Monday, November 30, 2009

How to know someone

I finally did it... I had the courage to re-read the things that my mother wrote. Years before she died, she sent me a folder of "essays" that she had written. At the time I encouraged her to finish them and submit them. I offered to help - thinking perhaps this would be the thing that could bind us and maybe I would come to understand her better. But to her, they were finished. I guess she felt that they were perfect and beyond criticism. I filed them away in the tall black metal cabinet.

I came to view that attitude as part of her disease. She was bipolar and "delusions of grandeur" seemed very descriptive to me of how she saw herself. The flip side was that it made it difficult for her to ever be truly productive. I on the other hand seem to have the opposite problem. Although I can usually sit down and get the job done, I have no real talent. I'm just a plugger - but that often seems to be good enough to have some success. I may never experience her highs, but I won’t experience her lows either.

My mom seemed to me to be a person who lived in the past. And indeed, her writings reflected that. I often wondered why she did not write of her children much, especially since I had young children who seemed to occupy my every thought. Her thoughts seemed focused on past lovers, a failed marriage, and her many disappointments. I came to believe that this was also part of her disease.

And then I found it. A two-page essay entitled "-E-". Finally some thoughts about me. They were there after all. I had a place among all of her past memories. I hope I managed to bring her some joy. My thoughts have been so occupied with her since her death. I still yearn to know and understand her and death has not changed that. Reading her thoughts now I feel less defensive and more open to understanding her. Something that might have been more useful when she was alive. I have her actual words on paper... something that not many of us get to have.

I miss her terribly and I miss the possibility of knowing her. Whether knowingly or not she has left me a great gift. Maybe that is why we all write… so the next one reading may have a better understanding of who we are. We can say so many things in print – even things that may be too hard to say in life.



Peg said...

Yeah for you Elisabeth ! I am glad that you wrote this, it really spoke to me, as I am also the person who can say things in print but sometimes find the words harder to come by when they are to be spoken. Yes, that is why we write. I like your piece.

Kristin said...

I love the last paragraph, because I think this is exactly why I write - so that people, mostly my family, will really understand who I am. Spoken words are often forgotten or people tend to be poor listeners, but written words can be re-read a million times over.