Happy 59th Birthday, Mom

Subject: Happy 59th Birthday, Mom
From: Sarah
Date: 26 Apr 2022

Happy birthday, Mom,

Hope you have been well. Your mother says that you’re still being a total b*tch to her. I don’t really know anything about your dynamic. I just like filing information away. This is probably not the best way to start a letter ...

Your youngest seems to be thriving! She got that boss lady tat down her spine and appears well adjusted: Healthy body image, healthy lifestyle, good school, good grades, grounded yet optimistic outlook on life. Looks like you did a great job, and she’s been doing a wonderful job too. Though, it’s not really my place to judge your parenting (or anything about you really).

Came across an open letter site (what an interesting genre). Thought about posting there. Really, I secretly wanted to find a letter from you (or someone I could pretend was you). I was willing to accept almost anything it might say.

Whenever I read posts in online forums from mothers of children with BPD, I imagine you saying the same things, having the same sentiments... y’know, about how you broke the cycle of abuse by going no contact. I think that I’m fine with being a monster you can conquer. (I’ll happily cheer for you!) What I really have difficulty with is the thought of being nothing to you at all.

I’m sorry that you were scared of me when you and your ex were going through the divorce and he threatened to contact me. You know, I’m not actually the sort of person who believes in parental alienation. I wouldn’t ever intentionally jeopardize your relationship with your daughter.

I often think about you...I’ve grieved you in myriad bizarre ways. I think that I understand the extent of my toxicity and why it’s best for us not to communicate with each other. I think that at this point you’re so mythologized I might not be able to humanize you again. You range in my head from an awe-inspiring Kali to a sweet little girl I just want to take care of. I get that you're so much more than the caricatures I invent for self-torment. I’m just performing my discourse with grief.

I’m sad that you made your Insta and TikTok private. I’ve been going crazy trying to figure out why. I hope that it wasn’t me (I know I'm not the centre of the universe but I still worry). I’m a pretty harmless spectator...I hope. It aggravates me to think that my silent presence might cause you discomfort. I liked what you were doing with your social activism – being an ally, providing a platform for marginalized voices and all that.

Um, I don’t know if I left all of those years ago because of paranoia. I was worried (convinced) that you were conspiring to place me in another treatment centre. I mean, I understand that you had few options, but the institutionalization? It didn’t really sit well with me. I guess I see how sick I was (am) now and it generates a lot of questions that I’ll probably never be brave enough to find the answers for. I feel almost perpetually apologetic and I know that my continued maladaptive behaviours and distorted thoughts weaponize the contrition in this paralyzing sort of way. (Maybe I should stop focusing on my feelings of impotence, and instead try to do something about them? I mean, it's not all bad all the time, but I've been slipping a bit lately.)

Anyway, I’ll probably never stop wanting to be close to you and I accept that. I accept that my mourning for you got conflated with this problematic brand of perversity that isn't so easy to shed. I accept you. I respect but dislike your wish for me to leave you alone...which is the clear and consistent directive you’ve given me over the years.

I wish you the best for your 59th birthday, your fast-approaching retirement, your trip overseas, your studies, and your search for a partner.