It’s been over two years since I cut my mom out of my life.
I’m not writing this in any way to speak badly of her. I’m at peace with where our relationship lies. I’m writing this because I want you to find peace too.
Cutting toxic people out of our lives is not a new subject, but it’s one generally reserved for douchey guys and manipulative friends. It’s not something that often crosses one’s mind with a parent.
When I tell someone I’m not on speaking terms with my mom, I’m met with a raised eyebrow or incredulous questions. How can a child abandon the mother that brought them into the world, who raised them?
My mom and I haven’t had a good relationship since I was a child. She’s an alcoholic, and for a long time, I thought my problems with her stemmed from that. She was a different person when she was drunk. She and my dad fought constantly. She and I would get in screaming matches. She was verbally abusive. As a teenager, I fixated on the alcohol. If she just stopped drinking, our problems would be over.
She and my dad got divorced when I was 16. I moved out of her house and blocked her on my phone and social media for the first time several months later. It didn’t last more than a few weeks. My sister and I finally moved in with my dad for good the next year.
When I wasn’t around her on a daily basis, I began to see that though her addiction didn’t help the situation, it wasn’t the route of our problems. She was paranoid. She always played the victim. She was incapable of taking ownership of any of her actions.
On and off over the years we’d get into big fights and I’d temporarily cut her off. She moved to California, and then Oregon. Our contact was limited to texts, phone calls and visits a few times a year.
The visits predictably always ended badly, with a scene at a restaurant, tearful phone calls home, horrible words hurled back and forth, memories of the past dredged up.
It wasn’t all bad. There were good phone calls and fun visits, but I felt that any time I’d let my guard down and talk to her about my life, my hopes, my aspirations, they’d be filed away to use as ammunition later.
We didn’t see eye to eye on our beliefs, she couldn’t respect that my dad and I had a good relationship and she refused to be my friend, maintaining that she was always first and foremost my mother and that gave her the right to judge my life.
I’d lost all respect for her long ago. I didn’t particularly like her. What kept me yoyo-ing back to her again and again was a Stockholm-like duty to have her in my life because she was my mother and the memories of a woman who was my best friend in childhood.
In April of 2017, I had a work trip that brought me to Seattle. For whatever reason, it had been a very good year or so for my mom and I. Our relationship was superficial at best - I’d learned not to share anything too deep with her, but we’d avoided a knock-down, drag-out fight for over a year. I invited her to come join me for a long weekend, and brought my sister out as well.
It quickly dissolved into chaos. It was one of the most miserable three days of my entire life. I was spun back into life as trapped and helpless 15 year old. My sister was having debilitating panic attacks.
When I got home, I vowed to never put myself in that situation again.
A week later, Topher proposed to me. To avoid hurting any feelings, or spending the entire day on the phone, I texted all my closest family and friends a picture of my ring.
My mom didn’t get the picture and found out the next day on Facebook. She was livid. Instead of being happy for me, she accused me of photoshopping the screenshot I sent her, proving I did send the picture. She told me, “If this is what you really want, I suppose I’m happy for you.”
I blocked her that day on everything.
The next few months were some of the toughest of my life.
I cried. A lot.
Day by day, minute by minute, I wavered.
She was my mom, I wanted her at my wedding, didn’t I?
No, she’d hurt me over and over again and I didn’t want to move into the next phase of my life with that weight on my chest.
I sent her a letter explaining why I was hurt.
I called her on her birthday, which was several months later. I don’t know what I expected. Her to beg for my forgiveness? To admit that she was wrong? All I really wanted was an apology.
She was completely unapologetic. She told me she’d come to peace with the past. That she’d realized we’d all played an equal part in the divorce.
I hung up and haven’t spoken to her since.
She didn’t get invited to my wedding. I cried on the way to the venue and thought about calling her. I didn’t.
Not talking to my mom has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it’s also been the most freeing.
I’ve had to learn that being selfish is not a bad thing. My relationship with my mom was toxic. Toxic things aren’t prone to isolating themselves. They leech into every part of your life and color it.
The ripples from my mom and I’s relationship were keeping me from being the best wife I could be, the best friend I could be, the best daughter and sister I could be. It was making me anxious and angry. It was clouding who I was in every facet of my life. I was letting my mom control my emotions.
In the last two years, I have grown so much. I’ve become more aware. I’ve become more conscious. I’ve searched out a life I love for myself. I’ve found my tribe. I am happy.
I still love my mom. I don’t know if we’ll ever talk again. If we do, I know that it will take a lot of work.
In the words of Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t spark joy, let that shit go (okay, okay, I paraphrase).
I’m not saying block every person that’s currently driving you crazy. But I am saying that it’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to really analyze the people in your life. Are they a positive light? Better yet, are you a positive light on their life?
I have to imagine my presence in my mom’s life was just as toxic as hers in mine.
We all go through phases. Sometimes, you won’t be as close to a friend or a sibling or a parent. Sometimes you’ll fight. But when those times happen, dig deep. Is there something there worth fighting for? Or are you grasping at the mist of what once was?
Just because you share blood with someone, or have known them forever doesn’t mean you are obligated to have them in your life
My stepmom asked me, as I was putting on my wedding dress, if I wanted to call my mom. My childhood best friend had taken me aside thirty minutes earlier to ask the same question.
Fight fiercely for those relationships that mean something to you. Fall on your sword. Apologize. Go above and beyond. Chase them to the airport. Call them when it’s hard. Make every conceivable effort if it’s worth it.
If it’s your boyfriend that everyone else hates. If it’s that friend who’s hurt you. If it’s your mom who’s made mistakes.
God knows I spent 15 years fighting.
But when nothing’s left, it’s time to fight for yourself. Even when it’s scary. Even when it’s hard. Even when you burst into tears in the grocery store for no reason and want to break down and text her.
Fight for your life. Because when there’s someone toxic in your life, they are going to ruin it. You will never be free and you will never be at peace until you cut them out.
So, here is the permission you didn’t need. Be brave. Be at peace.