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The Blame

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm going to say something here that might be a little controversial, but I know I'm right, so I'm going to say it anyway:

I am not 100% responsible for my obesity.

Yes, I am the one who snuck cookies into my room as a child, and I am the one who ate two dinners some nights in university because no one was watching, and I am the one who swore from here to Sunday that I would NEVER enjoy exercise because it just wasn't my thing.

But there are MANY other people who have contributed to my weight problems, self-image issues, and food addiction throughout my life - and so I'm taking a stand right here and now to say that THIS IS NOT ALL MY FAULT!

So many of us have heard so many negative comments about us - whether it be the mean-spirited kids on the playground, or the teenage kids at the mall, or even the comment that you weren't meant to overhear from a colleague at work. But the most painful comments are the ones that come from the people we love. The comments that are made "for your own good" or "because we love you". The comments that make you feel guilty for being angry about them because maybe, just maybe they're right. Or maybe they're not. Maybe things are said, actions happen, or the people that you love behave the way they do because they too are hurting and acting out their hurt on us is the only way to make themselves feel better. I've had a lot of that in my life - being the scapegoat at the bottom of the totem pole. But the buck stops here. And here's where I start pointing fingers.

I will preface all of this by saying that I have a wonderful family. My parents are still together after 39 years of marriage. They have loved me endlessly and wholly for each and every one of my 29 years. My living grandparents are still together and have been so supportive of me growing up. My brothers are awesome individuals. I am envious of their awesomeness on a regular basis. My aunts and uncles and cousins are all very close and loving and I miss them so much being a long way away. But my decision to move away was for me. And it's a decision I had to make because living at home (or close to it) was making me very, very sick. I am an incredibly lucky person to have all the love that I have in my life. But until I started making changes for myself, I could not love me - and all of the love in the world from other people will not make up that missing piece.

So here we go: I blame my mother, in part, for my obesity.

I had a very tough phone call with mom last week. When I called I was expecting to talk to my father, so when she picked up the phone I was surprised and unguarded (as I normally have to be to have a conversation with her since she has subtle but powerful ways of getting to me if I'm unprepared). The conversation got into a territory that I am uncomfortable with - she was asking me a lot of personal questions, making vast assumptions about my life in Chicago, and threatening an uninvited and unexpected visit. I was rendered speechless - which doesn't often happen with me. Then the topic of conversation switched, very suddenly, to my upbringing and how well I have managed to do for myself and how amazed she is with me and how well I turned out. She went on to say that I have continuously overcome obstacles and that the majority of those obstacles were from her, since she has opposed most of my bigger decisions in life - my choice of school, my choice of career, my choice of men, and my decision to move to Chicago - she was absolutely, steadfast and firmly against all of them, and voiced her opinions about all of them on a number of occasions throughout my youth. Odd - maybe, but I know at this point that she was fishing for a compliment - wanting me to thank her for my good, solid upbringing - to tell her that all those years of tough love must have paid off. But at this point in the phone call I was, quite frankly, pissed off. So instead of giving her the one thing that she truly desired at that point, I turned the tables back on her and asked if this was her giving me an apology. Now it was her turn to be speechless. She changed the conversation and we finally ended the phone call.

The next day I received an email from her. I only got through the first 2 lines of it before I realized the tone of it and deleted it before it could hurt me any deeper. I should have known better. I knew her reaction to my request for an apology would not go unmentioned again. Of the 2 lines that I did read, she criticized me openly for my audacity to ask her for anything and questioned why her love for 30 years of my life wasn't enough. I never responded. I didn't feel that an email of that tone warranted a response from me. I didn't get the answer from her that I wanted/needed, but in hindsight, I got the one that I expected.

Now without knowing the full context of the relationship between me and my mother, it might be hard for anyone reading this blog to fully understand what the problem is. But ultimately, the point of this blog is not to help anyone understand our relationship. The point of this blog is to understand that I share the blame for being fat. My mother's inability to see me as a complete and separate, individual and whole person from herself has lead me to literally become larger than life just to feel like I exist. She cannot give me an apology for things that have happened in our past because she honestly believes that she has done nothing wrong. But were I a complete and separate, individual and whole being - were I a person that existed outside of her sphere, she would never have done the things to that person that were done to me. She never would have said the things that she has said. And had she done or said those things to that complete and separate, individual and whole person - she would most certainly apologize. My mother is a loving and giving and gracious person. If she knew that she hurt a person the way she has hurt me, she WOULD apologize. But right now, she can not apologize to me, because I am not done becoming a complete and separate, individual and whole person - without her.

That's why I am here. That's why I am working every single day to love and understand and accept myself. That's why I am learning as much as I can and laughing, and crying, and feeling - MY feelings, MY emotions - NOT my mother's. For so many years I have lived FOR her. And I can't do it anymore.

For all the mothers who will read this - PLEASE KNOW - we (your children) love you so hard. We love you enough to sacrifice ourselves when we see that you are unhappy. We love you so much that we will refuse our own natural tendencies if it's something we think you want. We will thrive for you, achieve for you, and flounder with you if you let us. But at some point the child HAS to leave. It is human nature. And it is your job to let us go - as hard as that might be. It doesn't mean we don't love you. It doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt us just as much to sever the ties as it hurts you (though we'll pretend it doesn't). But we need to become our own people, and we desperately need your support to do that. Otherwise, we start to deteriorate. We shrivel up inside and expand outside to make up the difference. We become lonely and timid and start to believe that the only person in the world who loves us and understands us is you - because that is the way you made us.

Though she will likely never read this, I am hoping that some day I will have the courage to have this conversation with my mother. I know that I will not be able to complete my transformation until it happens and that terrifies me. But at the same time, I'm ready. I want her to know how much I love her - even though I already make a point of telling her all the time. I want her to know how bad I feel for her that her own life is so small that she needed to have mine too to feel full. I want her to know how hard it has been for me to systematically pull myself away from her to make myself whole. I want her to know my pain, though I have a feeling she already does and that is why she does the things and says the things she does sometimes. But most of all I want her to know that it's NEVER too late to have what she wants for herself. I wouldn't be who I am today had I not learned from an incredibly talented, beautiful, caring and loving individual like her. I just wish she didn't need me to know that about herself.

I'm done blaming people for today. I'm ready to accept my own responsibility again. After all - my mother never tied me to the dinner table and forced me to eat - I did that all on my own. But she shares in this weight. And knowing that this isn't ALL my fault, makes me feel just that much lighter. It's ok to be angry. We have to get angry sometimes to heal. It's all part of the process. I might blame someone else tomorrow (stay tuned, because I probably will) - but my own tears just from having written this today have cleansed the hurt I was feeling. She's too far away to hug in person - but right now I'm hugging my mother in spirit. And that makes it all better.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MMS354
    Wow. Really powerful blog. And so true! Although my mother issues aren't nearly as extreme as yours, I know EXACTLY what you're going through. Funny, I've been writing a momblog in my head for the last week or so but am too chicken to write it down (for fear of discovery because apparently I'm an 8 year old kid, not a 38 year-old woman - ha ha).
    2761 days ago
    I got my own mother issues (which are far more complex and subtle than my father issues) which I am still trying to deal with and understand (I'm 41!) and I have been very careful to NOT put any of that crap onto my own children - although they get it from her too... at least I am there as a buffer and can immediately correct her or put her straight if she strays into guilt/blame/comparison territory.

    Thanks for sharing this... parents eh?
    2762 days ago
    Wow- Very deep. I think it's IMPORTANT for one to separate themselves in order to LIVE the life that YOU want and deserve. I hope you surround yourself with support and positive love so you can be ALL YOU CAN!!! Thanks for sharing! emoticon
    2764 days ago
    I have no words other than to say thank you.
    2764 days ago
    I will accept and reject everything you have said!!!

    Why to I take such a strange position?

    It is quite simple, if we accept complete an sole responsibility for all that happens to us, then we are in the power seat. If we are the entire cause of our unfortunate situations, then we are also the entire solution to them.

    If we can pretend that the beginning and the end of our problems lies with in the domain that we control then everything becomes ours own to manage, and at the same time, everything is manageable by us.

    If at the same time we can know that we are not solely responsible, and perhaps not even partly responsible, then we can dump any self blame. This is something I learned long ago, we talked about it as “both and/or logic”. It involves being able to hold two opposite and mutually exclusive premises to be true depending on which was going to be effective in a give situation, or for a given goal.

    So if we accept that we put on weight, we over eat, we do not do what we know we should do because of our choices, then we can make new choices and decisions, we are suddenly completely powerful. If at the same time we can accept that much of where we have arrived are accidents of genetics and environment, then we will waist little time living in self blame or guilt.

    So I start out by accepting and rejecting everything, so I can model a way of thinking that I have learned can be very powerful for outcome generation. If you pretend that everything is your own doing, then you can say, so if that is true, what am I going to do to change it. It is surprising how often this type of think will lead to clear concrete and do able steps to change things.

    2764 days ago
    " We shrivel up inside and expand outside to make up the difference." Wow. Just wow. You can write the heck out of a sentence. Speechless....

    I get it. I remember asking my mother for an apology after I graduated from college. She couldn't understand why - needless to say, I never got it. Trust me when I say - I so get it.

    I am constantly awed by your strength and the sheer power of your beauty and your fierceness. I am awed. Deleting that email is just one example. Go diva - go on with your bad self.

    You can do and be and say and think whatever the heck you want and I will support you. That is all.

    Battle on!
    2764 days ago
    Ah, family. Our relationships with them are always complicated. For me it's my dad and not my mom that I have issues with, but I completely empathize. I also commend you on your maturity, ability to recognize the problem, and forgive.

    My dad has always played severe favorites with his only son. To the point that he nearly ruined my wedding with it. (Yeah, seriously.) You can imagine my hurt. But talking to him does no good; it's like we're from different planets. My sister, however, knew how angry I was and also has a knack of explaining other people's emotions to my dad. (This can be really tough because he has mild Asburger's.) Her chat worked to the extent that his behavior was impeccable at the wedding reception. That went a long way to healing the hurt. I know he loves me. He just doesn't know how to relate to me. It sounds like that's part of your mom's problem, too.

    And yes, we do ultimately have to take responsibility for our own actions. But no one is an island: we live in an interdependent web. Everything we do is informed by other people. So sometimes others have to take part of the blame for our actions or situations. And it's eminently fair to point the finger at your mom.


    I'm glad you're feeling better.
    2767 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this, as a mom it was important for me to read this, and also as a daughter. emoticon
    2767 days ago
    I really enjoy reading your blogs. You have such honest insight, and true accountability. What a strong person you are.

    You did not even have to explain in detail the nature of your relationship with your mother, because I can totally understand it. All I can say is, love just is not enough. To make a long story short, after a stupid issue with my mother a few years ago, I finally realized that I had to accept her for what she was, what she was and was not willing to give, and what it really takes to be in her good graces. It is sad but I have been waiting for 40 years for her to be something she is never going to be, and once I finally accepted this I felt a so much better. I could go on, and on, but I just can really feel what you are saying, and it is so important to put the pieces of the past together to move on in the future!

    Kudos to you, and I look forward to more of your has really helped me!!

    2767 days ago
    Wonderful blog, as always. I am so IMPRESSED that you deleted that email without reading the whole thing. Considering the sort of power and sway our mothers have over us, it's amazing to me that you had the strength to say "no, I won't let her make me feel that way." And I think you're so brave to have struck out on your own! You've made great strides so just keep moving forward!
    2768 days ago
  • WYND10
    You're so right Jenn. The people we love can drive the knife in and twist like no others, and usually they have no idea what they are doing. I love that you can place the blame but not let it make you angry or take away the love you have for your mother. This is a beautiful and heart wrenching blog. Thank you for writing it.

    I hope that you and your Mom find your way toward understanding together. It might not happen right away, but I think it will happen.

    And never forget your beautiful, amazing, talented and holy crap strong.

    2768 days ago
    It's complicated its it?! It doesn't have to be but it is.
    I think you said it best here, "But the most painful comments are the ones that come from the people we love."
    You're a brave, beautiful, and loving woman. When the time is right speak your mind even when your voice shakes.
    I agree, "I am not 100% responsible for my obesity." And some of your childhood, as stated in your blog, reflects so much of mine. Years past, with the help of my wonderful therapist I found my own strength. I found myself and I started to heal. As a child I couldn't cope so I ate & I cried. As an adult I cope & I still cry.

    Be you! Do you! Continue to be fabulous and continue to cleanse your heart and soul.


    2768 days ago
    Hugs and tears for & with you my dear. I too know this feeling about Momma...I WAS fortunate enough to be able to sit down with her and have the talk that we had needed to have for 24 years...I weighed 29 pounds when I was 9 months old..I had my stomach stapled when I was 14...oh yeah been through every diet & diet system known to man & mother...I finally (like you) realized that it wasn't ALL my fault...I mean, come on, less than a year old and weighing almost 30 pounds...we got a lot straightened out that wasn't a simple one or two hour talk...lots of crying and contemplating between sessions of baring our souls and each of us placing and taking blame.
    I applaud you for your courage..I know how much it takes to stand up to your parents...even when it is right & necessary. My angels be upon you and continue to guide your words, thought and deeds.
    2769 days ago
    I totally get where you are coming from. My relationship with my mother was much the same. I never truly understood her until about 5 years before I lost her. I took her in after my father died and she lived with us for about 10 years. My mother never learned how to drive so I didn't want to leave her living alone. Hopefully someday you and your mother will develop a relationship but it takes a long time to get over the pain.
    2769 days ago
    I, too, have had issues with my mom, so I can definitely understand where you're coming from. Concentrate on taking care of yourself--treat yourself with as much kindness as you would treat those you love. emoticon
    2769 days ago
    I think you should print this blog and sit down with your mom and have a heart to heart. My mom is 82 and she deep fried everything. She did not push to eat the veges. Dad (God rest his soul) has been gone now for 5 years. Every Friday night he would stop at the store and buy soda, icecream, candy bars. His treat to us! Did they know they were teaching us bad habits, no they thought they were loving us. My mom was taught how to cook the way she did by her mom. I don't blame them one bit. I grew up overweight, had no friends, no self-esteem, quit high school. No childhood sweethearts. It wasn't until I went and got my GED at 17, my drivers license and my first job, that I realized on my own that I was a somebody and then took control of my body. Sure I've had ups and downs, gained weight way to many pounds when I was pregnant for my son. I'm not going to blame him because I ate to many oreos. But, again it was I who faced the fact that I am in control of my life and only I can fix anything about myself that I'm not happy with. Through my life I've openly spoke to my mom and although there were times of negativity from her, we still kept open lines of communication - if she was negative I would tell her how I felt. Sometimes mom's say things they don't realize are hurtful and are really just trying to help. I've found sometimes I do the same with my own son and have to step back and apologize and explain how much I love him and that I just worry about him. So, again, I say have a heart to heart with mom. I wish you both much happiness as mom and daughter.
    2769 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/17/2010 7:06:14 PM
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