Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 119: The Mood Pin

Mom (Me): Good morning Libra.

Libra (The Friend): Good morning Mom. How are you doing today?

Mom: I’m alright… How about yourself?

Libra: Not so bad. I hear you’ve been coming to some of your daughters with questions recently.

Mom (uneasy): Yeah — since Ivy left I’ve been pretty introspective, haven’t I? I’ve spent a lot of time in this space reflecting on and reconciling with my past, and that’s been important, but…

Libra: There are still things you’re dealing with in your present; things you haven’t resolved yet.

Mom: Yes. So I’ve been trying to collaborate more with my daughters. I’m hoping it’ll help me process… I hope you don’t mind.

Libra (excited): Not at all! I’ve already offered to help you work through issues; after all. To be honest, I’m happy my perspective feels like it might be helpful.

Mom (relieved): I’m glad. I know it might feel strange helping your Mom with her problems…

Libra (curious): Does it feel strange to you? I think as kids get older, they contribute more to their families… And I’m in college, remember?

Mom (distant): Yeah…

Libra: Something tells me you have some feelings there that you’re ready to process yet.

Mom: No… I don’t think I’m ready to work through those. Sorry Libra.

Libra (calm): It’s okay. Take all the time you need.

Mom (smiling): That sounds familiar.

Libra (snarky): I overheard it somewhere, I’m sure. You came here to chat with me though; is there something else you wanted to talk about?

Mom: Yeah, actually. It’s about Ivy, sort of… You know I asked her to review my memories in order so she’d have plenty of context when she learned how my relationship stands today?

Libra: Yeah, you thought she would need that context to understand things.

Mom: I did, but she felt betrayed. I meant well, but I still put my judgment before hers and insisted on presenting the situation in a particular way instead of letting her process the events on her own.

Libra: I can understand why she felt betrayed. Controlling that context demonstrates a certain lack of trust, I think — like you don’t trust her to draw her own conclusions.

Mom (annoyed): Yeah. Which in retrospect, is a little upsetting… What does it say about me that I can’t trust myself? Thoughts for another time, I suppose.

Libra (unsure): I guess… Do you have any thoughts for *this* time?

Mom: Yeah, I wanted to talk about how I do that kind of thing a lot… Controlling the context of how I appear, I mean. I think I try to curate my presentation so much because I’m afraid of showing people how I really am.

Libra (understanding): Ah. I think everybody does that to a certain degree.

Mom: Yes, but I think I do it to a pretty large degree… Can I tell you a story?

Libra (dry): Mom, what else do you think this place is for?

Mom: Hah, very true. Anyways, I got one of those mood pins with the sliding bit. You know, you can set it to different moods to show other people how you’re feeling? After a therapy session spent discussing how my family doesn’t understand when I’m receptive to contact, we decided having a pin might help to communicate that.

Libra: Sure, I think I know the kind you mean. How did that go?

Mom: I tried it and noticed something almost immediately: I was really reluctant to set the mood below “Good.” I remember I was in a foul mood and didn’t want to be engaged, but my kid was being very silly at me and I felt myself more and more anxious. Even so, I felt really conflicted about setting the pin to “Tense.”

Libra (confused): But… You weren’t out in public or at work, right? You were at home with your family.

Mom: That’s why it felt significant. Even around the people I’m closest to, the people I trust the most, I still didn’t want to let them know how I was actually feeling.

Libra: That’s… Kind of sad, Mom. Why?

Mom (measured): Two reasons, I think. The first is that for a long time I felt that my role in the family was to be an emotional anchor: no matter what was going on around me, I should be unshakable; an emotional constant that everyone else could depend on.

Libra (concerned): Do you still feel that way? I thought that belief was bound up in your concept of masculinity.

Mom: It was, and while I don’t hold that belief anymore, old habits die hard and sometimes it creeps back into my thinking if I’m not paying attention.

Libra: That’s fair, I suppose. What’s the other reason?

Mom: The other reason is an old coping mechanism, where I try to tough it out and endure the stress until it lets up… That way I don’t have to admit that anything’s wrong or ask for help.

Libra: That sounds like something my little sister would do. And something I do…

Mom (defeated): Bloom may have come up with that strategy, but we all do it. It doesn’t work as often as I’d like, and it doesn’t work at all when it comes to emotional stress from my kid, because they don’t let up — their entire goal is to get me to engage with them. Withdrawing into myself and trying to tough it out leads to the inevitable conclusion: I run out of patience and snap, getting angry at her and raising my voice.

Libra (sad): That must feel miserable.

Mom (tearful): It does; it feels awful. I feel like a failure as a parent when that happens.

(Libra takes a few moments to respond.)

Libra (hesitant): So… What about not holding it in? We can talk about our feelings, right? Be more open about how we’re struggling?

Mom: It’s hard, but we can. And things go well when we do, especially around my partner. But like I said, old habits die hard, and in order to open up to her I have to be lucid enough to remember that I can trust her with my feelings.

Libra: That’s something I could help you with, I think… I can try and remind you to trust your partner.

Mom (skeptical): I’m not sure that would work… Though my partner often says she and I are on the same team. She’s right about that… I suppose my family here is a team too.

Libra: So let us help. I’ll remind you when I notice you’re getting stuck in distrust and encourage you to open up. Let’s try it and see how it goes?

Mom (relieved): Okay, let’s do it. Thanks Libra.

Libra (smiling): You’re welcome Mom.

(Libra steps forward with her arms wide, and we embrace in a restorative hug before going about our day.)