Sunday, February 11, 2007

On Mothers and Daughters (Pt III)

The telephone rang at 11.30 pm on Friday. The Husband was working a night shift and my son was at his father’s house. I know that when conducted with genuine cooperation shared care is best for the children of separated parents, and my son has shared his time between his father and myself since we separated eight years ago. For most of those eight years, however, I have felt as though something has been ripped from me when he is not around. I appreciate the opportunity for solitude -I am happy when in my own company - but the solitude is often tinged with an underlying fear for his safety: he is not with his mother and therefore he is not safe. (His father, I hasten to add, is a fabulous dad and I couldn’t wish for him a kinder step-mother. My fears are entirely irrational.) So when the telephone rings so late at night it means Something Terrible Has Happened.

I answered in a panic. It was The Mother. My immediate thought was that The Terrible Thing had happened to The Father, who doesn’t enjoy the best of health.

“Don’t worry, nothing’s wrong,” were her first words. (She knows that late night phone calls generate panic. She should know, as it is one of the many faults she has filled me with.)

“I just wanted to know if you are okay?” she said.

This knocked me sideways. The Mother has not actively enquired after my well-being since I was old enough to change my own nappy, and that was approximately 38 years ago. So why on earth was she ringing me at 11.30 on a Friday evening to ask if I was OK? I rifled quickly through my mental filing cabinet to work out what the hell was going on. Nope, no joy there. In the absence of a framework with which to make sense of this strange occurrence, I chose silence. ( Thankfully, I stopped my sarcastic self from replying I’m fine thanks, B.…I managed to somehow leave school with four A levels and got myself into a Good University entirely by accident [I liked the fact that it had a beautiful Minster and a pretty town; I had absolutely no idea it was a Good University]; I have had disastrous relationships with a string of unsuitable men and women, serious bouts of depression, including post-natal depression that left me feeling suicidal at times, and have dealt with the utter terror I have felt at the responsibility of being a mother myself. I am now happy and settled with a beautiful family thanks to an extended period of psychotherapy that enabled me to resolve my deep seated insecurities and attachment issues. But thanks for asking, anyway.) Fortunately, The Mother is an expert at holding both sides of a conversation so she failed to notice that I hadn’t actually responded.

“Well, thank goodness you’re okay” she said, before launching into a long story about how Sister #1 has a new boyfriend and how he sounds very nice, unlike the last one, etc etc. One half of my brain was still desperately searching for a frame of reference for this conversation whilst the other was noting with amusement that she appeared to have all the facts about the new boyfriend entirely correct, suggesting that she does actually listen even though all the behavioural indications are to the contrary. I made a mental note to tell Sister #1.

“Thank goodness you are okay anyway,” she concluded. “I have been so worried about you.”

I grab my opportunity.“B – what have you been worrying about?” I ask.

“Well, the snow!” she exclaims, as if it is glaringly obvious.

I glance outside and there is a very light dusting of snow on the ground. This could only cause me problems if I had a serious snow-phobia (chionophobia, apparently) and a cruel and vicious husband who made me stand in it for kicks. Given that I have neither, I still couldn’t see the point.

“The snow?” I enquired.

“Yes, the snow!!” she repeated. “I was watching the news and the M62 was just terrible. Blizzards, freezing fog and probably black ice too. I’ve been so worried about you!”

Things started to fall very slowly into place.

I haven’t worked in Manchester for the past four years. But the thought was there, bless her.


That's so pants said...

Very funny story Ms M. My mother doesn't seem to know what I do exactly either. On balance, I think it's probably a good thing.

Ms Melancholy said...

All my mother knows is that I 'help other people, but I don't have the time of day for her...' Sometimes it is funny, and sometimes it just depresses me. Today I am depressed. I shall light the fire, snuggle down on the sofa and think dark thoughts.


Oh dear. Not you as well, sweet Melancholy. NMJ seems out of sorts today, too. Ms Pants is right, though - it is a (darkly) funny story. It certainly made me laugh anyway.

But I get your point about how it might simply depress you sometimes. Light your fire and batten down the hatches and think those darkest of thoughts - it is a perfectly valid response. Necessary, even. I'll still be loitering right here - waiting to make your life miserable - when the passing gloom lifts, my lovely mind-wrecking friend. So enjoy the rest while you can.

Kind regards and a slurpy (medicinal) kiss,


Caroline said...

Ms M - you are wonderful. Very very very wonderful.

Ms Melancholy said...

Mr PE - it is lovely to see you back and thank you for your kind(??)words! I have just spent a very pleasant hour or so reading all the Moon Topples entries. I have a host of crap to watch on SkyPlus, hubby is on shift and the fire is already lit. I shall slip into a bout of self-indulgent misery where I intend to remain for the rest of the day. Sometimes life is so sweet.

Lovely Caroline. You have just made me cry a little tear. I told you I was feeling a touch self-indulgent....

nmj said...

Ms M, I enjoyed your post vicariously - I have a great relationship with my mother (well, as great as one can have) - it's more men (brothers and lovers) that consistently cause me havoc.

PE is fairly handing out the kisses & hugs today, isn't he?

I am glad, I think we could all do with some.

JustJude said...

Are we sisters?


Ms Melancholy said...

Lovely, Jude! I fear we have many sisters out there...

swimmer6foot4 said...

Yikes! Sisters ... count me in!

Reading the Signs said...

Isn't it strange when that kind of mother (I have one) shows a caring vein? Reveals what may exist below the surface but one doesn't quite know what to do with it. I am also the over-anxious type. I wonder if one kind follows from another (therapist's view?)

JustJude said...

My recipe for Aubergine Parmigiana, as requested on NMJ's blog!:

Serves 4-6

2 lb aubergine
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
3/4 pint of tomato sauce (recipe below)
8 oz mozzarella, cubed
handful of fresh basil
3 heaped tbsp fresh parmesan

1. Trim the ends off the aubergine and discard. Slice aubergine into thin slices. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 30 minutes.

2. Rinse the aubergine and pat dry. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine slices for 3-4 minutes, in batches, until golden brown and just cooked through. Brush the pan with more olive oil between batches. Drain well on absorbent kitchen paper.

3. Spread half the tomato sauce in the base of a large gratin dish. Cover with half the aubergine slices and scatter over the mozzarella. Cover with the remaining aubergine slices and sprinkle with shredded basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the aubergines then sprinkle the parmesan over. Bake at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Tomato sauce:

1 onion
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
can of good quality chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 pint good vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Sautee the onion in a tbsp olive oil until it softens. Add the garlic. Sautee for a further two minutes on a low heat.

2. Add the tomatoes, the herbs, the tomato puree, sugar, and stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Season to taste.

I hope you enjoy it. Quite fancy it myself now, with a green salad, some crusty bread, and a glass of chilled dry white. Yum!


Peeka-boo, gorgeous shrink. Just dropping by to see how you're feeling today - hopefully a wee bit better than before, anyway?

Check out Justjude and the recipe-fest, by the way. I am made hungry simply looking at the thing. Do a lot of people leave recipes here, Melancholy? I may just come back.

Enough of the moping now, MsDiagnosis. Time to get up.

Kind regards etc...

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Ms Signs, - I think you are spot on here. We know where we are with deficit and lack. We know how to handle it. But when a fissure appears and a glimmer of love or compassion leaks through, it entirely throws me. I feel guilty for being so resistive to her, and yet I know that I do give her as much warmth as I can. (Which is not much, but it's all I can realistically manage.) As for the root of our neurosis - I like the idea that we learn affect regulation through relationship. If our early relationships are marked by anxiety and deficit, we have to learn to regulate our internal world, rather than it coming more naturally. I fear I am still learning. As are most of us. I am over anxious at times because my world was never predictable or reliable (or particularly safe, for that matter.) Paradoxically, I rarely find myself getting anxious with a client because their heightened feeling doesn't scare me. I get the feeling that you really think about this stuff yourself? Thanks for commenting - I enjoy your contributions x

Lovely Jude, - you are a total star and I will make it this weekend. I have a sister who lives in southern Italy and this is my favourite dish when I go to visit her. Hope you feeling a bit brighter. Seems like we have all had a weekend of snuggling down on the sofa and feeling glum x

Ms Melancholy said...

Mr PE - you snuck in there whilst I was replying. You are very sweet, really aren't you? I do get very down this time of year. I need warmth and sunshine so winter in Yorkshire is not good for me. I had a strained meeting with a head of HR for my local PCT today, in which I was rather inept but I hope didn't entirely come across as a depressed therapist. Who knows. I have cheered myself up by planning a trip to Granada next month, and although I worry for my carbon footprint my mental health comes first, right now. The Alhambra is sure to bring me great joy. The day has not been an entire write off though, as I managed to smuggle no less than eight vegetables into the children's tea and that gives me immense joy. And they had fruit for pudding. I measure out my life in portions of fruit and vegetables. I have just watched the Junior Mastermind Final and it made me cry, which suggests to me that i am not feeling entirely normal at the moment.

As for the recipe: Jude mentioned it over at nmj's yesterday, and I asked for the full version. Cooking makes me so very, very happy. That is something to thank my mother for. She taught me to cook from a very young age and I still take great pleasure from it.

PS Mr Swimmer - join the sisters! You are very welcome, and always welcome at this blog with your strange humour, plug fetish and Stoke Newington knowledge. Is The Pegasus still open on Green Lanes by the way? I lived opposite the pub and was pool table queen for many a year. Oh, the memories....

Reading the Signs said...

Ms M, yes, I do. It is one of my life's "tasks", you might say. Anxiety also,especially for my kids - which CBT barely managed to address (helps some but is so very crude). It is sorting itself out organically. I find it helps to understand the connection between things.

bobo said...

Well I'm only slightly spooked by the similarities in our mums. My mother generally thinks I’m an agent of Beelzebub through my work for Big Brother (the authoritarian regime of 1984, not the TV show). I only have a knack with computers. It’s not as if I delete people from history.

So it’s a bit hard to take when she asks, "how's that university thingy going". The novelty of a second sentence after "You never phone me" floors me (in fairness, her phone is a special one, seemingly incapable of dialling out and ringing me up).

I smile to myself at her wilful refusal to remember I’m studying psychotherapy – well it is a long word. Obviously she’s not actually interested in the answer, but having the question asked at all is disconcerting.

Occasionally I’ll forget myself and attempt an answer that tries to convey the vast leap in personal growth I’ve been through, and the missed developmental stages therapy has allowed me to catch up. Perhaps she senses I’m giving a censored version of my psychological changes. Who, after all, can meaningfully do any serious therapy without dragging Mummy into the therapy room? But I never get further than the second sentence before she interjects:

"Oh look, there’s 'The Avengers' on the television". Being foreign born, she never uses colloquialisms like "telly" – it would deny her the ability to show off how jolly well she speaks English. Anyhow, she proceeds to tell me that Patrick Macnee is 5,000 years old or something. But I’ve developed the art of unlistening, and merely grunt occasionally whenever it seems suitable.

So unlistening and unheard with have an untelephone unconversation.

Hmmm, your melancholia is catching!

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Ms Signs - I think organically is the best way. We learn to sit alongside the anxious part, and not act it out, rather than attempting to repress it. I like the idea of having tasks for life, by the way.

Hi again Mr Bobo - I hear a familiar story here... and I love the idea of having an untelephone unconversation. Please may I steal that?

bobo said...

Damn. You get to the grad dénouement and fat fingers fluff the last line. It should of said.

"So unlistening and unheard we have an untelephone unconversation."

And of course you can knick it.


I might just nick it myself, Bobo, if it's all the same to you. Very, very, good.

Hey Melancholy - how's it going? Sorry I've not been round for a while (how ever did you cope?) but my internet thing has been properly knackered.

Also sorry to hear that you get down at this time of year. So does C - badly so, in fact. I imagine that it's not just winter in Yorkshire that is bad for you, however, I would guess that the whole of Britain would be pretty bad too. The light - what there is of it - can be appallingly depressing. It kind of forcibly presses you down with the weight of its own bleak gloom. Know what I mean? It's a total murk-fest. It's altogether softer and kinder here in Ireland, which has come as a welcome surprise.

I find it hard to believe that you would have been totally inept in your meeting. The chances are you were absolutely fine. You're merely feel shite about yourself just now - and that's got to be colouring your judgement of your own performance.

Sod the carbon footprint malarkey - just don't be making a habit of it, okay? Otherwise we're all going to end up either way too hot or way too cold. I forget. But it's definitely going to be windy. If you don't believe me, ask Al Gore.

I'm not entirely sure how you managed to sneak so many vegetables into your children's tea, by the way. Was force involved? A gun, maybe? Does "sneak" mean something else in Yorkshire? Like, I don't know, "crazily shout" or something?

Crying at Junior Mastermind suggests to me that you are a total spazbucket, sorry to say. I can only feel loathing for the precocious little creeps. It is strange, though, isn't it? The weirdest things can set you off when emotional turbulence is in the house. I lose count of the utterly bizarre things that have caught me off guard. Sensationally, I once totally lost the plot at the bit in Cool Runnings where they lug their thing over the finishing line on foot. I was on a plane at the time. I just totally went. Freakish. It just wells up, doesn't it? Better out than in, sweetie, even if Junior Mastermind is hardly likely to be the real cause of the tears. Or Cool f*****g Runnings, for that matter. Don't be losing sleep over it.

And I love cooking, too. It can serve as a very pleasurable distraction at times. I don't let C anywhere near the kitchen, because she just does it all WRONG and makes too much mess. This is one aspect of my control freakery that she has yet to complain about, funnily enough.

Hang in there, Melondramatic. Take your time and take it easy. Here's a hug.

Kind regards etc....

Ms Melancholy said...

Mr PE - hug much appreciated. Have one back...