The One with Moms

Today is the kind of day no one celebrates. But it’s been looming in my mind for months as this weird dark monument that I don’t know how to write about. But not because I don’t know what to say, but because it’s the kind of thing no one wants to read.

But hell, if you read my last post then you know I’m only writing for me now and not worrying too much about what others think about the truth that I’m writing.

Today is 3 years since the last time I spoke to my mom and let her know I was cutting her out of my life.

Before you tear me apart and think what kind of kid rejects the person that births them, trust me when I say that this wasn’t something I came to on a whim, out of emotion, or because I am filled with hate and anger and immaturity. All of those things could be said of me at one point of time or another but thats probably why this was a life choice that was nearly 30 years in the making.

One of my most poignant memories I’ve had regarding moms was one Mother’s Day. Now Mother’s day has always been a hard holiday for me, especially growing up in the church. For the last almost 10 years, I played hooky at church on Mother’s day because the previous years usually included me, tearful awkward breakdown in the background, and well meaning ill informed church women giving me their advice on how I was failing as a daughter and how to treat my mother.

Uncomfortable to say the least.

I remember as a kid I would read these books, watch the lifetime movies. There was a beauty and a magic in this “mother-daughter” relationship that I’d see portrayed. I wanted it so bad it hurt. And surprise surprise that this writer today had a creative imagination even back then. So I wrote stories, lost myself in the fantasy of the possible, and dreamed of the day when I could tell my mom about boys I liked, or cry on her shoulder, or come to her for advice when I was trying to figure out whether or not to be a resident assistant or play college volleyball, or get her prayers for me when I was trying to figure out what job to take right out of college. That was the dream. And to be fair I believed it was possible even for us for a long time.

Back to the poignant mother’s day memory. I made the poor choice – knowing my mommy issues- to go see a movie in the theatre, on mother’s day, that was all about mother daughter relationships….. Great move.

The movie was your run of the mill ensemble film that flitted back and forth between various mother-daughter pairings. All of them had their own issues. Probably Hollywoods way of trying to portray real mom’s and real daughters and the struggles they may have encountered. And honestly, it was great in it its cheesy pop-movie type way. But the movie ended, and I power walked out to my car, closed the door of my Mitsubishi just moments before the most painful sobs and ugly crying I’ve had in my life commenced.

I honestly have never cried so hard or so painfully. With each sob it felt like it was grief being wrenched from my every pore. I have often wondered if anyone saw me in that moment because it would have surely been a sight to see with tears and snot running down my face as I can hardly breath and definitely can’t control the rounds of sobs that seem to just never stop coming. Its one of my most stark memories.

There’s something about mom’s that feels so fundamental. Like this is the one person in the whole world who should be built to love and protect you no matter what. So when that’s not the case, the deep deep pain that comes with that rejection leaves a searing mark on your soul and what has felt like cracks in my heart. For so many years of my life I wrestled with what I could have done differently to have actually been loved by her. To have her admiration. To get her protection. To feel her as my champion and best friend.

The college years for me were definitely the most healing years of my life- not without their own struggles- but moving to Texas at 18 was a definite God- thing for me in the mom department. I had actually moved out in a rather abrupt way right after I turned 18. And had six glorious months away from my mom before I packed up everything into a couple of suitcases, got an airplane and sat down next to my mom as she accompanied me to drop me off at college after nearly six months of no contact. Talk about awkward. But we arrived in Texas and the people who most had formational impact on my young adult years picked us up from the airport.

Mike and Christi.

Just writing his name makes me cry because my Uncle Mike became like a second dad for me and Christi became like a mom to me. The way that they loved me for the six years I was there and beyond left me literally forever changed. I remember holidays in college when I had nowhere to go and California plane ride wasn’t something in my budget and my Uncle Mike would drive 2 hours each way to come get me. All the while telling me everything I could possibly want to know or not care to know about Dallas along the way. Mike was my dad’s best friend, cousin, and college roommate but I had only ever known him as my favorite uncle. He was smart and goofy with a cheesy sense of humor and intellgient and sometimes sharp wit. But also the kindest soul who even in his most bumbling moments loved his wife and kids so damn much. He passed away a few years ago and I cried every day for months. I still think of him all the time.

Christi is this incredible ray of joy and sunshine which is only accentuated with her sweet southern accent and the fact that she’s a brilliant kick-ass nurse. I’m honestly convinced that if the world were to be placed into her hands for a handful of years it would be a much better place and people would be much better people. But the moments with her that made an impact on me the most were super small and mundane things that she probably didn’t think anything of. Like when I came home for the holidays and she took me out for mani-pedis. Literally never done that with my mom. And the fact that she paid for me and took care of me in the same way she did her own kids whenever I was there was such a small but incredibly meaningful thing for me. The way that she made room for me in her home on holidays or even long weekends when I was having a hard time at school. Late nights talking about boys with J names, purpose, family, understanding God and how to just be a good person. I’ll also never forget the time that she spent talking me off a ledge while doing her makeup with the first serious boyfriend I had. Her kindness and wisdom shared with me in a steamy bathroom was one of the moments that felt so much like the mother-daughter relationships I’d coveted my whole life. I cried on the airplane when I flew home- not because of the boy I was leaving behind, but because Christi was the most mom I knew and her love for me made me feel so safe.

My junior year of college brought me another mom in the best way. Mendy was both the mom I wanted to be and the kindest, sweetest mom I didn’t realize I still needed. I became an after-school nanny to her daughter- who really was more like a little sister to me. But everything changed my senior year when I lost my on campus job and dealt with some other situations that led me to moving in with them for the remainder of my senior year.

A couple memories have stuck with me over the years. Coming back to their home after the Christmas holiday in California and finding that they had set up a room for me, bought me a bed cover and made me my own space in their home was the first. Damn it, I feel like even saying that that is what made such an impact on me just further highlights my pre-existing mommy issues but what can I say. One of the other moments that stuck out to me- apart from the many times I visited and she called me one of her girls- was a moment that I don’t think she even knew I had witnessed. I don’t even remember the exact particulars but I remember that I had either broken something or left something a mess. Little Emi brought it up to her mom in terms of talking to me about it. But Mendy, not knowing I was in the next room just around the corner, said something along the lines of we’ll take care of it and it’s not something to make her feel bad about because that’s not how we treat people we love. Not at all the experience I’d had with my mom where one mistake would be shame heaped upon shame for years to come. I sat there around the corner wiping my tears as I realized there was a different way to love your daughters as a mom. I saw God that day too.

Two of the most kind, honorable, beautiful mom’s I’ve ever known and my life would not be what it is if it had not been for the impact of these women just being themselves and showing love in a way that came naturally to them. The examples I saw in motherhood, mothered me and inspired me.

So three years in. Why did I cut out my mom? Honestly no one’s business. Maybe another day I’ll go into the relationship we had. Three years later and I still run into well meaning people who try to tell me I need to fix it and “be a good girl and call your mom”. Three years feels like a really long time. But it feels like the sweetest three years of being able to breath after 28 years of holding my breath.

To her. I hope your life rests. I hope you find happiness. I hope that you heal beyond a cursory surface healing. I hope you find what you are looking for.

There’s so much I could say that might make someone reading this feel more on my side but at the end of the day thats between me, my therapist, and God. That’s my past and I’m living in my present. The present me that has been made so much sweeter and more healed because of the women who mothered me and mothered just where I could see.

So to the rest of us out there with complicated mommy issues that don’t get talked about in light of the prevalence of daddy issues out there… Here’s to you. Whatever relationship you make work or don’t. Whatever boundaries you have to establish. Whatever healing you have to go through. Here’s my three year anniversary cheers to us. And to those who stay. To those who keep on fighting to be in it. To those who decided that the right choice for them was figuring out how to be in that relationship regardless of pain or hurt from the past. Cheers to you to.

In case you are wondering what mom’s and this three year anniversary means to this “sleepless in sacramento” girl. One of the things that happened when I was sobbing in that parking lot after the mother’s day movie was about what love and falling for someone could have possibly looked like for me. I sat there and wrote a “letter to her” asking the hypothetical question of who/how I might have grown up to be if I had known love and support. If I had had a mother who nurtured my heart, who listened to me, who wiped my tears, who treated my childhood crushes with dignity and kindness, who showed a whole love, who supported my dreams, who covered my shame and spoke truth to my insecurities. Would I have walked into dating with more confidence? Would I have believed and trusted that real, passionate, lasting love was possible sooner? Would I have known my worth and said no to more things bad for me? Would I have been more successful in dating earlier because I knew what was out there for me?

It’s the questions I’ve asked myself many times over the years. Our families and early experiences have a life altering impact in who we are, on who we can be. But in a very wise conversation with my therapist recently I was reminded that you can’t live that way, pining after a reality of “what could have been” in this fantasy life where wounds and trauma never happened. But the reality that “what could have been” is not possible does not at all preclude being happy with the life in front of you now. Just take some time, ponder the beautiful moments and people that have added to the beautiful tapestry you’ve made from the strings and colors you had to work with. Then dream a life bigger and live it.

I can’t wait to live a life that puts my fears to shame and overshadows the “what could have been” life I dreamed of so many times.

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