It came in the mail.
A priority envelope… with three envelopes inside.
When my aunt asked for my address, letting me know my mother wanted to send me a Christmas and birthday card (note… the request came in February, well after Christmas and before my March birthday), I predicted most of what I received at the end of March.
“Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday, here’s $200, please speak to me,” I told my sister. She scoffed at the idea of our mother sending me money when I haven’t spoken to her in over a year, outside of returning “Happy [insert holiday]” text messages. But, I was right. The difference is that my sister will always take the money. Why not? She’s got kids to feed, and it’s our mother’s choice how she handles her own financials. I have a history of turning it down. The strings are too tight for me. I never want to hear,
“You can take my money, but not my phone calls?”
I hadn’t predicted that the cards would be hand-drawn. I don’t feel impressed or disappointed in that. It simply… is what came. But, most of all, I was not prepared for the third envelope. Two business size envelopes. Two tri-folded pieces of paper. Hand-drawn card fronts, $100 checks inside each, with a quick note wishing well. One smaller envelope. A tri-folded piece of paper, torn to fit. Black sharpie on simple white paper.
Please may I know what offense I have given?
"PLEASE MAY I KNOW WHAT OFFENSE I HAVE GIVEN?" I could scream these words into the void, they anger me so much. Those words burn with every neuron in my brain, every red blood cell in my body. A whole year, and she has the introspection of a Disney villain. She may as well write,
“Woe is me, my child. What singular moment did you overreact to? I’m sorry you’re so sensitive.”
What makes it even better is hearing that she has decided to start using the Instagram account I set up for her five years ago. And, she takes every story I share about mental illness, abuse, boundaries, or narcissists as being aimed personally at her. If you read something about an abusive person or narcissist or unhealthy acquaintance and you see yourself in it, that should be a clue. Perhaps in that moment, look inward for some little alarm system and consider why you feel called out. But, that’s asking a lot. So, instead, my aunt asked that I start adding, “I know too many of these people,” to assuage her guilty conscience.
I am slowly, slowly, learning to accept and even love myself. I have surrounded myself with caring, supportive people. Not yes people. They’ll call me out in a heartbeat if they feel it’s appropriate or necessary, but they will also openly tell me how much they care about me and enjoy my place in their lives. My Tiktok account is full of people reminding me to relax my jaw, to drink water and take my meds, to love my mind and body and accomplishments and existence.
In leaving my ex-husband, in stopping communication with my mother, in intentionally culling and cultivating my social circles, I have learned that there is plenty of happiness in the world, but it must be chosen. The space for our joy and self-love and healing also requires protection. Boundaries. I may lose more family members. I may be labeled in ways I don’t like or want. But, my mental health and happiness is worth sacrificing for.
So, what did I make with all this? I made art. When I could not see them anymore, I cut the cards and checks up, pinned the strips, and burned them into a flower. I worked on arranging music to work through difficult feelings. I spoke to friends about my struggle. And now, here I am writing this story, clearing it from my brain and breathing it into the world.