Part 4 of 4: The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is I loved my daughter. I have done many things to prove my love, all of which have been discounted by her and counted for nothing.
This fourth part of this history is about that estrangement from my ex and then the estrangement from my daughter. In 1995, ten years after the estrangement from my ex, my daughter estranged herself from me, an estrangement that I have talked about online from its beginning.
On New Year's Day 2006 my husband (current husband) and I went to see a movie, The Squid and The Whale. This is a movie that depicts a fracturing family and the reactions of the two boys to their parent's separation. The squid and the whale refers to a display at NYC's American Museum of Natural History and also to the conflict between the parents and how it is perceived by the two confused frightened somewhat distraught boys. In how many families children of all ages, minors and adult, are caught up in a drama of which they have incomplete information but an uncomfortable intimacy? In how many of such families do the children deny and are infuriated by any suggestion that their reactions in terms of their own psyches are affected at all by the disruption of their lives by their parents?
My parents divorced after 25 years of a marriage characterized by repetitive violent arguments, alcoholism, financial abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. I was an only child. Did it affect me? Sure it affected me! The whole thing affected me! It affects me today. Am I a victim? No. Not any more than they were. But yes, it does and did affect me. I was happy for them that they finally got a divorce but the whole thing was traumatic, the marriage and then the divorce and their differing expectations of me through the whole thing. Unlike my ex and I, my parents remained in contact, continuing to visit with each other occasionally and fight for twenty more years until my father's death in 1988. Occasionally I have wondered if my mother's trying to insult me in recent years was because she missed having those fights and she wanted me to perform "fight duty".
We are the products of more than our genetics and our own efforts. Who we are is affected by everything that happens to us as well as what we are born with. We may be born with intelligence but what we do with it, how emotionally mature we become, is also affected by the actions of those with whom we lived closely. If we can't even recognize how it affects us, how can we ever get beyond places where we get stuck? Perhaps there are those who are so strong that their parent's divorce has had no impact but I haven't met or seen any.
In past communications with my daughter after 1995 she was upset by my saying, "Bite me!" And "Shit happens." (Note: I don't recall or know if I wrote "Shit happens!" but she said I said it. So I'll include it, whether or not I said it. I can't find anything that shows I said it and I do keep copies of things.) When or if I say things like this, I am saying that I have lived my life to the best of my ability, that I am not perfect, that I never set out to hurt anyone, ESPECIALLY not my daughter, that I am an imperfect but nice human being, that I am not evil, that I am a normal neurotic like most of us, and that, yes, shit does happen. We cope with it. Katrina's happen. We have to deal with it. If someone, even my daughter, can't accept that I am just one more imperfect person in the world, no more capable of perfection than anyone else, well, then, bite me! Yes, bite me! I love her but if she can't accept that I am NOT evil, that I did NOT set out to hurt her or anyone, that I was a darned good parent most of the time but not perfect, then what else is there to say but "Bite me!"? That is what I meant by Bite Me!
When there is a dialogue between us now, it just goes round and round and round, like the dialogues that I would have with my ex over twenty years ago. The dialogues are also similar to ones I've had with my mother.
Both my mother and my daughter think that it is their personal right to insult me in varying and creative ways. Like my mother, my daughter sees meanings in the things I say that are not there. I have gone from using an answering machine to screen calls because of my mother's verbal abuse to having to use a Junk Mail filter to block out my daughter's abusive emails. I have told her that I will not read emails from her as long as she doesn't want to have a relationship with me and calls me names.
Junk filters, like answering machines, are great inventions! I would have thought she wouldn't have wanted to do anything similar to my mother but I thought wrong. For much of my life my mother tried to fix me according to her idea of what needed fixing. My ex-husband's idea of fixing me was probably along the lines of making me into a Stepford wife. (My father's idea of fixing me was to get me to go over and do his laundry. I used to get drunken phone calls from him where he was either castigating my mother or letting me know that he wanted someone to do his laundry.) Now my daughter thinks that it is her personal responsibility to monitor me and correct me. Neither my mother or my daughter has any respect for my boundaries nor any idea that I am an intelligent mature woman who is deserving of respect and deserving of a good life free from harrassment by people who don't like me or agree with me.
In 1995 I offered to go with my daughter to a therapist to let an objective third party help us to sort through what was happening between us. I think that a therapist might have been helpful. She took my suggestion as an insult. She sounds like other judgemental people I have met. She is becoming increasingly judgemental.
I don't know whether my ex's estranging himself from me was a factor in my daughter estranging herself. I don't blame him for the estrangement. It might have happened anyway. Maybe she would have estranged herself from him too even if he and I had remained on speaking terms. I know parents who have never been divorced and who are the most loyal of parents to each other and they have grown kids who have estranged them too. They are as shocked and saddened by their estrangement as I have been by mine. I don't know the answers to the questions that we all ask ourselves. I think sometimes that not even the grown kids always know why they are doing what they are doing. Often it all flies in the face of logic and nothing, not even facts and truth, can change it.
One thing has changed in the ten years since that dialogue between myself and my daughter in 1995. I do have a better idea of how bad the situation is and how little I can do about it other than having a website on the topic of estrangements, using a Junk Mail filter, saying the Serenity Prayer, and going on with life.
I end this four part history with this: No one has to put up with being abused. Not even by those whom you love dearly. Sometimes estrangement has to be appreciated. It can be worse to be in communication. Even if you love the person, maybe it is best to love them from afar and let them go until they are in a better place emotionally. It can be kinder than fighting a losing battle. Kinder to yourself and maybe even kinder to them. They have to fight their own battles and if they are fighting their own personal demons that you can't see, it would be better for us all to get out of the way.