Toxic Mom Toolkit Goes to the Movies – Blade Runner 2049 Through the Lens of Toxic Mothering

27 Oct

 

 

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What does it mean to be human?

 

That is the question Blade Runner 2049 poses to the viewer. Manufactured replica humans versus naturally born humans are presented as two very different things; the trump card being a real human is born with a soul, has a childhood and along with that growing up phase, treasured memories. Replicants are produced as slaves to society with imbedded memories that seem real, while real humans with true childhoods are represented as having more depth and choices – and a soul. Or do they?

 

It didn’t happen instantly, but along the line, from my seat, the Ryan Gosling replicant versus human storyline blurred into my experience with unwanted, unplanned, unloved children, versus, those lucky people whose families planned for them, wanted them and treasured them. In other words, my split worldview of unloved versus loved.

 

In the film society had divided itself into slave and free in order to colonize other worlds and rebuild the original ruined one. That required massive numbers of compliant, law-abiding slaves. My internal debate as a movie-goer was who to root for, the replicant who had to process human feelings just like everyone else, who was capable of loving and being loved, or the master/or superior rank of real humans, whose task was to keep order?

 

Sitting next to me, my husband viewed the film as simply a free man versus slave story, with slavery essentially just being a state of mind. In the film, any slave that tried to pass as human faced a death sentence – or “retirement” by a Blade Runner from the LAPD. Ryan Gosling as a Blade Runner was emotionally flat, and job focused. But during private moments, we saw his human side.

 

The story delivered a challenge: What if a manufactured replicant somehow gave birth to a baby? So what is that baby? A replicant or a human? A half-replicant, half-human? Or is that baby the line being erased between two classes of humans? A point of no return and societal chaos?

 

I think sometimes adult children of unloving or toxic parents can feel a little bit like the replicant character in Blade Runner 2049. You exist, but due to childhood trauma or neglect, you have lots of memory gaps. You treasure a few happy memories but know you should have more or you may not even trust your own memories – that you had a sweet experience worth remembering. We are human beings with souls, but there can be an emotional flatness that comes with understanding that many of us were viewed as burdens or even curses to our mothers/parents. Many of us become people pleasers (doing our jobs), we can have a flat effect emotionally, and we may have trouble asking for help, or connecting with others. We know we are different in some ways and strive to fit in with others whom we view as better or luckier than us because of their loving family relationships.

 

And yet, many of us managed to bloom as adults, creating strong bonds within our own family and social structures. Sometimes we are so good at appearing human that people are shocked when they learn of our origins. Some of us don’t talk about our backgrounds, except for a few trusted confidants. Talking about our stories often feels dangerous, as if we are exposing ourselves, as “less than” people.

 

As the popcorn in my bag got lower and lower, I debated what qualities make us human and how much of my own life has been about choosing to live as fully as humanly possible. As the film concluded I was reminded that there are qualities that confirm our humanness, such as the ability to love and be loved, to consider the feelings of others, and to make sacrifices for a good cause. To be truly human is to assume that every living thing also possesses a soul, an inner life, and to treat others with kindness and respect regardless of origins.

 

 

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911! – Who Do You Call When Your Mom is Toxic?

4 Sep

Recently, a Friend of Ours wrote this about going No Contact with her toxic parents on a Toxic Mom Toolkit post on Facebook:

 

“I literally have no one. I wonder what will happen to me if I have a health emergency. Trust me, I was alone with both of them any way, they wouldn’t help if I was on fire but it’s so definite now.”

 

I think this is a thought that has crossed the mind of just about every adult child of a super toxic mom or toxic dad or toxic family. Yes, what if you suddenly have a gall bladder attack, or a heart attack or a very bad accident? Who will be there for you at the hospital? Who will come to you? Drive you? Sit with you? Comfort you?

 

For a lot of us at Toxic Mom Toolkit, we already know, it’s not going to be our awful mothers. Of course, if she can make your crisis about her – about how she dropped everything for you, causing scenes, fighting with other relatives and hospital staff – then it might be worth the trouble.

 

But think about the conditioning behind this “Who will come when I’m sick?” scenario. Who came when you were little? There was ONLY your mom, so her coming, staying, being there for you had a huge impact. It would be so sad without her, you think, or scary, or you’d be ashamed to cry or have mobility issues in front of strangers, you think.

 

But now that you are not a child, and maybe you are low contact or no contact with your mom, it might have occurred to you that you will probably survive anything the world can throw at you. Even without your mother.

 

As a former police chaplain, I’ve seen it in action. A call comes into 911 and the dispatcher sends cops and medical to a person in crisis; the EMT’s run towards you; an ambulance waits. None of the first responders ask about your mother. You get to the hospital and nurses and doctors and X-ray people assess your condition. They might ask about your insurance, but they don’t really care about whether or not your mom is coming.

 

While you are navigating the Emergency Room you may be able to place a call, or you may be unconscious or not thinking clearly. It is actually the stuff of movies and television that wonderful people come running while you are in the ER. It doesn’t really happen as often as you think it does – unless you’re a cop or firefighter. Then you’ve got a lobby full of people worrying for you.

 

After you’ve been treated, given pain meds, put in a bed with cool sheets, someone will ask if they can telephone someone for you. Of course, you’ll be tired and maybe a little drugged up, and, yes, it would be nice to have someone come and hold your hand, console you; someone to see what you need in the hours or days to come. And you know what? Anyone you call will probably come – if not that day, then in the morning. You don’t have to call your mother if you don’t want to.

 

There are Visiting Nurses who can help you get back home and supervise your care. Yes, it costs money, but no Visiting Nurse ever told a patient they had only themselves to blame for their situation or that they looked like hell without makeup.

 

You really could call a friend from work or church or the gym. They’ll come. And when they get there they will be kind.

 

Or you can call your overly dramatic mother.

 

Any time anyone has called me, I pack a little bag with sweats, cotton underwear, socks, hand cream, a toothbrush, bobby pins and a hair scrunchy. (My girlfriends know that The Wolfes ARE the folks you call on your worst day, even if it’s 3:30 a.m.) If I’m your friend and you call me when you are in trouble, I’ll come and I’ll drive you home and I’ll clean your kitchen and make sure you have some easy to prep soup and orange juice and I’ll put the phone by your bed and fluff your pillows and tell you, you’re going to be fine. Just rest, and let me take care of things for a day or two.

 

Or you can call your cold-hearted mother, so you can be hurt, drugged up and forced to listen to her go on an on about your lousy housekeeping.

 

You may feel ashamed that there is no one “close” to call. Like, the nurses will judge you if your mother doesn’t come. But you know what nurses know? They know that families come in many forms. They’ve witnessed toxic visitors making everything worse. They are happy to ban upsetting visitors for you, because it keeps your blood pressure down. They totally get it. So, if the only person you can think to call is that older lady from yoga class that you had coffee with a couple of times – CALL her and be humble in your human need for comfort from a kind person.

 

I once had a girlfriend call me out of the blue and beg me to drive her to Kaiser to get a shot in the butt for a migraine headache. She was in so much pain, she couldn’t drive herself and we had to stop twice for her to open the door and barf. We still laugh about it. Facing a crisis with a friend is how friendships go deeper.

 

It might feel scary, but it could all turn out to be for the good.

 

Or you could call your toxic mother. Your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit on the Art of Lies

22 Feb

I’m reading Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolks, The Body Keeps the Score, and wow, is it an eye opener!  I’m having lightbulb moments in every chapter. It’s SO interesting to me that I’m furiously skipping whole big swaths of info on soldiers with PTSD (I can go back) and brain chemistry (I can go back) and just following his trail of crumbs on why I have so often felt lost and frozen.

It also got me thinking a lot about how we accept lies – really, really OLD lies about who we are and how we are. So I’m taking a rainy afternoon to create a little art journal to document the lies I’ve been carrying around. Lies like: I’m bad at math. I AM bad at arithmetic and I know why. My brain was too busy in third grade trying to survive my embattled home life that I had no room for memorizing my times tables. I have however, managed to make a good living (since I was 17) and save a decent amount and create financial security. (So, no, you’re wrong mother, I’m not bad at math.)

If you’ve read or are reading my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, you know that you’re allowed to do creative things to process your feelings about growing up with a super toxic mom. I think combining scientific reading with art journaling will be transformative. And I wanted to mention it to you in case you have been looking for a creative way to process your feelings, too. 34ba5db3b512b172222c4865bce4080a

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Grief: A Passage or a Prison?

10 Feb

A dear church friend of mine died this past weekend and I’m grieving. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She loved to sing and taught so many children their hymns. All the children, teens, even the kids away at college, were devastated by the news of her passing. I find my eyes filling up with tears while I’m driving. I have to grab a tissue 20 times a day. For the past few days, any thought of my church family carries a sad weight. And yet, I know that in a few weeks or months, I will reflect on her life and think only good thoughts. Her memory will very likely inspire me to do more for our church and I’m sure there will be many times that I quietly, anonymously do things at church in her memory. Grief is a sad dark tunnel, but eventually you walk out into the sunshine again.

As children, our goldfish introduce us to grief. A few hours or days of remembering our pet naturally morphs into appreciation for all animals and our role in caring for them. If we forgot to feed our fish, we may suffer longer. But if a good old fish turned up floating, it was simply sad. We get through it.

And then our hearts are broken in puppy love, re-introducing grief. Perhaps one of our grandparents passes. Then a beloved teacher is suddenly swept away and our families and friends talk about loss and grief and introduce the idea of respecting each person’s unique life and our personal timetables for grief.

In adulthood, the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling is a great grief and the sympathy we receive never seems to outlast our grief. But there is an understanding that even in the worst grief, there is a turning point. Even a widow is allowed her long grieving and then we are happy for her should she remarry and rebuild a happy life.

And yet, for the adult children of toxic mothers, the grief over existing with an unloving mother is indefinite. As long as your toxic mother is living, you can feel that you are in a state of perpetual grief. When she is cruel to you, you may experience periods of deep, low-functioning grief. Or your mother grief may feel more like a low-grade flu that never ends. Grief often includes a feeling that you need to stop in your tracks; that you shouldn’t make plans; shouldn’t plan fun things. It can become a foundational feeling of great sadness that keeps you from feeling you deserve happy plans, fun trips or get-togethers with friends.

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself: When do I decide to trade in grief — over my childhood, over the stress of my current relationship with my mother, over the pervasive feeling of being cheated of a mother’s love — for hope? When do I leave my sad, dark mindset and walk into the sunshine of living my life?

If a Sunday School student had come to my late friend and expressed deep grief, she may have pointed to Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Are you ready to consider comforting yourself regarding your toxic mom? Is your grief about your toxic mom a passage or a prison? Could you imagine the luxury of giving up your toxic mom grief?

New & Improved 20 Questions

29 Sep

646519fd86182814bdd38313fe33cb3fOne of the very first things I did when I started writing Toxic Mom Toolkit was to design a brief questionnaire to help me collect real stories of growing up with a super toxic mother. Many of the mini-memoir chapters in my book started with an email from someone brave enough to take the survey and then send it back to me.

Right now I am collecting surveys from men for a book crafted specifically for male survivors of toxic parenting and I still need more stories. But I was also recently reminded of how therapeutic it can be for people to fill these out — so I decided to mesh the original and the men’s survey and fine-tune the original 20 Questions and re-issue it. It is important to me to keep learning about our community and these questionnaires capture so many things that would never be included in a quick conversation, email or Facebook post.

If you would like to fill one out, I would love to read it.  They are for my eyes only and are confidential. If I decide I’d like to use yours to create a chapter for my new book for guys, I will ask your permission. As a writer, I need to know who you are really, but you can remain anonymous and we can change names, locations, etc. to protect the guilty parties.

So here is the 2016 edition of 20 Questions Every Adult Child of a Toxic Mom Should Ask Themselves:

20 Questions for Adult Children of Toxic Mothers

Your name:

Your age:

Contacts: Email & Phone:

Your location/Country & City:

Please email your completed survey to newsyrayne@gmail.com

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Your Story Matters!

  1. Tell us about you. What year where you born and where does your birth fit in among siblings? Please provide a basic description of your parents/family. Did your family grow through adoption or foster placement?
  2. Tell me the story of how your parents met.
  3. Tell me about each of your parent’s teen years and what their parents did for a living. Include any unusual relationships within the family that are pertinent to your family life today.
  4. Describe the arc of your academic and professional life to present. What is your current occupation? If you volunteer in your community, how often? Doing what?
  5. Describe the relationship with your mother in three segments: as a child, a teen and young adult.
  6. How old were you when you first realized your mother was different than other mothers?
  7. What is your biggest criticism of your mother?
  8. What would she criticize about you?
  9. Describe any significant periods of estrangement. How easy (or difficult) was it to limit (or cut off) contact?
  10. How has your relationship with your mother affected your relationships with others?
  11. How many friends can you really talk to about your mother?
  12. Describe your current family status. Do you have children? If not, why not?
  13. Tell me about your occupation, why you chose it. Tell me about your hobbies.
  14. How many siblings do you have? Are you close or estranged? Why?
  15. Describe your current relationship with your mother. Given your current levels of contact how are you viewed within your family?
  16. Have you ever talked to a therapist about your mother? Was it helpful?
  17. Moving forward, do you anticipate any changes in your view of your mother?
  18. Do you experience personal guilt, social guilt or remorse about decisions you’ve made regarding your mother?
  19. As your mother ages, do you see yourself having more or less contact? Why?
  20. Tell me what your ACES score is/just the number. Please make a note of your ACES score at the top of the first page. Here is a link to the test:   http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

Thank you!

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit Crowns “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst

24 Sep

205876Yes, Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and she’s funny, but I like her and her new book, “Uninvited” anyway. Her latest book, written from her sticky kitchen table in North Carolina, focuses on that particularly odd – hard to put your finger on – feeling of being less than, left out and lonely.

Not that she doesn’t have some fun with it.

Yes, she wants to be a bigger person about those feelings but sometimes she will admit her jealousy of the other author chosen over her for conferences. That the other author has a thigh gap on her book jacket cover and Lysa’s own shots are always of her sideways… well… maybe that’s just a coincidence. Her most successful way out of the crummy feeling pit she often works up a sweat digging, is through careful study of the Bible. Won’t work for every reader – I confess to flapping past earnest pages of verse – but there were moments when her broken heart fit perfectly into a line from Psalms and my eyes teared up with recognition.

Her strongest chapters focus on recognizing, and therefore, not letting one past rejection bleed into the rest of your life. Sounds easy, but I hungrily read that material several times.

This is a very personal book. Many authors attempt to “talk” to the reader, but TerKeurst speaks to you WHILE holding your hand AND straightening your hair out of your eyes AND finishes up with a too-long hug. By the end of the book it all feels very natural. I’m pretty sure that if I met her at a conference — me standing alone in one corner — and her standing alone in the other – I might actually end up going over and inviting her to an empty table where we could both make jokes about who is the dorkiest loner.

I’m happy to award this book a Toxic Mom Toolkit crown. I hope the people who would be helped by this book, find this book. You can find it on Amazon, ChristianBooks.com in print, Kindle and audio editions.

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Are You a ‘Bad Mom’ or a Toxic Mom?

1 Aug

7de9027451431f2f45269a6605b75693   This week it’s all about the new movie Bad Moms, in which suburban mothers gleefully go off the rails – giving their kids sugar, throwing wild parties and guzzling rot-gut booze.

My Mister reports that at restaurants and bars near the theater in our little town, groups of dressed-up girlfriends are gathering to have Bad Moms movie parties. They may even be smuggling in flasks to spike their root beers when the lights go down.

As the author of Toxic Mom Toolkit, a book that helps adult children of super toxic mothers rise above their own horrible childhoods, it got me thinking: Most women do strive to be good mothers. They do cook healthy meals, pack non-sugary snacks, and shop for ethical toys and clothes for their children. And yet, when a teen slams the bedroom door or another mother looks askance at your contribution to the bake sale, they wonder: What if I’m not a good mom?

So many people ask me if their mothers were toxic. My answer? If you say she is, I believe you. And later, if they have their own children, they’ll ask how not to repeat the pathological patterns from their own childhoods. My answer? If you’re worried about that, you’re not a toxic mother.

So what is a “toxic” mom? By toxic, I mean a mother, who for a variety of reasons (mental illness, immaturity, strange family patterns, or even jealousy) make it a life mission to be unkind to children in her care. Many times toxic mothers appear to be wonderful mothers to others, but behind closed doors they can terrorize siblings or single out one child for a lifetime of bullying.

With Bad Moms we’re introduced to the idea of great moms rejecting the obsessive restrictions that come with modern motherhood. Does that make them bad moms? Actually, I view it as super human to thumb your nose at the constant one-upping and ever growing rules of mothering. In Bad Moms it’s not only good to delete the PTA emails, it’s also fun to dance, drive a bitchin’ vintage car and soar with Whip-Its without a trip to the dentist.

Are bad moms toxic? As an expert on toxic mothering I say absolutely not. In fact, these movie bad moms will probably help a lot of wonderful mothers to focus on what really matters: to stop worrying about what others will make of your mothering and just love your kids.