My Secret Resentment

“What’s the resentment I still hold that no one knows about?”

–Peter Block

Name it. Admit it. Acknowledge it. Write it. The ones that are obvious are easy compared to the ones we carry in secret. Sometimes they are even secret to ourselves.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    I resent not having the gumption to leave my first husband earlier. Being a new convert, I prayed about his womanizing for years, hoping he’d come to his senses. I also didn’t want to be a statistic. I found it hard to admit I was a failure in picking the right mate. My Father warned me the night before our wedding that I wasn’t thinking clearly and what a big step it was marrying at age 19. Looking back I also didn’t want to set the wrong example for my three children. It shocked me when my parents got divorced after 50 years of marriage. Had I left sooner who knows what the future might’ve been? When I finally did file for divorce my three children who were in their 20′s asked me why I’d waited so long, for they knew all about their Dad’s cheating. I resent the fact that I was the last to really accept it. I also resent that the longest affair he had was with my so called best friend. Again, since I’m so forgiving, she is still in my life; but not as it used to be. I resent that he ended up with a younger woman the same age as our oldest daughter and a love child who is now 17. I resent that our daughter is so close to this woman and not to me.
    It feels good to let go of this. Because we had three kids and 10 grandkids we still get together for holidays; but I resent pretending it’s congenial.

    • says

      Fran, I love the idea of you up very early in the morning in your beautiful home by the ocean, almost always the first person to post on our blog. You always set such a clear, strong tone, making the space for others to follow. Your honest posts make it possible for others to be honest as well.

  2. Hazel Muller says

    I resent that I was named, the first ever, “member of the year” in 2005 of an organization & yet only one person from that group of 50+ ever corresponded with me after I left and that is on a very irregular basis. After being a founding member very involved for 5 years in another organization only 2 people have kept in touch.

    I thought in both cases I was “friends” with more people than that. I wonder what’s wrong with me? Was it me or them? Why is it that no one, family or “friends” comes to visit me? Not ever. It hurts. I’ve thought about this from time to time and have no answer. Obviously I hve missed something very basic in my socialization skills. I have made sure that ohters knew my home is always open to them.

    It is interesting to notice that I am crying as I write this and I didn’t realize it was happenning.

    Sometimes I say to myself “now that I am 76 years old it doesn’t matter as I will soon be gone anyway.” Bit, it does matter, to me and I resent it more than I will let myself know.

    • says

      Hazel, thanks for your frank and honest sharing here. I can hear your sadness and your loneliness, vivid beneath your words. I’m glad you’re reaching out to this community here–and I hope you find people willing to “see” and “hear” what you have to say.

      • Vicki says

        Hi Hazel, Thanks for sharing what you did. I’ve never been “member of the year” of anything. I think it’s pretty cool that you were! And being a “founding member” in an organization must have involved a lot of work and commitment on your part. Regardless of the unfortunate lack of response from your “friends”, I say, well done! My hat’s off to you. Hope you keep writing :) p.s. Sometimes people just suck.

    • Kim T. says

      Hi Hazel, Thanks for posting this. It reminded me of a similar work-retirement situation I have had. I retired 8 1/2 years ago, after working for over 25 years in the same place, and having an outstanding reputation there (and many “friends”). But in truth, only three of those people from all those years keeps in touch with me regularly and still seems like a friend. Honestly, I resented it for awhile too, but now I just think that they are completely immersed in the work world, not thinking of me – and it is not personal, just the way things fall out. It has been interesting to see which friends “stuck” and which ones just faded away. Luckily I have made so many new friends in these retirement years, and now I rarely ever think about work or the people who are no longer in my life. You can do that too! I appreciate your candor.

        • Hazel Muller says

          Thank you all for your comments! I think it is just “expectation gone bad.” I look at my grandparent’s generation and they had many friends who visited and wrote letters and had parties until the day they died. I guess I thought it would work out that way for me also. It’s a lonely world now days for many people in many ways. I wonder what it will be like in my great grand children’s time. Things are getting so “sterile” and what a shame it is that friendship is lost in time and space.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hi Hazel, I’m so happy you are here and willing to share your worries, sadness, and uncertainty. Thank you for that. Loneliness is so hard to cope with and I have been disappointed in people in that way too. I’m with Vicki. Sometimes people do suck in that way. I am hopeful, however, that you will find listeners and friends on this blog. I know I did and I also know that I will be one of them attuned to you. Take care of yourself.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – thank you for writing this. I have felt some of these same feelings and, like you, wondered what was wrong with me. We all matter and have value. Sometimes I guess we just don’t “fit in” as well as we once did. And for those whose “friendship” with us was based on convenience versus connection – not fitting in gets in the way. I hope you will keep sharing with this community. Everyone fits just fine here!

  3. Missy says

    I resent that, at the age of 55, I have never been in a healthy relationship. I have never been in love. I married my former husband too young at 19 just to get away from my parents, and I thought his abuse to me was normal. Yet I also knew that I did not love him but stayed with him for 22 years because I wouldn’t admit to my mother that I was wrong. I finally left him in 1998 and raised our daughter alone.

    It deeply saddens me more as I am getting older wondering if I will ever experience the sheer joy of love with a partner. It hurts me tremendously just to see a couple walking hand-in-hand on the sidewalk, or a couple enjoying a meal out together. I want that love, someone to share our lives together.

    • says

      Missy, thanks for your heartbreaking and honest post. Our hearts all go out to you. I want to suggest, as I think many readers here will do, that 55 does not mean that your life is over or that your chances for love are through.

      • Missy says

        Thank you, Laura, yes, I do realize my life is not over. I am a very beautiful caring person with a lot to offer. Things will happen when they are supposed to. I will be back here very often.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Missy, thank you for your honest and passionate words. I’m not that far away from you in age and I refuse to believe that love can’t come at any time in one’s life. I used to feel agony when I saw a couple together too–and, wouldn’t you know it?–I chose to live with one at that time. It tore me apart. Long time ago. However, when I doubt my future, I’ll always remember my Grandma, who worked hard all her life trying to take care of a mean, ungrateful husband. But, you know? She found ten years of love in the last decade of her life. In other words, she and her paramour met when Grandma was 87!!!l True to form, she never told me but I was so happy for her when I found this out after her death. So, please try not to give up. Let’s not write ourselves off. What do you say?

    • Debbie says

      Missy – I am fifty-six and just one year beyond the end of a twenty-six year relationship. I recently saw a picture of a painting full of beautiful, vibrant colors with the caption “Don’t stay where you are tolerated, go where you are celebrated!” That is where I am headed, even though I don’t where the journey will take me. Along the way, I am trying to fall in love with myself so I will know how to recognize love when it does finally pass my way. Join me!

  4. Jim Dowling says

    If the awards and accolades were presented sincerely, I must have been doing alright. For fifteen years I taught kids at a continuation high school. I had the spectrum – gang bangers to cases of extreme truancy and everything imaginable in between. All carried lots of personal baggage on top of needs of an education. It was a small school. I was there at the beginning to watch it slowly carve a unique niche in the “system”. We became a goal and reward to adolescents who seemed motivated, many on the cusp of making significant changes in their lives. We did our damndest to nurture that flame, protect it from self-doubt, give it direction and purpose. Word got out and kids wanted in. It was the promise of more freedom at our school – freedom based on earned trust.
    That became our Achilles heel. Trust. There’s risk inherent in meaningful education and change. Whether it be sink or swim, we asked them to take the plunge. Try. We embraced that belief. That’s what made us a little different. But something in the formula changed. Coinciding with a new superintendent and new administrators, the type of student sent to us changed dramatically. Nobody warned us. In our final two years, we were inundated with students who didn’t buy in. It’s not my imagination, either. The local jail publishes mug shots of those to be incarcerated. In this last week alone, four of those later students, now adults, grace the lineup. Yeah, four of them. The impact on our little school was devastating. Trust evaporated. The atmosphere of the school got edgy, hostile. All the while, we were held to the same standard as before, while handed hard-core behavioral problem cases. Morale tanked. In a bad economy, it became easy to point at our program and ask, why drain precious resources? We always had our detractors and they seized the moment.
    Welcome to education. At least a small slice of it.
    So, back to resentment – what is it that lingers – still bothers me? Fifteen years of diligent work; a dream dismantled and disposed of in less than three. Not much of a legacy beyond my memories and the occasional grateful student I run into. That does hurt. Yes, it’s an old story. The economy goes south. Cuts are needed. I understand all that. But I have to wonder, was our demise something planned behind closed doors? Did someone actually say, “Let’s find a way to drive them to extinction?” I know better. I imagine the process as being far more sanitized. Think bureaucracy: motives shrouded in data, profound changes incremental enough to ignore, a liberal sprinkling of politics. An immaculate, well-groomed tail, wagging the big policy-driven dog. Hell, I’m guilty, too. I should have made more noise while I had the opportunity. I was naïve, under the impression that my work, and that of my peers, spoke loudly enough to preserve the program.
    Revelation! I may have homed in on my main complaint. The whole thing was too impersonal for me. I might have a broader perspective, less feeling of resentment, had there been better communication. (!)
    Great prompt. As usual.

    • Ilana says

      Jim- I was so glad to see that you’d posted again. I always get a lot out of your posts. This one was no exception. It is an amazing story. That must have been a kick in the teeth. But I am struck by all the good you and your colleagues were able to do before the program was hurt. It’s an important story, both parts. Keep telling it and please, keep posting here. IM

    • says

      Jim, I’m so sorry your program does not exist today. But I’m afraid it’s a story I’ve heard (and been part of ) far too often. I loved it when you said, “I was naïve, under the impression that my work, and that of my peers, spoke loudly enough to preserve the program.” Boy, I sure could relate to that. Thanks so much for posting and for coming back. I love what you write each time you share. You’re a real asset to this community.

      • Beverly Boyd says

        I could have written Laura’s response. Your experience and Laura’s is one I have had more than once.
        Even though you haven’t seen many of your former students to personally thank you, I’m sure there are many whose lives were changed. Also for every life your program changed there were countless others in relationship with your students whose lives were changed!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Jim, I think I’ve read three of your posts now and I always find them moving and impactful. I can feel the love you had for your program and I’d be very proud of it too. I was on the brink of being one of those kids and, let me tell you, that I appreciate what you did, no matter how it ended. Kids need all the help they can get–especially if they are at risk as I was. And, if I was a graduate of your program, I’d be thanking you every single time I saw you. For what it’s worth…Take care, Jim.

  5. a says

    i am resentful how many people take a loving, or, at the bare minimum, a moderately sympathetic/affectionate parent-child relationship for granted. i guess i am really angry that if i want to talk about why i am not in contact with my family, i am most often automatically asked to defend my choice. it is way easier to not bring it up. i’m so tired of smiling and nodding at the “but, they are probably just hurt. you probably just don’t understand how it feels to be a parent” comments. i get it: i recognize and respect any hurt feelings they might have, but that doesn’t automatically make it appropriate for us to have a relationship.

    i guess if i were to distill it down: i am resentful at having to continuously defend my choice of not having blood family in my life. and i resent that it is so difficult for people not in my situation to imagine *actually* being about 1000 times happier and more at peace with them removed. i resent that it is easier for people to believe that i MUST be secretly harboring some terrible, deep, life-altering sadness about the fact of my separation from the fam. newsflash: i’m not.

    • Ilana says

      Well said. This is a problem I come up against a lot. My parents and brothers do not belong in my life right now and that is not for anyone to judge. It’s very difficult for me to absorb anyone telling me how I should feel. After my brain surgery I was in a suicidal depression. Someone heard about what had happened to me and lectured me on how fortunate I was to survive. She said, “I would be celebrating every moment I was alive if I were you.” My inward response was “Good. You do that. Celebrate that you never had to go through this agony to begin with. I’m just trying to survive the recovery.” I am sick to death of hearing people tell me how lucky I am. Because I was put in a coma had had my brain cut open? Are you nuts? But I smile and nod. Sorry, I’ve gone on too long. Your piece voiced a lot of my own resentment. No one should tell us how to feel or how to run our lives. Thank you so much for voicing so clearly something have struggled so deeply with myself. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Averi, thanks for writing this. I have this experience sometimes and feel the hairs on my neck bristling when I do. Some people just don’t get that. I’m glad you are happy with your choices and needs. I am with mine as well. Welcome, by the way. This is a warm, loving community and a great place to revisit. Hope you do.

    • Debbie says

      I am so glad you posted your feelings about your biological family. I just posted tonight about my mother and I can definitely say my life is much more pleasant when she is not nearby. It takes a lot of courage to share feelings that you know are not readily accepted by most. Thank you for sharing them with us!

  6. Vicki says

    My biggest resentment is not a secret. But the DEPTH of the resentment is a secret. Several years ago my son committed suicide. I’ve felt all the emotions you can imagine: Rage, despair, blame, confusion, etc. I also resent him for doing it. In the back of my mind, I always kept suicide as an option for myself. Now that I know what suicide does to the loved ones left behind, it is no longer an option for me. Writing this feels really strange. To post or not to post? Do I click that button or not? Deep breath…Now this is funny. I clicked the “enter” button, exhaled, then realized I had to click “post comment” to send it. So this was a “2 deep breaths” comment.

    • says

      Vicki, it sounds like your resentment is not just that your son took that out, but that he took the option away from you–am I reading your post right? I love what you said about a “two deep breaths” comment. I honor your honesty and courage in posting this here. Your honesty and willingness to go this deep and acknowledge something so hard to admit will create space for others to do the same on this blog. thanks for posting. I have a good friend whose son committed suicide a few years back…and a couple of suicides in my extended family, so I have at least a little idea of the depth of devastation you’re talking about.

      • Vicki says

        Yes, you read it right. I’m deeply resentful that I no longer have that as an “out” for myself. I love my family very much. Now that I know what one suicide in the family did to everyone, how we all changed and suffered for years, I cannot EVER do that to them. I’ve been coming to terms with his suicide in many ways. I understand “why” he did it. The day he died, he wrote letters to all of us saying how sorry he was and how much he loved us. The past couple of years I’ve been forgiving him and understanding him more. He suffered a lot in his life. Much of it was of his own making, but not all of it. I feel like I’m finally letting him go, after 10 years.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I’m so glad you made your two deep breaths post, Vicki. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son and that you had the added emotional burden of it being a suicide. I can’t imagine your pain. I’ve come to believe that there’s nothing wrong with airing the depth of our pain and losses. I killed myself but was revived. My bio father and brother would’ve been furious at me if the doctors couldn’t revive me; in fact, they were anyway. I don’t know what I truly believe happens to us after death, but if my spirit was out there and I could somehow feel their fury, I would’ve loved them no less; in fact, I would’ve loved them more–because they cared at all. I hope you can be gentle on yourself with airing the depth of your resentment. Grief is so hard. Please be gentle on yourself on this. I admire your strength in saying what you had to in order to nurture yourself, as your son would want for you as well.

      • Vicki says

        Thanks, Terry. I had no idea how intensely painful grief could be. Many, many days it seemed impossible to endure one more minute of it. The past couple of years have been much better for me. More understanding and acceptance. Still lots of sadness and some feelings of blame (it’s MY fault), but most of that has been softening and fading. I’ve heard people say that going through terrible things makes you stronger. That’s not been my experience. I feel like all my pieces are held together with thin strings. But I never give up. I just keep getting out of bed in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other. And try to keep moving forward. So far so good.

    • Debbie says

      Vicki – I am amazed at your courage not only in what you posted but – that you actually hit the button, twice! What you have experienced takes my breath away. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  7. Terry Gibson says

    I have several of these and may have more come up over the week. I hope it’s okay to post them if necessary.
    I’m crying as I write this. I harbour a very deep resentment toward the man I’ll call “Martin” who infected my brother with HIV. I remember the day we got the call and Steve told me the sad news. I couldn’t compute what he was saying at all. But he loved that guy as a friend and, after our oldest brother’s death, I know Steve missed that relationship, even though, on the surface, they were always disagreeing. He was grieving, insecure and vulnerable, and Martin took advantage of that. We knew nothing about this until Steve saw Martin’s obituary. He died one month after infecting my dear Steve. Long story short, at some point, my brother went to the nurse at the AIDS Center and begged her for the information. Did Martin know he was infected before that last visit? The truth? Yes. The nurse couldn’t turn down a dying man’s request and looked up the information. Martin had already been diagnosed and knew exactly that his behavior would cause my brother’s death. Even worse than Martin murdering Steve, was that Steve, unknowingly, infected someone else. He sobbed to me about this. Was ripped apart. But, like the man he was, he went immediately and told that person how very, very sorry he was. I wasn’t there for that, but I know he died a little everyday with that knowledge in his heart. I miss Steve so much! He should be here so we could one day be 90 and have races with our walkers, like we planned. I needed him so much and he needed me. Having him gone still causes such pain. He made my presence in that family make sense. At least, one of them made life worthwhile, tolerable. You know one of the last things he said before he died? In his garbled language? That he still felt guilty that he couldn’t have done something to help my sister and I. It wasn’t his fault for what they did to us but he couldn’t let go of that thought that, as our big brother, he was responsible for us. It breaks my heart when I allow myself to acknowledge that Steve was murdered. That is a deep resentment I have. Actually, until now, I didn’t realize how deep the well on this one goes.

    • says

      Terry, I am so moved by your deep love for your brother and how relationships continue in such profound ways even after someone dies. Your piece is real evidence of that. I’m so sorry that that #$%^#@ infected Steve knowingly. That’s a horrible, horrible thing, and I’m so sorry it happened to someone who was there for you, someone you loved. Feel free to respond to this post more than once–as many times as you have something new to say. I always look forward to what you have to say.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks so much, Laura. As always, your words and support have much weight with me. The other thing he whispered in my ear, with me bent really low and close to try and catch what he struggled so hard to say, was for me to please never forget him. When I realized what he said to me, all I could think was: “Never. I could never ever forget you.” Only dementia in the future would make that happen. It broke my heart that he worried about that and I, in my struggles with emotional things, especially in person, reassured him in the best way I could. I wasn’t a perfect sister by any means but I did the best I could to support him and will always love him dearly. Thank you for providing this nurturing space for all of us. It has helped me grow in the last year beyond what I ever thought possible. A big hug to you.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- This is such a beautiful story of your love for your brother. I am so sorry that you had to lose him that way. I agree with you that he was murdered. I was horrified and angry at the man who infected him but at the same time I am so touched by your love for him and his for you. As you know I have lost my relationship with my brother. I have talked about Matty quite a bit on this blog. It hurts so much to have him disregard me the way he does and then turn around and make demands on me with no sign of kindness or appreciation. It was very healing to me to hear about the loving relationship you had, no have, with Steve. Thank you for sharing it.
      IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        Hi Ilana. Thanks for your thoughtful words. They mean a lot. Feeling all of that the other night, wore me out and I’m now fighting a bit of flu as a result; rheumatoid arthritis meds make my immunity a bit low sometimes. I’m on the mend though. It is sad and maddening that your brother chose and chooses to act the way he did and does. I’m so happy that you are doing so well in your healing and taking good care of yourself. You deserve every joy in life! Let’s amplify it by fifty, with its foundation rooted in lots of love, understanding, and emotional security. I trust you’re going for ‘em like so many of your sisters–including me–are too.

        • Ilana says

          Thank you, Terry- I have just posted my response to this prompt and as you were, I am totally worn out. I cannot say much else to you but your words do mean a lot to me and I appreciate them. Your sister, sIMz

    • Debbie says

      Terry, I can feel the pain of your loss and am so sorry that you lost someone from your life that you loved so deeply and who also loved you. HIV was such a devastating disease when it first appeared and it is crazy to think that there were those who disregarded the risk to themselves – but even more to others. It makes no sense that someone as caring as Steve should have to suffer and die prematurely.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Debbie. It seemed like Christmas this morning. Like you crept about the tree at night, leaving all these gifts for all of us. It’s much appreciated. As always.

  8. Ilana says

    My secret resentment

    My resentment is a secret from my family. They like it that way. They would not want to know about these ugly feelings. The only people who know about these violent feelings that sometimes threaten to tear me apart are my husband and my *sister-survivors. These are the people I feel safe with. Yet here I sit, again, staring at my computer screen trying to figure out how to say it, even in this protected, accepting community. Try flat out, Ilana. Okay, flat out, I resent my brother. I resent everything about him. I resent his cocky attitude. I resent how small I feel when he puts me down. I resent the last 30 years I have spent trying, unsuccessfully, to earn a kind word from him. I resent every time I said something important to me and he answered it with a joke, a judgment or a tirade. Most of all, I resent my persistent need for his acceptance, love and respect.

    There was a time, it ended about five minutes ago, when I would have done just about anything to get a simple ‘Thank You’ from him. ‘Thank you.’ That’s all I’d hoped for. Isn’t it normal when someone puts herself out and goes to great length to do something for you that you might say “Thank you.”? Two simple words. I had to stop hoping. I had to stop trying. It was just too painful.

    Matty and I were best friends when we were very young children. We had our older brother to thank for that, I suppose. I remember it clearly. My face was pressed painfully into the carpet as Andrew twisted my arm behind my back demanding an apology, for what I had no idea. Matty knelt by my head begging me to make the apology. “I know you’re not sorry. You know you’re not sorry. Just say it so he’ll let you up.” But I couldn’t do it. Something in me was just too proud. A light bulb went on over my head. A few minutes ago it had been Matty’s turn. He was the one with his face in the carpet and his arm twisted. I had been begging in the exact same words. “I know you’re not sorry. You know you’re not sorry. Just say it so he’ll let you up.” I suddenly realized why Matty wouldn’t do it. This was how it had felt to him; this defiance, this pride. Suddenly Matty’s panicked voice cut through my realization. “If you don’t say it he’s going to break your arm!” Fear knotted my stomach and I gave in. “I’m sorry.” He let me up. Feeling weak, defenseless and broken, I pulled my sore arm to the front of my body and cradled it. Matty’s face filled with instant relief. It was always more painful to be the one watching than to be the one he was hurting.

    As we got older Matty’s and my bond waned. It shriveled up like an old piece of fruit that no one wanted. I could not let go of it, though. And so began the years of lying to myself. I explained away each cruel remark as an isolated incident. Each time he could have said something nice to me but chose not to, I told myself he was thinking it. I’m still haunted by the way he treated me as I lay shackled to my bed in the intensive care unit after my brain surgery. Writhing in agony I dangled between a full recovery and the 30% chance of stroking out and becoming a vegetable. I listened to him say he was angry with me. He’d had to cut his trip short to come back and see me. I told myself it was the natural anger that comes when someone you love may die. He was scared of losing me, that’s why he was angry. That’s why he felt the need to ridicule me even as I lay fighting for my life. With these lies, I convinced myself that the piece of fruit was still fresh and clean and beautiful.

    I can’t lie to myself anymore. Now I call him Matt. Matty loved me. Matt is indifferent. Matt is furious with me for how I am handling my healing. He wishes, and this is a direct quote, right from the source. He wishes I could deal with the memories the way he does. Just forget about them, pretend it never happened and don’t think about it while approaching day to day life. “Just let it go, Ilana. Let it go.” He has said so many times.

    I resent Matt. I hate him for destroying my Matty. He wants to forget and he is one of the meanest, most unhappy people I have ever known. I have been the receptacle for his cruelty for years but I’m sure he is branching out to other people. It’s breaking my heart but I’ve got to get as far away from him as possible.

    Then, yesterday I got an e-mail from him. “Ilana, To your knowledge, are there hypnotherapists or psychologists who can help me bury or block out a traumatic memory? We experienced something unbelievably tragic and horrible today. Matt.” To be fair, it was a terribly tragic event. He came home to find his puppy dead. Still, the question was obscene. After all I’ve been through this last year, the flash backs, the panic attacks, the nightmares, the depression, anxiety and sometimes overwhelming desire to cut my own arms to ribbons. And now he wants to know if I can point him towards someone who will help him just block out the loss of his dog? No! No can do!

    I answered his e-mail with as much sympathy as I could muster, expressed my sorrow at his loss. Then I explained that to my knowledge psychotherapists (my undergrad and masters degrees are both in psychology) focus more on helping people face traumatic memories and deal with them. I don’t know anything about hypnotherapists but I’ve only heard of them helping people uncover lost memories, not burry new ones. Again, I expressed my sadness at his loss and signed off. He did not respond. I do not expect him to.

    My resentment is a secret from my family. My children adore their Uncle Matty and as far as they know so do I. My parents wouldn’t understand even if I tried to explain it to them. I hate Matt. I hate him with all my heart. He was there with me, through all the physical abuse, and possibly some of the sexual abuse. Yet he blocks the memories and turns all that anger on the rest of us. He blames me for admitting the truth and insisting on healing. He has turned his back on me, on the little girl who needed him as her only friend in that dark and scary place. But worst of all he turned his back on the sweet little boy who was my Matty.

    Matty loved me. Matt is indifferent. Now, here, in this safe place I have admitted the truth. The next thing I’ve got to do is mourn; mourn and walk away. Goodbye my lovely Matty. Goodbye.

    *I refer to my sister-survivors yet one of them is a man. I suppose that makes him a brother-survivor. He is a kind and compassionate man. I am privileged to know him and be allowed to share my healing experience with him. However, at that point in the post I was did not want to use the word “brother” in both contexts. I was afraid it might cloud the issue so I’m giving this man mention here. He deserves it. If only my Matty could have done what this man is doing then maybe, maybe, my Matty could have survived and I wouldn’t have to say goodbye.

    • says

      Ilana, Thanks for this powerful story, revealing more of the history with your brother. I loved the part about the shriveled piece of fruit–and how you picked up that thread again later in the piece. And this: “There was a time, it ended about five minutes ago….” Congratulations on this breakthrough.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura- This post was very painful to write. I suppose that’s because I am forcing myself to see a truth I have been holding at bay for decades, literally. I really appreciate your responding to it. I feel a little more heard now. Thank you for that. IM

        PS. When did you start this blog? How long has it been going on? Just wondering.

    • Terry Gibson says

      What a testament to your amazing strength and tenacity, Ilana! I misunderstood one piece from your family history last time, which is now clearer to me. I also liked “it ended about five minutes ago” and the fruit “that nobody wanted.” When I first spoke words of rage and hatred in writing, the ‘family system’ shut me down: they needed me to keep the assessment of all that happened as a figment of my own hallucinations. Not. No hallucinations here. Never were. I hope you will embrace what you’ve accomplished here and cherish yourself well this weekend, if things get bumpy. Even if they don’t. I’m happy you have a loving, supportive man who is with you all the way. Sending a hug to you.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry- I feel much stronger having gotten (some of) that poison out in the form of writing. I never knew before this blog how much more healing writing can be if you have other’s willing to read it. That is truly a gift. What was it you did not understand before? Take care of yourself. IM

        • Terry Gibson says

          I’m glad it felt good to write what you did. Don’t worry about my confusion. I think it was my flu brain. Your piece is very clear. It was me. Pamper yourself this weekend, okay?

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – what a powerful and hopeful post this was. How could you hep by miss Matty? He was your friend. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be a times to sit in the same room with others who are enjoying Matt while you are grieving Matty. As Fran posted on this topic “I resent pretending it’s congenial.”

      In your response to one of the comments you mentioned the power of not only writing it but knowing that others are reading it. I totally agree with the unexpected but powerful healing that has come to me from this practice! You have been a part of that community – and I thank you!

  9. Debbie says

    Before I start to write tonight, I am looking for the whisper font on the keyboard. Surely there must be one for times like these when we are urged to say what has never been said, name “out loud” that which has remained hidden in the shadows. When we call all of our orphaned feelings and resentments out into the light for the first time and look each other in the eyes. I want the characters on this virtual page to somehow reflect the contradiction, vulnerability and sheer terror of this moment.

    “I am tied up in knots of resentment toward my mother!”

    Eleven simple words, just eleven, that are meant to capture over fifty years of affection, physical care, unmet expectations, self-absorbed decisions , and passive-aggressive manipulation. Perhaps you will nod your head knowingly and state “Yes, aren’t we all!” Meanwhile I will be churning through strong conflicting feelings of transferred resentment toward you for minimizing my life and empathy for long unhealed wounds from your own mother. The decision of which attitude will guide my next actions could be as arbitrary as the phase of the moon or as directed as the desire to help ease your pain.

    I was fourteen, coming home from a rare date, the first time I ever saw my mother cry. She had always been the stalwart source of strength in the family. Sure, we had all seen her angry but never sad or vulnerable or – gasp – crying. I wanted to walk past her that night, into my own room and angst filled teenage life. I stopped though, caught by the intrigue of this unknown dimension and a genuine sorrow at her tears. I am not sorry I stopped to hear her story that night nor bear any resentment for that momentary crumbling of roles between us.

    What I do resent now was the assumption of the role as her confidant once that initial breach occurred. She came back again and again to tell the story of her painful childhood, angry alcoholic father, missing sense of self-worth and how it was all repeating itself again in our family with my father. When my father tried to kill himself, it was me that received all the questions from her, all the wondering and “what ifs”. Throughout my teenage years I whipsawed from blinding love to hate for my flawed, amazing father, as well as toward my mother. One day the martyr, next the victim then inexplicably suddenly back to the mother figure as if we had not shared such intimate details between us.

    Eventually I did what would come to be a pattern in my life, I went away. I avoided all of it as much as I could. I jumped into an early marriage with my own alcoholic, abusive husband never seeing the irony or relationship to my earlier life until much later in the journey. I learned to compartmentalize those negative feelings, and to cry silently so as not to upset those around me. I once prided myself on being able to shed tears without anyone even knowing I was sad. A warped badge of honor from a dysfunctional past.

    Over the years the relationship between me and my mother ebbed and flowed. However, always at arms length with plenty of space between us. A flimsy defense mechanism to prevent more of those heartfelt sessions where she poured the corrosion of her self-hate, insecurity and fault-finding into our quiet moments together. We took long road trips across the country to see her siblings. Those were her favorites. For hours she would tell the same stories I had heard many times before about her painful childhood and how it had prevented her from ever feeling loved or being able to love.

    At first, I tried to help. I thought if I could love her enough she might see reflected in my eyes the woman she had grown to be and allow love into her soul. I felt her hurt, fear and rejection from her own father. I listened to her rage, again and again, full of bitter bile toward her own mother and her mother’s selfish nature. I wanted to be able to offer comfort after the death of my father because I knew she needed it and “where else could she turn?”

    Ah, that was always the catch! Somewhere, in each conversation, she would work in how, because of my father’s drinking, she had never been able to form close friends, someone with whom she could speak openly about things. The sense of pride at being that person faded for me over time and as I begin to find my own way in the world, often alone. I began to hear more of the victim in her stories about the past, but also about the present. I began to see that black hole of need within her that no one could ever fill. I began to sense that, as she was aging, my role was once again about to shift into one of complete caretaker.

    So now is when I begin to worry about the audience’s reaction. “But of course you should care for your mother!”, the chorus ensues inside my head and out. And I agree. And this is what I always said to her. “When the time comes I will take care of you.” I forgot to discuss the details! I never asked her what that meant to her nor explained what it meant to me. Big mistake!

    It was during and after the demise of my long term relationship that I really began to understand what this meant to her. She was planning to move in with me, place her demented husband in a facility and we could live as best buddies, single women, two friends striking out on a new life. She said clearly to all that would listen, “I am ready to have someone take care of me. It is all just too much anymore!” with a deep sigh. What my siblings and I have come to understand this to mean is, she wants to be in control but not have any responsibilities. She wants someone to do those things she doesn’t want to do anymore.

    She never once has asked me how I am doing after my “divorce” of twenty-six years. She would not know the date of my “un-anniversary” if you asked her. She has never expressed any sympathy for how I might be feeling. Her concerns over my weight were cleared up in the past year when she said if I didn’t lose weight and let something happen to me, who would take care of her? I am guessing you can hear the resentment creeping in about now, right?

    So I have had to stop running, turning to face the past and this relationship. I made it clear we would not be living together as “friends” but/and that I would always be sure she was cared for. I am still living with the repercussions of that statement. Once again, she is the victim of someone else’s callous behavior. But it is a role she knows so well….

    • says

      Debbie, from the very first line in which you wrote, “I am looking for the whisper font on the keyboard,” I was totally gripped by this very moving, engrossing story. You told it so beautifully and it reminded me, once again, how much I miss having your strong, honest true, eloquent voice (and presence) in weekly writing class! The story of your mother (and you) is tragic and human and familiar. When I got to the line, “I just forgot to ask about the details,” I was rooting for you so much! I don’t know if any relationships are as complex as the ones we have with our mothers. I salute you for setting a boundary with compassion–knowing that you have to take care of you first before you can offer appropriate (not fantasy) care to her. thanks so much for sharing this painful and beautifully rendered piece with us.

      • Debbie says

        Laura – I was moved to tears by your kind words. Thank you so much! I, too, miss having the extra pleasure and intensity of being in a “live” group setting sharing and learning from each other. And I remain grateful for this blog and virtual connection to you and the writing community.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, I wrote a response to this one and then deleted it; I thought it didn’t do justice to all that you are expressing here. No doubt, this will fall short as well. But I need to say how much I admire you for choosing what was right for you. I always find it amazing how some family assume that just because of a biological connection, they can just come and move in; I dealt with that a couple years back with a relative I knew nothing of except that he had been violent in the past and jailed for it. I am sorry about your divorce and am only now feeling more intimately what that might feel like to someone. You are such a beautiful spirit, Debbie. Please don’t give up on yourself. Let us leave some prezzies under your Christmas tree, will ya?

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- I loved reading this piece. The way it opened, acknowledging your reader, imagining our response and then voicing your anger at that response was very striking. My response was not the one you anticipated. “Yes, aren’t we all.” Instead I was thinking. “Oh thank God! I’m not alone.” Rather than minimizing your feelings I was feeling an intense weight that I have been shouldering, a bit lightened by learning you carry a similar load. As I read this feeling intensified as I recognized my own mother’s actions in your description. In addition, your response of “Jumping into an early marriage with my own alcoholic abusive husband.” Pretty much outlined the thrust of my honors thesis that I am trying to revive for the use of Wings, my incest survivor’s support group. You have pointed out to me how important it is that I push this project through. Even if they don’t want to use it in their library or web page I need to redo the 15 year old research and have it available to myself and anyone else who may need it. As always, your writing has taught, touched and inspired me. Thank you, sIMz

      • Ilana says

        Oops! What I said about my thesis implied that I believed that you are a survivor of incest. I did not mean to offend. My point is that in homes where abuse and parentification are present the children often grow up to find abusive relationships themselves. Again, I apologize if I offended you. IM

        • Debbie says

          Ilana – I took no offense. I am the daughter of an alcoholic father and all the dysfunction that implies. The abuse came later in my marriage when I was barely out of my teens. Up until about a year ago – I had hardly ever spoken about it and NEVER wrote about it. Now I can write this to you without even flinching! That is progress! You are a part of that healing over the past year. I could never take offense.

          • Ilana says

            Thank you, Debbie. I really needed that verbal hug today. It’s been a rough couple of days. We heard Marilyn Van Derbur speak on Tuesday. (1950′s Miss America who was abused by her father.) She’s incredible but very honest. It was extremely triggering. I REALLY needed your comments tonight. Thank you! IM

  10. Bobbie Anne says

    I didn’t think I had a secret resentment. Not at all. Then I read the letter that Laura’s mother had written on the website. It made me cry. I’m so happy that mother and daughter have reconciled. It shows me that there is hope. However, it brought up my own relationship with my mom. My mom favors my sisters. It doesn’t matter what I do. I won the school spelling bee. The runner-up asked if I was going to get treated to dinner and ice cream as she was promised, I got hit when I got home because my sister didn’t show up on time and my baby brother remained in his soiled diaper until I came home. Every year on my birthday, since I was a child, she either didn’t have it for me, or she’d have it somewhere else. One year, she did have it at her home. My brother’s came over. She neglected to invite me to my own party. This year she asked if I wanted to go to some event and then proceeded to go someplace and celebrated her grandaughter’s birthday. My mom, God Bless her, is something else. She still does things cause me pain. It’s just sad.

    • says

      Bobbie Anne, I’m so sorry she doesn’t see you for the wonderful precious human being you are. That’s a terrible loss for you–and ironically, for her as well.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thank you Laura for giving me this special place to share with all the wonderful supportive sisters in healing. It helps being in this space together.

  11. Bobbie Anne says

    Here is a poem I’d like to share:

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT

    She called her mother
    frightened to discover
    she had cancer and
    needed caring concern
    her mother said her sister
    was taking her to dinner
    she didn’t have the
    time to talk and didn’t
    offer well wishes
    or tea and sympathy
    for it was time to eat
    she couldn’t wait
    her daughter was
    taken by surprise
    she wanted to be
    reassured that
    everything would
    be all right tonight
    even though her
    mother wouldn’t say so

    Just because she wants
    her to care doesn’t mean
    that she will

    need

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Bobbie Anne,
      This is heart-breaking. When I was young I had similar reactions from my mother, who had a hard showing up for the tough stuff. I remember one time when all of her five children were facing serious life challenges and she was clueless because we had all learned she was not someone to confide in.
      Thank you for sharing your feelings so beautifully expressed in your poem, so we can offer our support.

      • Beverly Boyd says

        I want to add that at a later time Mother began to see a therapist as a result of a fateful exchange she and I had. As a result we had a healed (though not perfect) relationship when she died. Other family members had told me how much she changed after she got into therapy.

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thank you Beverly for your loving support. I am one of seven children, in the middle. Wouldn’t you think my mom would be somewhat maternal? I asked if I was adopted and maybe she wanted to give me back. Every day was a crisis. It was the worse nightmare I had. Only I was awake.

        • Beverly Boyd says

          I know how hard it is for a mother of a large family to “be there” for each of them. I heard your story so frequently in twelve step recovery rooms, often from people who were in the middle or at the end of a family of seven. Was this a message for me? I asked some of my seven then young adult children if they had felt that way. Thankfully, they all assured me they had not. One said it was like being in a cub scout troop but he always knew I was there for him. Another said she had not felt “mother lack” she just wanted her own room.

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