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It's about me, not you!

by Lilly Cooper 6 days ago in Family · updated 6 days ago

I think my therapist swallowed a thesaurus

Photo Credit: @ladylee1313 Lee Hunter

Dear Mum,

Here we are again. Two journals filled and counting! When Julie, you know, that therapist I’ve been seeing for the past couple of years (thanks to growing up with a challenging mother like yourself, the one you said was a complete waste of my time and money, why do I need a therapist, there’s nothing wrong with me outside of the fact that I just don’t listen to you enough!) suggested I write in a journal and get off my chest all the things I tend to say that just aren’t helpful and usually end up with you looking bewildered and wounded and me wanting to beat my head against a brick wall, I don’t think either of us thought I would be quite so prolific. She says it helps me deal with my ‘grievances’ in a more ‘constructive’ way. According to her and her fancy doctorate, sarcasm and gentle self-loathing are not overly ‘mentally hygienic’. Honestly Mum, she sounds ALOT like you when you haughtily remind me that “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”. The primary difference between the two of you is that her judgement and condescension cost me money while yours costs me my self-esteem.

To be fair as much as I complain, sessions with Julie have been good for me. Obviously not my bank balance. Though it’s been great for hers. She has a new Tesla I think I have shares in. I feel like I can take your compliments that aren't really complimentary with a little more grace these days. Like when you commented on the dress I wore to Cousin Maree’s wedding telling me it was lovely, but definitely Sally’s elegant style rather than my usual fashion choice, had I borrowed it from my sister? Normally I’d snipe back with sarcasm. Yes Mum, I borrowed it from my far more competent younger sister. Your outfit is interesting. Did you take inspiration from the bag lady living in the park across the road? Instead, I smiled, said "thank you" and sang a little Tay-Tay, “Haters gunna' Hate” in my head.

That is another of Julie’s techniques for ‘positive mental hygiene’. Instead of fixating on the ‘provocative co-occurrence’ that set off my ‘psychogenic exigency’, I say something that is ‘pacificative motivated’ and sing a song in my head to ‘deflect from vexative contemplation’. Honestly, after a session with her, I sit in my car and look up what all those words mean! And I suspect she invents a whole bunch of those terms. I have a sneaking suspicion she is writing a book. Pacificative and vexative ARN'T EVEN A REAL WORDS! Anyway, this isn’t about Julie, it’s about you. I mean, me. This is one of the few times that brush off "it's not you, it's me" is actually not some lame excuse. I put in the effort (and the deposit for a car I'm not sure the dealer would even let me test drive) so I can feel better. And the fancy word mumbo-jumbo works. After all, when was the last time I retaliated with something that meant Dad had to smooth things over and ask me to apologise for our latest disagreement? Poor Dad. It was because of him I chose to see a therapist. It was so hard for him to have to act as a mediator between two people he loves.

As part of my journal therapy, Julie has set me a task. She says part of my ‘positive constructive self-transformation’ is to ‘ascertain comprehension of egalitarianism’. Honestly, I’ve reached a point where her silly psych terms are actually really amusing. I can't wait to hear what she tops it with next week! And that last word. Not made up. It’s real. I can’t even pronounce that one! It means taking the view that all people are equal and deserve equal opportunities and rights. Apparently, what Julie was saying with that complicated jumble of words is to reconcile with you it’s important I understand that we all have our little issues. And to do that, I have to acknowledge something I’ve done that challenged your positive mental hygiene. Sigh, I'm starting to sound like her!

Do you remember when I was 17 and you grounded me after your favourite rose bush as annihilated? We had an argument in the morning about something stupid, I don’t even remember what it was. I shouted at you that you were ruining my life and stormed off to school. When you got home after work, the roses were all gone. Of course, you thought I did it out of spite. You were so mad at me, you grounded me for a month. I missed my best friend’s birthday party. I didn’t talk to you for a long time.

I found out much later it was actually Sally. My little sister was always doing daft stuff I got the dubious credit for. She had told a boy she was trying to impress that he could take all the flowers he wanted from our garden because he had no money for a gift for his mother’s birthday. And of course, it helped Sally was keen on him. Ahh, young love. She dated him for about 6 months before he broke it off to go out with her best friend. Who earned the title of former best friend with a speed only teens are capable of. So, I know she felt pretty awful. I didn’t hold it against her when I found out I’d taken her punishment, she had suffered enough.

At this point, if I were actually telling you this story Mum, you would have already interrupted me to say you wish I’d put on a little make-up sometimes because some of us just aren’t as blessed with the natural good colouring or to tell me how you saw the mall has Stylist who can completely remake my look! Actually, in context of a confessional you’d have pointed out that so far, I've just been tattling on my sister, not making a confession. But I’m getting to that.

For Mother’s Day the year before, Sally and I had pooled our money from six months of after school jobs and with Dad’s help, we bought that beautiful diamond ring you had been eyeing. You adored it. And then you lost it.

Or more to the point, you think you did. You took it off to clean the kitchen and forgot to put it back on. Honestly Mum, sometimes you can be so absent minded. I was still so mad at you for making me miss Tanya’s birthday party, I took your ring and I hid it. I had intended to just keep it hidden until I felt that justice had been served. Apparently I take after you though. I completely forgot where I’d hidden it! I found the ring wrapped up in a top you never liked me wearing five years later when I was unpacking in my first apartment.

I couldn’t return it after all that time. You and Dad had moved house too, so hiding it somewhere it could miraculously reappear when you weren't looking wasn't an option, I’d have had to fess up to what I’d done. I was NOT doing that. So I did the only thing a guilt ridden adult child could do. I had it turned into those earrings of mine you like so much. Ironic that they are the only ones you ever compliment me on.

You know what Mum? I think Julie is right. I feel much better for getting that off my chest. And I feel like the take home lesson here is maybe I should cut you some slack and stop expecting so much of you. Mums are human too. You are going to make mistakes. And as much as our relationship can be strained by comments I swear you must know are provocative, you aren’t the only one who is imperfect.

I might feel better, but I’m not crazy. I’m glad to have been able to confess my crime, but I am also super glad you are a journal!

Family

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Lilly Cooper

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