Personal Peace is Not an Impossible Dream

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personal peace is not an impossible dream

Photography by Trey Ratcliff

Personal Peace is Not an Impossible Dream

For my memoir I’ve been knee-deep in toxic mother questionnaires; taking raw stories and turning them into narrative. It’s challenging and interesting and each one, in its own way, reminds me of the scary transition from isolation to assertiveness so many daughters of toxic mothers must navigate.

The events leading up to dreams of a better life are always fascinating to me. I have been moved to tears reading what it takes to make women choose positive, sane lives.

Take M.J. who was born in 1973. She grew up within a blended family with older half-siblings and siblings. In her early life, she felt safe and loved. But her alcoholic parents failed to create a lasting peaceful family environment. One of her brothers became the father’s whipping boy.

“When I was six years old my mother sent me downstairs to wake my brother up so that he could see his birthday cake before he had to go to school,” she recalled.

But the teenage boy couldn’t wake up. During the night he had shot himself.

“Things were never really ever the same after this, for any of us,” she wrote.

By the time she was eight, she was seeing a doctor for stress-related problems.

“I couldn’t breathe. Of course I didn’t know it was stress then. I also remember feeling sad and not knowing why.”

Within a few years her parent’s marriage ended and life with mother got a whole lot rougher.

M.J. ran started running away from home when she was 12-years-old and spent time in foster homes.

My mother told people that my dad raped me and that is why I ran away: it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with her. When she would pick me up from the foster home I would always go back crying because she spent the whole visit getting mad at me.

By 16 she was living with her boyfriend in his parents’ home.

“When I was 16 my mother told me she thought my brother had committed suicide because he had molested me. I told her that it did not happen. She insisted that it did, thus blaming me for my brother’s death.”

She graduated from high school at 17. A few years later she and her husband had their own home and had their first child, a son. They divorced when she was 25.

By the time M.J. was an adult she realized her mother was innately good at sensing vulnerability and dispensing her cruelty accordingly.

“She told me that she had wanted to abort me but that my father talked her out of it. What does a person say to something like that?”

So many women I receive questionnaires from write about struggling with severing contact with some of the worst mothers I’ve ever heard of. M.J. was no different. In the last 25 years M.J. has seen her mother about 20 times, usually only for a day or two.

She is “pretty much done” feeling guilty about it. She’s forgiven herself for viewing her mother objectively.

“That was a big step in my healing, to forgive myself. I forgave myself for not being the daughter she wanted/didn’t want… At the age of 37, I needed to forgive myself for being myself. No more guilt.”

Amazingly she feels love for her mother.

I do not wish bad on her. I wish for her to be happy and well. I am simply completely fed up with allowing her to make me miserable — that’s all

If I need to move and keep my address and phone number a secret I am prepared to do that. I am prepared to do whatever I need to for my peace of mind, she wrote.

She’s also stopped hoping her mother will change.

“She is probably not capable of changing. Fully understanding this helped me to view her with compassion, not pity. I am also able to make the fully informed choice to not continue to have a relationship with her and to avoid her at all costs.”

It takes a lot of guts to fill out one of my questionnaires. Special thanks to everyone who has thus far. These stories help others.

Until next Sunday, choose happiness.

Rayne Wolfe’s dream is to write her first book Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter by the end of 2011. She completed her dream journey May of 2011 on 8WD after a year living her dream. You can find her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook.

  • Wow… It is amazing to see what people have survived, and also to see the infinite capacity for forgiveness. The human heart is incredible! Good for this woman for doing what she needs to do to create her own peace of mind, and for also still being able to wish her mother well, despite all the suffering her mom caused her.

    It also fills me with gratitude because I realize how fortunate I am to have a very loving mother who is also happy, healthy and alive. My mom lost her own mom to cancer when she was 14 years old, and so her greatest desire in life was to BE a good mom. I never knew my grandmother, but am grateful to her too because she shaped the woman my mother would become.

    Reading the stories you share makes me doubly aware of what a gift my mother is and that I shouldn’t ever take that for granted. I will remember to tell her how much I appreciate her this holiday season… Thanks for reminding me of this gift in my life as well.

    Thanks for all you do Rayne to help and heal others! this book will be so powerful for so many.


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  • Veronica

    What a great post, I am so grateful you are a part of 8 Womem Dream.

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    Agreed, Rayne. Choose happiness, love often. Never assume they know how you feel. Go out of your way to tell them every day how wonderful they are and how great your life is because of them – “them” being your son, daughter, mom, husband, dad, neighbor, whoever you want to say it to. I cant wait to read your book. xxo Rem

  • Rayne

    Cath, I’m glad this post inspired such a touching comment from you. Yep, if you are so lucky to have love in your family — express it as often as possible. – Rayne

  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    Every time I read one of your Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter quotes from something a toxic mother has said to a daughter, it literally blows my mind. It’s like I don’t even have the capacity to understand why someone would ever say these things to their own child.

    My entire life it felt like I was missing my twin. I wasn’t born a twin, but I felt like there was someone I was missing knowing in my life. I remember playing 4-square in 2nd grade and thinking this as I bounced the ball.

    By the time my son was 3, I realized he was the person I was waiting to know all those years ago in 4-square. I was thinking about this last night while we watched Cirque Du Solei on PBS and marveled at the performers. I looked at him and thought, “It’s like I’ve known him 3 lifetimes and he has always been my son”. One time when he was 4, we were driving by the graveyard where my dad was buried and he very casually pointed to the graveyard and said, “They know how long I waited mama.”

    It was one of those odd moments with little kids where you just kind of go, “Uh huh” and in your mind go, “Okay, what is THAT?” He was interesting that way when he was very little, saying things that made me question religion and our reasons for being here. Now he just looks at me like I am “omg his mom” from a teenage perspective, but we are still close friends.

    So I have no capacity to understand why or how you can be mean to your child. The only conclusion I can come to is that these mothers are mentally ill, or have some very severe hormonal imbalance or they are raging alcoholics.

    It still makes me think “Wow!” then I want to go tell my son that he’s wonderful.