baby boy is now (two and a half) my mother abandoned me. When I sought her out and tried to establish a relationship with her an adult about twenty-one years later, in 1999 (I’ll never forget the exact time period because we saw Armageddon in a big multiplex), she abandoned me a second time when even the most low-pressure, low-intensity bond with her became impossible.
This Mother’s Day is particularly intense for me, however, because during one crazy week in July I reconnected with a half-brother I didn’t even know existed growing up and who I did not meet until I came to Saint Louis to meet my biological mother that surreal weekend in 1999.
My brother accompanied me to the Gathering of the Juggalos, of course, and to a lesser extent, the Republican National Convention and during that time he talked an awful lot about our biological mother. It wasn’t just that our biological mother was a bond we shared arguably even more important than both being fans of the music and culture of Insane Clown Posse: no, it was as if he had to talk about her, that he had so many demons he needed to exorcise around her and their relationship that he had no choice to address her ghostly presence constantly.
There has always been some part of me that felt robbed because I grew up without a mother but the more my half-brother talked about our mother and the psychological wreckage she wrought in every facet of her children’s lives, the more I came to realize that my biological mother had done me a tremendous service by ending our toxic relationship not once but twice.
I do not imagine that there was anything remotely selfless or self-sacrificing in my mother letting me drift out of her life at two and twenty-three respectively. Like so many other decisions in my mother’s life, it was a choice seemingly made out of self-absorption, selfishness and short-sightedness, to the extent that it was a choice at all, and not just a matter of inaction and inertia.
I can’t help but wonder if my mother’s double abandonment of me set a toxic pattern I would unwittingly follow throughout my adult life where I would become pathologically loyal to people who did not like me or respect me or treat me nicely because I was afraid of being abandoned by everyone in my life.
That fear of abandonment and rejection poisoned me from the very beginning. I allowed myself to be treated with shocking callousness because deep down I did not feel like I deserved any better. There was some part of my brain that processed rejection and abandonment as the only appropriate response to me and my sweaty desperation. So who was I to ever hold it ever against anybody if they rejected and abandoned me, judged and looked down on me?
When the person who is supposed to love you the most, and take care of you the best, abandons you, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have much value. But this year my biological mother gave me the gift of perspective, and a new sense of gratitude over the fact that she’s present in my life only as a ghost, and not a toxic real-life presence
It would have been nice to have a loving, involved, and kind mother but at least experience and time has given me the curious consolation of knowing without a doubt that I was, and am, better off not having a mother at all than having a mother who can only bring misery and despair.
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