I Almost Forgot

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
~Johnathan Safran Foer

I almost forgot that this day, November 27, used to be meaningful to me.  On this day, I guess 6 years ago now, I met the person who became one of my closest friends for a short time.  Last year I was sort of “celebrating” this milestone.  But up until I re-read the post from this day last year, I ha forgotten the importance of this date.

I admired her so much.  She embodied everything I thought I wanted to have in a role model and a friend.  She embodied everything I thought I wanted to be.  We became good friends for a short while, but then she pulled away.  I was hurt so badly.  Sometimes I still miss her, but most times I wish I could just stop thinking about her.  I catch myself wondering if there is still a “what if?” But then I bring myself back to reality.

I let myself be happy for a brief time by taking risks, living authentically, and being vulnerable.  Unfortunately, this happiness didn’t last and the loss of that friendship caused me a great amount of sadness.  The question then becomes, what that brief moment of happiness worth the sadness?  It is really hard to know for sure.

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An Old Truth

As promised in my last post, I found the proof of my long-time difficulty with having a Maternal Role Model.

Originally Posted on The Old Blog, November 2012:

… I am desperate.

Desperate for someone to care.

Not just anyone: I have requirements, and they are strict.  A woman, successful, an authority figure, someone who reminds me of myself in some way, someone whom I strive to be like, someone whom I would want to be my friend.

I don’t ever remember a time in my childhood when I got along with my mother.  In fact, I spent most of my teenage years hating her and for a few years I even lived with my dad.  My childhood memories of my mother are all fairly unpleasant: yelling, hitting, pinching, lying, being afraid, feeling shameful… I could go on.  You could say I had a better relationship with my dad, but it still wasn’t great and looking back on it now, it certainly was dysfunctional.

Growing up, I had no one who cared about me.  My parents were newly divorced and were too busy hating each other and making each other miserable to really realize what they were doing to their children.  They provided the necessities and we never wanted for anything physical – we were clothed and fed, we went to school and we did well.  Emotionally, they gave us nothing.  I never felt special or like I mattered to my parents.  My accomplishments always seemed to fall on deaf ears and land in front of blind eyes.  I was a 12 year old girl with nothing to motivate me and no one to encourage me.  And then I became desperate.

I started playing the clarinet in school and I was really good at it.  So good, in fact, that my band teacher took notice right away.  Ms. S., my band teacher was new, right out of university, young, fresh, ready to make a difference in some kids’ lives… it didn’t take her long.  Her attention to my talent was like a single drop of water landing on a cracked desert floor.  I loved it so much, it felt so good – like a drug.  I needed more and I needed it right away.  I excelled in music because it meant I could please Ms. S. – she would compliment me and encourage me, she would invest time in me and talk to me.  I started doing better in school too, because I didn’t want to disappoint Ms. S..  Then 7th grade ended and Ms. S. left.

I started 8th grade and the desperation was back.  I longed for that satisfying drug of encouragement and interest: I actively sought it out.  There she was, a new teacher – Ms. B.. Again, this young, successful, friendly woman filled in the gap and gave me what I longed for so much.  But like any drug, the effects started to wear off and I needed more.  More acknowledgement, more time to talk, more emotional connection, more love.  It was hard to get it all because there was that all-important teacher/student boundary, but I took what I could get and I tried as hard as I could to make her need me in her life the way I needed her.

I had Ms. B. for a few years, but after moving to high school, the relationship became less satisfying because I wasn’t getting everything I needed…  I moved on to someone else… Ms. C., then TK, RJ, AW, and now K.  Some of these relationships overlapped and there were some years without  any meaningful interactions with these people.  Some of them have remained an important part of my life and some, I have no idea where they are or what they are doing today. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they have never really understood the dept of their role in my life.

In all honesty, I never even realized why exactly I needed these women in my life. I just knew that I did.  I would latch onto them because I needed them.  Most times I hated myself for doing it because I didn’t understand why I needed validation and recognition from these people in order to feel good about myself and my accomplishments.  Worst of all, I would need them in my life so badly that I was afraid to tell them how I felt or what I needed.  I was (and am) so afraid of rejection by these women that I would just take what I could get, no mater how small the interaction.  Recently, through counseling, I’ve come to realize the relationship between the lack of a positive female role model in my childhood, with the need I have to seek one out for myself.  What I can’t understand, however, is why I still do this to myself now… 15+ years later.

These relationships are often crippling for me because I choose people who are not always in the best position to give me exactly what I need: They are usually highly successful, busy, hard working women with little time to invest.  I choose people who I want to be my friends, who aren’t that much older than me, who I strive to be like in some way.  I want to please them so badly and I want them to approve of me so highly, that I am afraid of making a mistake.  I scrutinize every word of every conversation I have with these women, because I’m afraid they will find a reason to not like me.  When I don’t feel like a priority to them, I wonder what I’ve done wrong and why they don’t want to talk to me.  I know this is illogical, but emotionally, I can’t help myself.

I have placed these women on the highest of pedestals, and  failure in their eyes is my biggest fear.  Failing in their eyes brings me right back to that lonely girl with no attention from her parents.

So, I am desperate for a relationship that is meant to fill a gap that can never be filled.  I am looking for something that doesn’t exist and can never be exactly what I want it to be.  Until I can figure out how to fill that gap in a healthy, healing way, I will always be desperate.

Maternal Instinct

This morning, after I finished working my call shift, I had my first appointment with my new obstetrician.  I was a little nervous, even though I picked her from all the obstetricians I know in this city because she is one of my favourites.  I also knew exactly what to expect from the appointment, seeing as how this is my third pregnancy and this is my area of specialty.  Regardless, I was nervous.  I have been working fairly closely with this woman over the past few months with her supervising me in my delivery and cesarean-section skills.  I enjoy her casual attitude, her skill, and her friendly demeanour.  This appointment, though, was about to introduce a new dimension.

The appointment itself went well and there was nothing too unexpected.  However, I was caught off guard by how strongly I found comfort in feeling like this woman was “taking care” of me in some way.  It took me most of the day to place this familiar feeling – but I realized that it was the same feeling I had when I first met my new family doctor just over a year ago, and most pronounced when I engaged in the patient-obstetrician relationship that started with my old friend and mentor, Kay, many years ago.

Part of coming to this realization occurred after I woke up from my daytime sleep and reflected on the dream I had in my pregnant and post-call state.  I had a vivid dream about the obstetrician that I saw this morning.  Like most dreams, I only remember bits and pieces, but the parts I do remember were sufficient enough to point towards an underlying theme.

For some reason, this doctor was staying with me, in my house, for a certain amount of time.  Perhaps it was because her house was being renovated or something like that – she was displaced for some reason.  During this stay at my house, she was very attentive to me and how I was feeling; she took time to talk to me about “stuff.”  I don’t remember any of the details of what was said, I just remember feeling like it was important that she listened to me.  She was very affectionate towards me in a maternal way, making me feel like I was, again, being cared for, looked after, and important to her.  At one point in the dream, I remember my own mother appearing and then feeling confused about why she was there and what her purpose was at that moment in the encounter.

That’s pretty much all I remember.  Initially I woke up from this dream feeling a strange sense of belonging and satisfaction.  However, that feeling quickly gave way to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness.  All those feelings arose as I realized that everything I felt in the dream was not real and were only projections of feelings that I want or need but am not able to acquire – at least not in the places I am looking.  It was at this point that I remembered having similar feelings of wanting to be cared for by other female (and physician) people in my life.

This is not a new feeling or phenomenon for me (let me find a post from the early days of The Old Blog to prove it).  It was a while back in my counselling when I discovered that these feelings originate from the lack of maternal care and influence from my own mother.  I have been seeking to have this role fulfilled from other women for almost my entire life – at least since I was 12 or 13.  I am surprised, however, to discover that after knowing for so long where these emotions come from, and having spent many years working on them and realizing that I need to look inside myself to find a solution to these difficult emotions, that I would still so easily fall into the old, familiar, yet unsatisfying pattern of seeking comfort in places (and people) where it can’t be found.

In addition to feeling sad, hopeless, and confused about the re-emergence of these emotions, I am feeling angry at myself for falling back into this harmful pattern of searching for maternal love and acceptance where it can never be found.  Obviously this is something that I need to spend more time working to resolve.  Perhaps the resurgence of this Maternal issue is something that I am meant to deal with throughout this pregnancy.  Perhaps it is also part of the reason why I am feeling so uncertain and uneasy about my decision to have another baby.  Maybe all of these emotions are tied together somehow: the desire to seek out maternal care, the prominence of these emotions in pregnancy, and my somewhat confusing desire to expand in my role as a mother.