Best [Blank] in the World

My husband and I visited my mother the other day at her apartment in the city. It’s small, dingy, and fairly empty inside. It reeks of smoke. We have a seat on the lone living room couch and are having ourselves some small talk. Then I see it. Up on the wall, next to the T.V. There are three framed pink certificates. Quite ornate and very official-looking. I squint my eyes and look harder, trying to read what they say. I see the word “Lover”, panic a little, and avert my eyes. I continue my conversation with my mother while stealthily peaking back up at the center certificate and look away again in horror. I glance at my husband. Yes, he’s staring right at it, unable to turn away. So I just go ahead and put it out there.

“So, uhh, mom, I see you have been awarded a very prestigious award” I say.

“Heh?” she says.

“Best Lover in the World” I respond. “In the WORLD. Wow. What’s the, uh, criteria for something like that, eh?”

“Oh” she laughs, embarrassed. “My girlfriend made me those.” (YES, the girlfriend she is referring to is the same one referenced in Engaged Against Her Will).

“Wow. That. Is. Immmpressive. Best lover in the world.” To my husband I ask, “Where’s my certificate? Certainly, I’m the best in the world at something?” Wink, wink. He responds with awkward laughter. I ask my mom, “How is she these days, your girlfriend? How’s that going? I’m guessing pretty well, judging by the certificate?”

She says “Oh, you know, the usual… we break up, we get back together, fight, break up, get back together, I call the cops on her and get her arrested…”

“Say what?” I ask, interrupting. “What was that last piece you said?”

She proceeds to then tell me the story of the last time they had broken up. Her girlfriend was upset, drunk, and trying to get my mom to let her into the apartment. My mother refused to let her in, so her girlfriend banged on the doors and windows and yelled and cursed for hours until eventually busting one of her windows. So my mom had her arrested. But then, she thought about it and decided that her girlfriend must really love her a lot to have spent all those hours banging and yelling at her door. So they are back together now. You know. The usual relationship stuff.

Later, I think to myself- best lover in the world? Good for her. At least she has that. Because she definitely doesn’t win the “Best Mother in the World” award. But then, I immediately feel like an ass for having that super snarky thought. I’m still working through some of my anger and resentment I feel toward her (see Blood on My Hands).

I’m certainly not the “Best Daughter in the World.” Or the best sister. Or wife. Or anything, really. I beat myself up for not being there for my brother more when his wife took her own life. Over the recent years, I definitely feel like I’ve let all three of my brothers down significantly at various times. I let them down because I was afraid of getting myself hurt again. Or I felt I needed to focus on my own healing or my own relationships. And my brothers looked up to me for support, growing up. I took over the mother-role during our mom’s absence through the years.

So is there actually much of a difference between my mother’s neglect and abandonment and mine in their time of need? I’m not so sure…

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23 responses to “Best [Blank] in the World

  1. I think there’s a big difference. As much as you may feel some kind of obligation to be a Mother figure to your brothers it’s not your responsibility to be that person for them. I don’t know the details but if you feel badly at how you dealt with it perhaps you should tell your brother this, apologize if it’s appropriate and forgive yourself? I know all about mother/abandonment issues and it’s tough, good on you for working on it.

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    • Thank you for your comment. It was a difficult transition for me to go from being the primary caretaker of my brothers growing up to just being their sister. It’s hard to let that feeling of motherly responsibility go, but it’s something that I continue to work on. The forgiving yourself part is the hardest for me, however. I’m thankful to get feedback from others who have been there, like yourself!

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  2. Perhaps one way to think about it (one of many ways I suppose) is to say that all of you simply did the best you could under the circumstances. By that I mean, all people, everywhere are fighting their own personal battles all of the time. The result is that no-one is ever perfect. Everyone just does the best they can within the battles they face. This is true for me, true for you, true for others. I say this because this is the realization that helped me forgive my mother and also myself. I simply accepted that within the personal battles I fought, I did the best I could. I know that what I did (or do) was (is) far, far from perfect, but I accepted my imperfection (eventually). And you know what? Accepting my imperfections feels so much better than the hell I put myself through before I did that. This is my take on it anyhow, I hope it makes some sense.

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    • This. Yes. You hit it right on the head. I’m reading a book right now about the gifts of imperfection, and it’s eye-opening. I think that what you’re saying makes sense, and I’m working to accept my imperfections as you accepted your own. I appreciate your comment. Thank you.

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  3. Just Plain Ol' Vic

    You cannot changed what happened in the past, only focus on the here and now. Don’t beat yourself up about how things were in the past but focus on what you can do now, not only for yourself but also for your family.

    I agree with BrettsFuture that you need to accept yourself for who you are.

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  4. I’m in full agreement with your other commenters. Your post ran true to my own life and it’s the best we can do really. It’s done (thank goodness), we did what we could at the time (yay us!), and we did it under not ideal circumstances (that sucked). All in all, I think you deserve a certificate of your own for being awesome.

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  5. Your mix of raw honesty and humor in this post is engaging. To your question at the end, I think there is a difference. As someone said above, we do the best we can under the circumstances. For that, maybe forgiveness is in order, both for your mom and you. Gosh, looking back, there are so many times I’ve been selfish, not as compassionate as I could’ve been, and just a general all around schmuck. Good news is, that we learn and grow from these experiences, and maybe, one day- if we’re conscientious- we’ll be better people not living in the shadow of our earlier years.

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    • You’re so right on this. The trick is forgiveness – like you said – for the both of us. I think when we withhold that forgiveness and hang onto guilt, we are robbing ourselves of freedom. It keeps us anchored to the past and in many cases allows the person that hurt us to maintain power over us emotionally. And of course, self-forgiveness can be the most difficult. It’s a struggle for me sometimes, but I know that when I achieve that, I feel so much lighter and have so much more energy to face another day. Thank you for sharing your personal insight – very encouraging!

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  6. This is excellent, I laughed out loud a lot. Great blog, too 🙂

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  7. Best Hanging in There? Best Trying? Best Still Standing? Best Realizing Best is Stupid and Life is a Journey Not a Destination?

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  8. I am not sure if this will help, but… you were a child and your mother was responsible for you. And for your brothers. Now your brother are adult (ar at least I guess they are) and it is up to them to make their choices. I know from first-hand experience the feeling, when you want to help people around you, but you do not help yourself. You are the most important thing in your life, as selfish as you can think it is. You cannot help other people, unless you first helped yourself. It is hard lesson and I am struggling with it as well. It hard, I struggle with it as well, but it is truth…

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    • Thank you for your comment. I’m sure many would think that it sounds selfish, but it is the truth. If I had not helped myself first, who knows – I could have made things worse by trying to help them. I recognize that is true. But I still can’t help but feel guilt. That’s the tricky part.

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  9. I feel a LOT better; knowing I’m not the only one. Ironically, I wrote, in http://oysandhallelujahs.wordpress.com/ that there are TOOOO many people (women, mothers) who make the same lousy decisions my mother did.

    Someone else here posted that we have to learn to deal with the past for what it was and move on. I love that advice. A part of me even believes it. But a lot of what people become is about how they were raised. On the other hand, what can we do about it? I think that’s where a lot of bitterness comes from. Things could be better if….. Again, though, what’s accomplished in griping about it? It’s almost a vicious circle. Angry and bitter about the past we can’t do anything about, and bitter because we can’t change it.

    I guess that’s why the Bible talks about not letting a root of bitterness take hold. It’s a waste of time and effort, and sucks the joy out of our lives because we keep picking at the scabs of old wounds, and what does that accomplish, apart from forcing the wound to keep bleeding.

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    • Absolutely. It’s that bitterness, resentment, and withholding forgiveness that really makes life toxic, I think. I think instead of “dealing with the past for what it was and move on”, I’d rather deal/heal/process/forgive the past, and then use that to fuel my passion to help others. Easier said than done, of course. 🙂

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      • So very true. I DO forgive, it’s when my mother mentions this creep (my father) that my fur bristles, as it were. I’m like, “WHY are you going on about someone who used to abuse you?” I would be VERY HAPPY to forget the whole thing, as much as possible, if she would stop talking about him. That’s what completely confuses me. :/ ? My mother is picking at the scabs that I would just as soon let fall off on their own.

        One day, when she mentions him again, I’m just going to ask “WHY?? WHY do you continue to talk about someone who treated you like crap?! HELP ME UNDERSTAND because I just don’t get it. I want to forget him but you won’t let me.”

        Definitely easier said than done, so I’m going to have to get pro-active and DO something. Thanks! 😀

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  10. Don’t fret. You come across as a responsible individual- responsible for her own life and happiness. I salute you. In spite of all the odds, you have done so well.

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