"The journey of a Love Warrior is to rush towards her pain and allow her pain to become her power." Glennon Doyle Melton
I am stopping on this Mother's Day to feel my feelings instead of hitting my easy buttons that help me avoid the discomfort of what I'm feeling. Often, my feelings are worked out through writing so this is really just self therapy while I work towards a whole and healed heart.
This morning, as I sipped my morning coffee, I scrolled Facebook and read one tribute after another to wonderful, loving moms. One after another, until it hurt and I couldn't read any more. This post is not for those people.
This post is for a group of people who sit in a very different camp. This is for those who sit quietly observing the others from afar, painfully envious. This post is for those who stand in front of the Mother's Day card display, lost or empty or angry because there isn't a card for us to give that tells the truth. This post is for those who wished they had sent a card so they could avoid making the obligatory phone call because that exchange with your mother will never be what you need it to be. This post is for those who wear a phony smile and make up half truths because it's more comfortable for others than if you were totally honest.
Those are my own experiences and the reasons I sit in a different camp than others on Mother's Day. I'm sitting in grief with a minority instead of celebration with the majority. There were three primary messages that my mother imparted to me during the majority of my childhood. Two of those messages saved me a seat at this table of grief and heartache. One of the messages carries the potential to change it all.
The first and most striking message that my mom imparted to me was that she didn't want to be alive for the most part of my childhood. Life was just to great a burden to carry and she would just as soon die than live. When I was 4 years old, she tried to kill herself twice. The first time, she jumped out of a speeding car and then was institutionalized in the California State Hospital. The second time she overdosed on a bottle of pills and fell down a flight of stairs. At that time, she was institutionalized in the Wisconsin State Hospital. When I was 6, my mom overdosed on pills again. After finding her and getting help, I watched as paramedics tried to revive her and listened as they pumped her stomach. She was institutionalized in the Texas State Hospital. I was 8, when she attempted suicide again and again was back in the Texas State Hospital. I spent more than enough time in those hospitals; waiting alone in lobbies or sitting with her while Drs diagnosed her with Schizophrenia and Manic Depression. For the majority of my childhood, my mother did not value her life. Therefore, she simply was not capable of valuing mine. Which leads me to the second most predominant message she imparted to me.
To many times to count, my mother would angrily tell me she felt 'tied down'. She made it clear that I was a responsibility and burden that greatly hindered her sense of freedom. To cure her entrapment, she would often run off to seek out her freedom. To date, she enjoys talking about her time in New York during the height of disco and how she loved dancing. I was 3 years old at the time. I'm in my forties now and it still stings when she regales me with her stories because she is seemingly unaware of who her audience is. She traveled as far as Germany once and lived there for a while but it must not have been as fun because she doesn't talk about it as much. As years progressed, she would tell me that she couldn't wait until I got married because she felt she would no longer be responsible for raising me. It seemed so strange to me that she felf this way because I never felt like she alone raised me. The truth is there was cast of characters who raised me because I lived with a lot of different people at some point or another. While many mothers were suffocating their kids with their overbearing affection and attention, my mom couldn't wait until I was no longer her cross to carry.
With these two dominating messages as the foundation to the relationship with my mom, it stands to reason my experiences with her were far from the picture of a mother and daughter lovingly smiling at each other. My mom was never really an affectionate or warm person. She did not hold or hug or embrace me that I can remember. She was just always troubled so her disposition was always erratic or eccentric at best. I learned to stay alert; watchful, monitoring the mood and adapting to it. Nor was my mom a source of comfort or safety to me, rather she was a source of fear. There was a time in my life that I slept with a switchblade under my pillow for good, solid reasons. When I became a teenager and a little mouthy, I cussed in front of her while we were in the car, she became so enraged, I was scared and felt the need to get out of the car at a stoplight. I'll never forget running for my life, literally, as she tried to run me over with the car. Of course, these crazed times lessened the older I became simply because I spent less time with my mom but they never fully came to a stop. After marriage, she instructed me to hide a painting, that was hanging in my house under the bed. She was convinced the painting would result in a divorce. After having my baby, she went back and forth a full year over giving me a baby blanket, that I did not ask for, but she was convinced it had a bad spirit attached to it. I have been blessed at times with sweet seasons with my mom where things are easier and more manageable, precious moments that I hold dear to my heart. Inevitably though, they are followed by a season of suspicion, distrust, anger or jealousy. I grow weary of the mental and emotional energy it takes to carefully measure my words or actions so they don't become part of some twisted plot in my mom's mind. I cannot be forthright or transparent, it becomes a liability. It is a roller coaster relationship filled with ups and downs. Sometimes its enjoyable but a lot of times my stomach drops when we take an unexpected turn. My mom and I are not in one of our sweet seasons right now. We are in a season where I have allowed my weariness to drive the car of our relationship, going on a couple of years now. That's what I'm forced to sit in today; the relationship with my mom is not fixed, its still broken and it still hurts my heart. Which leads me to third and last message that she imparted to me.
Despite my mom's mental or emotional challenges; she took me to church, bought me a bible and she talked about God. All of my life. This came to me as a mixed bag of conflicting messages sandwiched between her despair and her anger but it's okay, God has been faithful in helping me sort out the mixed up beliefs I had taken from that. Because God is close to the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit, I have always had a seat at his table and this relationship with my mom is what I continue to bring up during the conversation; help me sort this relationship out, heal the hurt, direct me with healthy boundaries, give me compassion and sympathy and understanding and acceptance. Pour into me the love I need for my mother.
So today, this post is for the people whose reality on Mother's Day is one of conflict instead of reassurance. This post is for those who always feel an unfulfilled gap in their heart because the relationship with their mother is a source of anxiety not comfort. This post is for those who feel like Mother's Day is the never-ending funeral simply because it’s a grief that revisits you every year. This post is for you sitting in a different camp than everyone else. I just wanted you to know, I'm sitting there with you and you are not alone.