Something very, very strange has been happening…
strange: (adjective) unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.
Synonyms: extraordinary, unusual, odd, peculiar, funny, bizarre, weird, unexpected, puzzling, mystifying, perplexing, baffling, curious
Alice in Wonderland has been popping up in my life the past few weeks, but especially over the past weekend. First of all, I knew several weeks ago that the movie Through the Looking Glass was coming out soon. I was looking forward to seeing it since I like movies like that and I really liked the first one.
Then, enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 1.
About 14 days ago I got a book from the library to help me with part of my current ‘family situation’- Understanding The Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson. It drew me in right away. I took to it and liked it immediately, not only because it’s one of the most validating books I’ve ever got my hands on, but because the author incorporated quotes and themes from the novels Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Why, you ask, is that so brilliant?
Because the quotes and themes from Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland novels fit Lawson’s book, or any book about BPD, like a pair of True Religion jeans. (So I’ve heard.) The home life of a child being raised by a parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) truly is like living in the “Wonderland” depicted in Lewis Carroll’s novels.
A place full of contradictions, denial, and doubt. Consistency is unheard-of, everything is unpredictable, nothing makes sense- riddles with no solution, questions with no right answers, questions you have no right to answer, and you have no right to ask questions! Up is down, down is up. Wrong is right, right is wrong. Quietly accept the unacceptable. Silently tolerate the irate, intolerant tyrant. Trust is fantasy, denial is reality. Every path you choose is the wrong way. There is no right way! It’s not a maze, it’s a trap! A game with ever-changing rules made up by the self-appointed tyrannical “queen.” (She has mistaken the horns on her head for a crown.) You have to follow the rules she’s made but she doesn’t. And when you try to tell her that there seems to be no way to win or end the game, she insists there isn’t a game at all! She looks at you like you’re crazy! But you know she’s the crazy one!
The audacity! The absurdity! It’s maddening!
But you know the truth. You do. You know it… You know you do…. and yet…. and yet… When the “queen” decides to play nice again you start to doubt your former perceptions… And before long she bullies, corners, traps, isolates, confuses, and silences you yet again. And on and on it goes, back and forth, back and forth- until the anger and frustration build up within you so much that you really do start to feel crazy.
The author of Understanding the Borderline Mother has dubbed this “Borderland.” When I talk to my therapist, husband, or close friends about my mother and the things she has done and said, I like to use the term “the twilight zone.”
twilight zone: (noun) a situation or state of mind seemingly between reality and fantasy, a region or context located in between others and therefore not subject
to their norms, a region in which surreal, bizarre, and incongruous events occur . . .
I’ve never watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I heard people use that phrase when I was growing up so I guess it just kind of stuck with me. I have, however, read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I had to read it for a lit class back in high school and I really, really loved it. When I picked up Understanding the Borderline Mother I was pleasantly surprised to see quotes from one of my favorite books. I love quotes! Especially when used so creatively. I wish I could go into further detail about how well the author incorporated the themes and quotes from “Alice” into her book, but that will be for another post. Below are some of my favorite “Alice” quotes used the book:
“I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”
“. . . they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them- and you’ve no idea how confusing it is . . .”
“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
“Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in all her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper.”
“You know very well you’re not real.” “I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.”
“I know they’re talking nonsense,” Alice thought to herself, “and it’s foolish to cry about it.” So she brushed away her tears and went on, as cheerfully as she could.”
This really makes me want to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again. I always planned on reading it again, and I will, but it will be a slightly different experience this time around. I’ll never think of that book the same way again. I also want to read Through the Looking Glass, which brings me to Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 2., After Alice.
I saw the Through the Looking Glass movie with my mother-in-law this past weekend, but the interesting part is that before we even discussed going to see the movie together she gave me a copy of Gregory Maguire’s After Alice. I had no idea that he had done an “Alice” book. I read Wicked and I’m a little familiar with some of his other books- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Son of a Witch, etc. But I had no idea about Alice.
When my mother-in-law gave me that book I just couldn’t believe it. Here they were AGAIN!
Alice. And Wonderland.
What do they want with me?
Enter Interesting Alice Coincidence No. 3.
Well, like I said, we saw the movie, and I noticed it was heavy on themes that really hit home for me- family, time, and the past. Namely, that we should treasure our family and understand that “we cannot change the past, but maybe we can learn from it.”
Family and learning from the past- these are both challenges for me, especially the family part. However, another very interesting thing about this past weekend, I spent a lot of time talking to my mother-in-law. I told her about the ‘situation’ with my mom. She asked me how my mom was doing, so I told her the truth. And then some. I told her things about my mom and my childhood that I had never told her before, and I’ve known her for 12 years.
I don’t know why I so strongly felt the need to tell her, but I did. It was very therapeutic. But why? I suppose it’s about validation again. Validation is so important. Author and psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen emphasizes the importance of having someone “bear witness” to our story. I get that, I really do. I agree that having someone listen to your tragic “tale of woe” is, somehow, immensely helpful and healing.
But how many times do I need to tell my story?
How many therapists have I told? How many times does my husband have to hear the same stories? And my friends? And now my blog. How many people need to bear witness before I’m satisfied!? And what, or who, is it in me that feels the need to purge all the time!? And is it really purging if it’s all still in there? Because even though I keep repeating and retelling- it’s still in there…
I know you can’t change the past. You can learn from it.
Well, I have learned from it! And now I’d like to move on!
Now, about these Alice Coincidences- the new movie, the quotes popping up very unexpectedly in a mental health book, my mother-in-law giving me After Alice, seeing the movie with my mother-in-law (and my son), and then sharing details about my “Borderland” mother with my mother-in-law….
Are these coincidences pointing to a path? Should I follow? Should I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass before finally reading After Alice?
Or are these just silly coincidences that have no profound meaning and I should just let it go? Maybe that is the message. Let it go. Don’t go chasing Alice like she chased the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, don’t fall down into that dark hole…
Eh. It’s probably not that serious! Haha!
Well, I might read After Alice. I don’t like Gregory Maguire’s writing style, but I like the concept of revisiting well known stories from a different angle. And I like the challenge of reading his stuff- ’cause it ain’t easy! Not for me anyway. However, I feel like I’ll get more out of After Alice if I read the original Alice stories first… We’ll see.
(After finishing this post I noticed another strange coincidence- I used an Alice clip art pic in the second post of this blog many, many months ago. So I went ahead and inserted it in this post as well.)