That’s what I’ve started calling my young friend Liz. I care about her, I’m very concerned about her, and I want to help her, but she is one very seriously messed up young woman.
I just finished talking with her for the third time this week. As is her usual pattern, she was crying when she called me, and she was driving. Tonight, she said she had had a “horrible day,” and she just needed someone to talk to until she got home.” Her litany of problems is far heavier than any 24 year old should have to bear. Serious psychologial problems (obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, destructive behaviors, i.e. cutting and attempted suicide), emotional estrangement from her mother, overwhelming stress on the job, financial difficulties, moving residences more than three times in one year…added to that, this week she has strep throat, intestinal flu, and got into a car accident. Oh…my…god…
All I have to say is, “Tell me what’s going on…” and she’s very happy to regale me with the litany of all the horrible things that have happened to her since the last time we talked. I know she’s looking for a mother figure- someone to sympathize, croon comforting words, and, yes, offer to fly in and rescue her from all this distress. Liz did finally tell her mother the whole truth about her situation, but (at least according to Liz) her mother “has nothing to offer” in the way of help, either literally or emotionally.
I know Liz’s mother – not terribly well, but we’ve met on several occasions. I would characterize Sara as a woman who has been soured on life. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her with two young daughters to raise. She’s had a hard time keeping a job, so the past 15 years have been a continuous struggle for her. Still…when Liz tells me things that her mother says and does which seem utterly insensitive to me, I struggle to keep from calling this woman on the phone and screaming at her to get out there and take care of her daughter. Yet I also realize that having Liz for a daughter must have been a daunting proposition – needy, disturbed, and at the same time, exceedingly bright – she would have been a challenge for the most well rounded of parents. After all, Sara, like every mother, is only human. Perhaps this child has just sucked her dry??
The one good thing about this situation is that every time I talk to this girl, every time I think about her life and how fragile it is, I’m reminded once again how lucky I am to have had loving, supportive relationships. From the foundation of caring and respect I was fortunate enough to receive from my parents, and in my relationship with my husband, I was able to provide my own child with the kind of support he needed to help him overcome some tough emotional times in his life and go on to become a healthy and stable adult.
Of course I wasn’t a “perfect mother” by any stretch of the imagination, but hopfully I didn’t leave my child feeling abandonded and completely bereft, like Liz apparently feels. But I know that even with the best of intentions, parents can go wrong. Every child is different, with unique needs and expectations. Sometimes we think we’re doing the right thing, and it turns out to be completely wrong based on the needs of that individual child. And sometimes you don’t know that until it’s way too late.
I’m hoping it’s not too late for Liz. As much as I care about what happens to her, I can’t be the mother she’s looking for. And I don’t think she wants me to be. What she really wants is unconditional love and nurturing from her own mother. Right now, she’s not getting it~I really hope someday soon she will.