"You weren't around for the first eight years of my life"
She said these words at breakfast while reading the paper. The statement was born into the room with the same 'matter of fact-ness' as though she had just commented on the weather. Asperger's does this. She's about the straight up facts, not the emotions. She didn't lift her beautiful blue eyes from the page; to her, this was not shocking or scandalous, it was just her reality. She wasn't laying blame she was just pointing out the obvious.
The words hung in the air and wouldn't float away; couldn't be brushed off. The breakfast activity in the restaurant faded away as I drew inward. My husband sat quiet and still. I couldn't bring my eyes to meet his. I knew in that moment his silence reflected the conflict he must have been feeling to both support her by letting her thoughts and experiences stand on their own without excuses or apologies and to offer comfort to me. It was impossible for him to do both, so the silence grew. It was clear that she didn't need to talk about it; it just was,what it was for her.
I accepted her perspective and tried not to feel it too deeply but eight years is a long time to feel abandoned by your mother. I was left wondering how that will impact her as she grows and develops and perhaps becomes a mother herself, one day. Our perspective on our own history is all that matters and is what shapes us. It is what creates our identity. What will she carry with her that shapes her as she develops into herself?
Will she be stronger and better for it or will it make her vulnerable and uncertain.
I have faced and conquered my weaknesses and the past is the past but it's my past, not hers. It is true that 'now' is the time and that moving forward with healthy habits that breed positive choices is the focus but what about the past? 'Now' is so much a part of 'then'; they are so tightly woven that I wonder if it is possible to extricate one from the other. The choices I made during the first eight years of her life were products of my past; of my lived history. Events from the first eight years of my life impacted the choices I made as an adolescent and as an adult, so too will it be for her, as it is for everyone. Those early years are among the most formative of our development. Once the damage is done, it cannot be undone and most definitely impacts who we become, how we see the world and our place in it.
What becomes of a female child who believes her mother didn't give a damn about her for eight years? Whether it is true or not doesn't matter; all that matters is that this is her truth. My truth is different of course but that doesn't help her. My truth is that I loved her deeply but did not have the tools to help her or myself. My truth is that I thank God for a husband who kept all the tiny details and pieces connected when I could not.
Tilley was a challenge from early on in her being and I checked out of her life and into a bottle. That bottle dulled a lot of emotions that were of my history, not just the concerns with her development. She did not drive me there, I was already on my way. My drinking is not her responsibility, it is my own; this is just to say that I was weak and was made weaker by alcohol. I can't argue her perspective of abandonment. I was in the home but not connected to the family that lived there, which is just slightly better than an estranged mother. I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing, essentially I did abandon her.
We are easily fooled into accepting that 'now' is all that matters. I believe in 'now' and moving on but I don't believe that it is all that matters. Believing this to be true would be insulting to my daughter. It matters to her that I let my past negatively impact her future.Can I do enough 'now' to make up for then? I am not feeling sorry for myself; I own this truth. It is my burden to bare; one that may only be lightened in time or may prove to weigh heavier as she shows what she is made of.
Owning this truth does not come without emotion. 'Now', instead of pouring a drink when things get tough, I run. The moment I was able to go, I was gone, not unlike unleashing myself into a bottle of wine. The mechanism by which I cope is different but I still need something to channel myself into. Imagine the sad, weepy girl who cries when she drinks and now substitute the bottle for running shoes and there I am. I ran and I reflected on what she said. As I ran the mask came off and the tears flowed, not for me but for her. She didn't and doesn't deserve the consequences of my choices, yet her 'now' has been created by my 'then'.
I can run from myself and my past and I can run to myself and my future but she is an innocent bystander and I can't out run that no matter how far or how long I run.