“Don’t Care”

Karen, my therapist in Montpelier, was helpful though I didn’t have a lot to say. Somehow I got onto the belief that not doing something was equivalent to not caring. I think this is part of what gets me in trouble with Eleanor, when I can’t do something for her. I feel so desperately awful, that I’ve failed her so badly, and I also feel the ugly feeling of having my very real caring be invalidated. But because that doesn’t come up in words, I can’t do anything about it. Instead I feel wrong and bad and like I shouldn’t be here. I told her about Mother and “You don’t care about the Colonial Dames” and how I couldn’t think of an answer until later when I realized I could have said “It’s true I don’t care about the Colonial Dames, but I’m glad you have something you’re excited about.” Of course that wouldn’t have satisfied Mom, but at least I would have spoken my truth. I said to Karen that the only thing that would have satisfied her would have been if I were interested in the Colonial Dames and joined them. Karen said even that wouldn’t have worked, and I realized that was probably true, and then I started to cry. I cried for that little girl who wanted so much to make her mother happy, and tried so hard, and because her mother refused to receive her offerings and love her back, she took that as meaning she was unloving and unlovable. I cried and cried for that little girl who deserved so much better. I can feel the sadness now and tears in my eyes. It’s so painful to accept that nothing I could do would have made her happy. I think of all the evidence in the 4th of July monologue that NOTHING would work. I hurt so much for that little girl. I hold out my arms and she comes running and I hold her while she cries and I tell her “You are a good person, a caring person, and your mother was wounded in ways she couldn’t let herself know about, which would have been the only way she could have healed.”
Karen kept asking what the feeling was — “don’t care” is a thought. What’s hard is I can’t begin to describe it, in fact I think part of the dynamic is to hold me unaware of what’s going on. I dissociate and go into denial. I feel terrible, my heart squeezed and hardened, and perhaps my body trying to shrink. That’s what Karen observed and translated “it’s not OK to be here. I’m not safe.” There’s probably a feeling of conflict and also of invalidation, as when someone tells me something about me that’s not true but I accept it, because the part of me that knows it’s not true is not strong enough to insist. The invalidation is so conditioned into me that I have to deduce it, I don’t experience it. God, how is it possible to change something so deep? I’ll ask Caryn when she comes back.
How did I start to separate out caring about a person from caring about their property? One was the time I told my husband he “didn’t care” and his answer was that he DID care, about me, but just couldn’t do what I wanted him to. (See the post for October 17, 2010) I see that Mother taught me that caring about a person meant caring about their things and ideas too. The second time I began to see the two things were not the same was when I was down at our summer house in Maine, and my sister’s daughters had left their beach towels draped over furniture on the porch. Mother was complaining about the mess, and I said “Aren’t you glad they’re here? Of course they don’t care where they put their towels” and Mom said “Yes, they don’t care about me.” I was stunned, realizing that Mother couldn’t make that distinction, and then remembering the time Dana had challenged me about the same issue.

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