One of my mother’s longest running stories about herself is that she is a Mrs. Fix-it, which includes being a martyr and saviour in its list of traits.
Identity defining stories like that need a companion tale running alongside it to bolster it.
Like a runner training for a marathon with their coach, a pacer, running with them for support.
To be a Mrs. Fix-it, a martyr and saviour, you need things to be broken.
Those things my mother needs to be broken are people.
People to fix, save and witness her martyrdom to fixing their brokenness.
My mother would sigh very dramatically, loudly, proudly, as a negative boast, and then proclaim – I’m always having to clean up the messes which others make.
Others are always the problem, but without those problematic others someone like my mother has no defining identity.
Her story would fall apart before it began, never get written, never get published, and read to all those who had to hear the tales of her heroic fixing.
She prefers to read the story to others rather than allow them to read it themselves, as they can’t be trusted to read things correctly. They might mistake the heroine for a villain and the villain for a hero… and that would be another fine mess which she would have to clean up.
The fact that people still consider my father to be a hero and my mother to be a villain in the story of their life together rankles deeply with my mother. Without her my father would have been a nobody with a story in which no one would have been remotely interested. She made his story a bestseller. She took something broken and fixed him. He kept breaking and she kept fixing. Yet people keep assuming that she took something whole and broke it and kept breaking it more and more.
People are wrong. They are broken and she will not rest until each and every one has been fixed. But no one can truly be fixed or else her services would no longer be needed and her story would die without dignity.
Therefore part of her self-story requires that she find messes to tidy up, that she spot the faults of others.
Then she points it out. Making sure the thing, the person, which is broken be fully aware of their breakage. Others’ eyes must be made to see their own mess, their cracks, flaws and imperfections.
Once that is done she generously offers to fix it, fix you, because she is the only one who can do so and such things need to be done.
If you refuse her generous offer, the mess will get tidied up anyway because you do not know what you need and want. A broken thing never knows it is broken until it has been fixed by someone who does know it is broken and needs fixing.
Once a mess created by someone else is detected, she sets off on her quest to fix it.
You will be grateful. If you aren’t, your inability to be grateful is a flaw which will be fixed.
Beyond this story is another story, encircling it like an outer ripple of an inner ripple.
My mother’s version of tidying up a mess, fixing what is broken, perfecting what is flawed, usually creates havoc and chaos.
If the thing is not a real problem before my mother came along and decided that it was because she needed it to be, not long after her meddling fixing begins, the thing would indeed become a problem.
If it wasn’t broken before she came along, she would break it… telling herself all the while that breaking it is fixing it.
Confused? You will be. You will no longer be able to discern what is wrong and what is right, all of this will be redefined according to her. She will try to educate your wrongness with her rightness. Soon everything about you will seem wrong no matter what you say or do or don’t say and don’t do.
One of the things my mother enjoyed doing (though protested that she did not enjoy it at all) when I was a child, was to enter my room, decide it was a pigsty, and then rather than tidy it up (or suggest that I tidy it up) she would sweep her arms along shelves and knock things onto the floor.
Once she had declared the room a pigsty, a pigsty it became. But it wasn’t a pigsty because of her or her actions.
The only times she cared about the status of my room was when she was in a foul mood.
She was in a foul mood because her ego had been dented by someone her own size and she needed someone smaller than her to use to fix the dent. I was a dent-fixing tool disguised as something broken which needed fixing, and by tidying up my mess, a mess which had not been a true mess until her sweeping arms made it so, she regained her identity of saviour and martyr. Mrs. Fix-it to the rescue.
And I was expected to be grateful.
This process which she did with me, was similar to the one which she did with my father, and with many others. She would enter your space, decide it was a mess, then make sure it was as chaotic as possible, and after a long lecture on your sins, crimes, flaws, faults, she would very generously tidy up your mess for you because you were too incompetent to do so.
It should perhaps be noted that her own room was far from perfect or perfectly tidy, and her belongings overflowed into everyone else’s space. But this was never allowed to be pointed out… or tidied up.
Once she’d finished her quest of fixing you and your mess, she’d move on to another broken thing and mess. Leaving you to tidy up the havoc which her tidying up had caused.
But she never saw the consequences of her actions as being anything other than the blessed work of a saint. The handiwork of a saviour forever martyring herself for the sake of others. Others who were never grateful enough and who never learned to stop making messes for her to fix.
She used to like telling me tales of her heroic Mrs. FIx-it quests, especially those in which she saved the day for my father, Mr. Break-it. Her favourite little tidbit about him was that when he tried to fix things, he always did so by bashing them and breaking them. What a fool! Luckily he had her in his life to fix his disastrous attempts at fixing things.
Recently I spoke some words which expressed a story similar to my mother’s – I always seem to be left to tidy up the messes caused by my mother tidying up messes – as I spoke those words I wondered…
And my wonderings led me down dark paths…
Yet eventually I reached a lit place which showed me that I am not repeating an inherited pattern so much as expressing a companion pattern to someone else’s story.
But this pattern is not one which I cherish.
Although I’ve played this pattern of fixing chaos caused by certain people fixing what was not broken or a mess in the first place, and am doing so now in trying to clear up another mess my mother has caused due to her being Mrs. Fix-it fixing other people’s messes (a mess by my father and his cohorts in this particular case)… I tend to do it to clear a way through for me to pass, and if I can pass without needing to clear the way, I will.
Sometimes things need to be left a mess.
Because maybe the mess is not a mess at all.