letter to my mother
Tuesday September 02, 2008
Hi Dr. Miller,
Could you please post this letter to my mother on your wonderful website? It
took me a few years to finally write this, and I am very pleased that I finally
did. Thank you so much.
This is the letter I will not send to you.
I know your childhood stories of mistreatment and poverty, I’ve heard them
dozens of times, they’re all so sad. I’ve been sad all my life for you.
I don’t know how you feel about me. I think you’re angry. You
haven’t said so, but you trained me to be an expert at reading your tones of
voice. Something bad happened when I told you not to hit me anymore last year. I
didn’t know how you would react when I told you that. I didn’t think
about your reaction before I spoke. Maybe you are angry because I didn’t
think of how you would feel first? I didn’t expect you to be sorry, or to
understand me, or to apologize. I just wanted you to stop hitting me. It hurt.
That day was the last day you could hurt me in that way. I learned to get away,
finally, at almost 45 years old.
It scares me to write this. As if I could hurt you by writing something you
will never see. I’m still afraid of your anger. I can’t understand how
you could be angry with me about something YOU did to ME.
I wanted something from you. And part of how our family seems to work is that
wanting this stuff means that I am in the wrong for wanting it. I can hear you
argue with me now, saying, no, no, it’s not true, you are wrong. The beauty
of a letter is that I don’t have to listen to you right now.
So here’s what I wanted:
To sit in your lap and look at you and for you to look at me. To be excited for
me when I was excited about something I was reading, or making, or doing. To not
laugh at me.
To let me say “I’m angry” or “I’m bored” or
“I’m sad” and not have you be angry or panicky. I felt so lonely
when I felt sad or angry. I had to feel those things alone, I had to cry
silently, to not ask for help.
To hear you say “I love you”. To hear you say “you’re a good
girl.” To get hugs.
I’m still sad for you. But I can be sad for myself now, too. Sad that I
lost so much of that childish enthusiasm for my own interests. Sad that I grew
up hating myself, even hating my own name. Sad that I spent most of my adult
life not even being aware of when I was angry. Sad that I stuffed my face with
food and hated myself for it, rather than feel anything.
Mom, I’m proud of myself that I never hit my son. Never. I listened to him,
really listened. I still do. I listen to my friends, too, I take delight in
When we talk on the phone, if you ever asked me how I feel, I would love to
tell you. But since you don’t, I don’t. I have given up hoping for that
kind of closeness. I’m sad to not have it, but I’ve given up pretending
I could somehow get it if I tried hard enough.
You know the best part about this letter? The part where I said “I
don’t have to listen to you right now.” That felt good.
So now I am putting you on a dusty shelf in the back of the closet. I don’t
need you any more.
We are posting here your letter to your mother: