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Saturday, May 02, 2009 

On Missing Persons and Becoming Wiser

I like to think that I’m wiser than my years. I guess that sometimes I just feel like I’ve lived slightly more than most people of my years. It’s probably just vanity, but it leads to the question: what do we have to endure to say that we’ve lived life more than most?

Do you have to endure great hardship? Can a person who lost their child say that they have lived life more than someone who never lost anything? Or does it rely more on reaching the point where you can say that you are truly happy with your life, happy in your own skin? Is it none of these and based on how much a person has travelled, how many different jobs they have done and languages they speak? Is it just a matter of perception: if you believe you’ve lived life to as full as you could?

At Christmas my mother went missing. If you’ve followed my blog before this won’t come as a complete surprise. I’ve never spent a huge amount of time with her as she left the country when I was six and I hadn’t lived at home with her until I was five. However, as awful as abandoning your children may sound it was the kindest thing she could do for us as she suffers from schizophrenia and her and dad had very loud, and sometimes almost physical, fights literally every day they spent together. So causing quite an unpleasant atmosphere at home.

I forgave her everything years ago because of her illness so when she went missing I was very worried. In late January after numerous missing person’s ads, and phone calls around every hospital and morgue in the city she surfaced in a mental ward under a pseudonym. She had admitted herself under a different name and when queried stated that she was no longer my mom; she had undergone a transformation and was twenty eight years old and Latina rather than Chinese. According to her doctor while it was good for us to speak to her and that her fantasy would allow her to still recognise us as her daughters regardless of age discrepancies, we were not allowed to tell her that her fantasy was not real. We couldn’t call her crazy.

She’s still in hospital five months down the line and the doctors and nurses caring for her have only just started calling her by her real name. So far I have not managed to visit her as a cross-continental flight costs more than my student loan and supermarket wages allow for. Somehow, as much as my mother has been through, I don’t believe she’ll ever reach the point where she can say she’s lived life fully. Giving up seeing your three children grow up will be a lot to come to terms with if she ever gets through this. She seems slightly less insane every time I talk to her but she’s probably past the point where they can properly cure her, and way beyond the point where if she were cured she’d be able to find happiness.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Growing up without a mother made me become a lot more mature earlier, a lot more neurotic generally, and made me search for a mate who was so stable he couldn’t even comprehend the meaning of the word dysfunctional. Mostly I feel sorry for her. I can find happiness, she has to create fantasies of billionaires falling in love with her and magically altering her to become younger and a different person to cope with her unhappiness.

One day I will be a better daughter. Going through all this has taught me that as awful a mother as she was; I’m a much worse daughter as I don’t have a psychological illness to blame it on. I know I will be a better mother than she was. But, I have hopes that even if she never becomes a better mother to me, with continued treatment she will one day become a decent grandmother and that my children will not hate me for letting her back into my life.

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Thanks for sharing so much of yourself as ever! and sorry to hear about the recent worries.

I think it's not so much about how much we've lived, and what actual experiences we've been through - it's more about how we've processed them, learnt from them, engaged with them, taken them in. Some people have done or had done to them so much but none of it's stuck. Others have a little experience and carry it like a precious tattoo.

I think you fall somewhere between these extremes. You've experienced a lot, but you've looked at it long and hard and honestly and wear it very well.

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  • An albatross can fly for thousands of miles without getting tired. I've always thought that love is similar to flying, therefore we should aspire to be like the albatross.

    I don't know if I can do that. So far I haven't been so lucky. But one day I'll test my wings with someone, and flying won't be so hard after all. Or so painful.
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    * In 2001 one New Zealand fishing boat killed over 300 seabirds in just one trip, while fishing for ling.
    * Each year over 300,000 seabirds are killed by longline fishing.
    * Over the past 60 years some albatross populations have declined by 90%.
    * Annually around 10,000 albatross and petrels are caught in New Zealand waters alone.
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