Saturday, 10 October 2015

The fierceness of mother-love

Tough to see your adult child in the depths of emotional anguish and despair. Tough to see your husband crumple from feeling that child's pain too keenly.

Once holding up this child-in-a-man's-body, flesh of my flesh, to keep him from slipping below the waters of self-annihilation, I am robust. I know how to do this - not a rescuer as such, more a survival aid while waiting and waiting and waiting. Perhaps the tide will slowly go out, and out-of-depth will gradually become supportable, breathing on tip-toe. There is no big rescue coming - I'm just waiting with him for the cycle to turn. It's the most important thing in my whole world. This is my meaning, my purpose. It defines me.

Earlier, the panic of no-contact - the horrible imaginings threatening to overwhelm me: "what if I stay - here, at work, all normal - and all the time he's in his flat dead or dying. What if he can't bear the pain, and can't bear his own self-loathing?" That's a dark recipe I've glimpsed before and so I cannot just sit by and risk inaction. Whatever happens, I must ACT. A mother must at least try to save her son.

And yes, the imaginings were overly lurid and exaggerated - needless (you might say). But at least they shocked me into action, rather than just waiting and wondering. It was indeed the right thing to do. He needed us, although at first reluctant to accept the help and support, hiding his face - so miserably ashamed.

I have always been a critical person, a person who blames, who judges. But somehow I have learnt to contain those negative, unhelpful words. There is no point - time cannot wind back.. We are where we are.

But it was strange to find my ground shifting as I learnt the true time-line. This cataclysm prompted by a long delayed attack of guilty truth. Poor L, having this dumped on her. Poor G - tricked by the myth of honesty, shifting his sense of toxic guilt (unable to bear to carry it any longer), to his poor partner's shattering of trust, destroying her happiness, their future - everything. No way back - no forgiveness. She cannot bear this cruel truth. He should have kept it inside, and carried that as his punishment, his thorn for ever. (ironic to suggest that deception can be a gift of love, but I honestly think it can be. If you truly know it was a one-off aberration, hold that shame and guilt as your punishment and DO NOT TELL - because the pain you will cause to the other person to relieve yourself of that discomfort is uncalled for and cruel) Ah, but 'should've',  'could've' - pointless words. And I know that many would claim that what I'm advocating is a dangerous policy - ie when I suggest it's better to keep such a secret for ever. But such is my sincerely held view, despite the risk of the toxicity and the risk of eventually losing everything at some later point if the truth somehow leaks out - perhaps from another source.

 (NB Point of info: I don't have a personal instance - there hasn't been some dark deed of betrayal or infidelity that I've chosen not to disclose to B.... but by the same token, I did have a couple of wobbles over the years - not acted upon as such, but still flutterings - and I definitely did NOT think that 'truth' was the be-all and end-all. I did not disclose, and I just dealt with it. And there is also stuff deep down in my past that - if I chose to let it define me. and if I chose to share it, would damage how my nearest and dearest thought of me and possibly how they felt about me. So that stuff stays well under wraps - believe me!

G still did a terrible thing - horrendous. It was 9 months ago and to me (but not to L) it somehow seems potentially forgiveable....and yet clearly it's not (not to her, not now, not yet.....probably not ever - that hankering for a glimmer of hope is a torture; but also perhaps the only thing - for now - that will persuade G to just cling on one day at a time. And in time, when that glimmer fades, perhaps he will have grown strong enough to bear it).

Foolish boy - he must have known (surely) what the truth was going to cost him? But there's that part of him that thinks she is better off without him, yet is still desperate at the thought of losing her. Then mixed with that, the naive hope that he could confess and be forgiven - mistaking a partner's love for the (mythical) divine, or just with the parental unconditional kind

 (Aside: what would it take for me to stop loving either of my sons? Is there anything they could do that would stop that? We know that the relationship - the love - between children and parents (and vice versa) DOES break down. It is not immune. But as for me and mine, I cannot imagine anything - and I hope that is never put to the test)

We all talk blithely about unconditional love as a lofty thing: "no matter what you do, I will always love you". Separation of the person and the unacceptable deed comes with this idea. To love the person but hate the sin (that's the old style theology) But surely the problem is that an action is part of what defines who a person is - and (in this case) the one BIG and TERRIBLE action blanks out all and every good bit.

So, what of unforgiveable actions? End-of-all sins, with no way back? If forgiveness is ever even a prospect in such cases, that doesn't end the matter - in the sense of winding back the clock as if it never happened; but how then to cope with the scars without the bitterness and anger of being wronged continuing to poison and eat you up? Forgiveness, but still justice, still sensible self-protection by  the person who has been wronged (not 'yeah, why not slap me on the other cheek too': but NB - that bible story had more subtlety buried in its often misunderstood imagery - not as wimpy as it sounds; more a cunning lure by the victim of the evil-doer to condemn themselves by taking the step that will expose them, or to realise what they've already done and repent).

Forgiveness cannot be a cheap free pass. The wrong-doer must work through and for the atonement (at-one- ment).  By very definition, that is conditional, not unconditional. The more human psychology of the roman catholic habit of the confessional, and the making palpable of contrition by (for example) saying 3 Hail Marys. It seems so trite though - so easy to become a slot-machine approach. Sin, say 'sorry', get told what the price is going to be, pay the 3 'Hail Mary' coins and get your (easy) absolution. And repeat. Yuck!  (and yes, I know it's not quite like that - the Priest gives the absolution but then attaches the strings - 'go and show you meant it when you said sorry by doing x y z' - otherwise (presumably - since the sincerity of the repentance is all important) the absolution becomes null and void.

And - back to the human, secular realm of wrongs and forgiveness -  on the other side, the victim of any terrible act  - where forgiveness is more a letting go in one's own self-interest - to avoid the ongoing pain of holding on to the anger, bitterness etc.

I suspect that mixed with the sense of betrayal, the rage, the heartbroken smashing up of everything, is pride. There would be such a sense of exposing oneself to future disrespect if this infidelity were 'got over'. I am torn here. Like women who allow themselves to be persuaded by serial domestic abusers, when they promise to reform, it can be foolish to allow someone a second chance. At some point, the line in the sand has to be absolute - otherwise another line and then another will be crossed - and then where will you be?

But. on the other hand, putting someone on 'probation' - ahort or long-term - as a conditional chance to show that this was truly a one-off aberration?... For goodness sake, these youngsters have grown and changed SO much over the last few years! Even the G of back 9 months ago isn't the same G as now. And there is so much good that could be salvaged - if only, if only, if only.....

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses
and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

No comments:

Post a Comment