I have a plethora of family and friends who have been stepping up to help me over the past 3 years. I am grateful, but nervous. In my world, when someone helps you, you owe them. Some of the people who have stepped up, when I’ve expressed concern that I can never pay them back, have been surprised by that. They say they help because they want to, not because they expect anything in exchange, and they don’t understand this feeling of indebtedness I have. The past few weeks have illuminated this issue for me.
My mother and brother have beach houses right next to each other. For legitimate reasons I won’t go in to, I’ve been spending most of my time at my brothers house. This has upset my mother. Tremendously. She has made snide comments like “I haven’t seen you in weeks and you don’t come over to say hello” and “I guess you belong to them now”. For reference, my mother is a very active, perfectly healthy 81 year old, who golfs, swims, walks, parties, volunteers, cooks every night, etc. It’s not as if she can’t walk next door to say hello to me. Her most recent comment, directed at my sister-in-law, was simply bat shit crazy (BSC). She commented that she was going to start calling me Becky, since I’m her new sister. Becky is my sister-in-laws dead sister. She died when my sister-in-law was young. Becky was in her early 20’s, and she died in a tragic car accident. Her loss has been extremely painful for my sister-in-law, which my mother knows.
At first my sister-in-law thought mom must be losing her mind, because she’s never been on the receiving side of mom’s BSC behavior. I knew immediately though that I am in big trouble. Mom has given and given to me over the past 3 years and I owe her. I owe her big, and not staying at her house, not submitting to her rules and routines, not attending her dinners has been unacceptable. She is furious with me, and with my sister-in-law. That comment, while completely BSC to my sister-in-law, is the normal every day behavior I’ve gotten from my mother for years. When my sis-in-law told my brother (her spouse) he said “well of course she said that; she’s BSC”. This was before she or I used that term to him. He gets it, because he’s also been on the receiving side of it. My mother is extremely charming and generous, as long as you don’t “turn against” her. Once you do that, her BSC personality comes out. That is what my sis-in-law is experiencing.
Her BSC behavior is probably exacerbated by the fact that I have stopped sharing divorce issues with her. In what I can only describe as the 1st actual boundary I set with her, I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I would not discuss my divorce again until something happens. I set this boundary because every time I talked to her I had to reiterate what is happening legally and why it is taking so long. And, in answering why it is taking so long I have to defend myself, as if I am the one dragging things out. Now, if she asks a question, I change the subject. If she continues, I say I have to go, and I leave. This is the 1st time in my life I have set a boundary and stuck to it. It has been liberating for me, insanity making for her. Essentially what I have done is unleash the BSC personality; the psycho that is constantly boiling behind her mask of civility.
This is why I hate accepting favors. In my world, favors are never free. Favors come with strings attached. Favors mean I am permanently indebted to the giver, that they can treat me any way they want and I have no recourse. Once I’ve accepted favors I must submit to the givers’ every whim, do whatever they want me to, behave the way they want me to behave.
Recently my therapists found out they were not allowed to bill my insurance. There is no way I can see anyone who doesn’t accept my insurance. There is no extra money in my budget for extras. Literally. Both of them know that, and they each offered to see me pro-bono. I was extremely grateful, but I declined. The thought of adding 2 more people to the list of people I owe is not something I can do. I owe too many right now. I was talking to my sis-in-law about this and she was puzzled. (this was before she experienced my mom’s BSC; she might not be as puzzled now).
I’ve been staying with her daughter (16 year old) and her dog while she goes back and forth between the beach and her new home in NY, and she asked me if she owes me because I’ve done that. The thought of that was ludicrous. I would do anything for her, and she will never owe me anything. She went on to say that sometimes people do things for others because they just want to. Maybe someone helped them once and they want to pay it forward, or maybe they just like me and want to help me. Or maybe, it is good for them professionally to help me. Whatever the reason, if they are offering to work with me pro-bono, most likely I would not be indebted to them.
I want to accept this. I want to call them and say yes, I need your help. I am still a mess, and I still need help. I just can’t bring myself to do it. My stomach is in knots at the thought of seeing or speaking with my mother, knowing that BSC mother is the one I’ll be dealing with. The idea of possibly creating a similar situation with someone else……I just can’t do that. In fact, I am not only concerned about what I owe her, I am also concerned about what I might owe others who have stepped forward to help me. How am I supposed to know who expects “payment” for what they’ve done for me and who doesn’t?
(FYI, that is a real question, so if anyone has an answer I’d love to hear it.)
For now, I’ll be pondering how to deal with BSC mother, which I’ll have to do soon. And honestly, what I’d really like to do right now, is throw my surfboard in my car and run away. I’m really good at running away. In fact, I’d call it one of my greatest skills, a skill I developed in response to BSC behavior. This is, unfortunately, going to turn into a “learning” situation, because I have to face her.
So, if you see me throwing up, you’ll know I’m on my way to my 1st encounter with BSC. Ughhh…