May 13, 2017

Becoming Our Mothers // ZEN AND PI No. 33

I am becoming my mother.

I did my best to avoid it. I fought it all my life because I wanted to be my own woman. My greatest fear was to make all the same mistakes as her and find myself just as unhappy in life and love as she is. I saw my mother as a cautionary tale and worked hard to do everything the opposite of the way she did it. 


But I'm getting older, and wiser, and so is she, and I feel differently now. Now I want to be a little more like her, and closer to her too. Time is closing in on us both, and the past seems so far away and so petty after all. And anyway, no matter how hard I tried to be perfect because she wasn't, I only turned out to be just as human, and flawed and fucked up, and beautiful as her anyway. 

My feelings about my mother are complicated. When she had me, she was so young, and nothing turned out the way she meant. Our little family did not survive and when there was just me and her and my little sister and between us all her anger and fear and my neediness and love for my father and my sister who was a second chance. My mother was left behind by my father, I was left behind by my mother, and still, we had to learn to live together and get through every day.

We needed each other, and d
espite all, we have been through, the harsh words and the resentment, we need each other now

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” 

― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Part of growing up is learning just how much your genetics and your upbringing play a part in who you one day become. I spent my teens and 20s trying to figure out who I was and it turns out I had been staring myself in the face all along. 

I had hoped to find something a little more spectacular, a little more magical, a bit bigger and more interesting, but I am only me, always have been and now I have to get on with becoming a bit more me every day. Now I just have to navigate the world the best I can.

My mother has given me the closest thing to a roadmap, a set of instructions, or a list of "do's and don'ts," tips and tricks, and warnings that you can get in this life. A bittersweet gift. I know the ways my mind and body may change and the ways the world will come to view me and I to view it because I am watching my mother go through it first. 

Sadly, she's going through much of it alone. Her children are here for her, but we lack empathy for her experience. We are simply too young and still too dumb to help her through it, but we love her the best we can. We worry for her, encourage her, and try to put her mind at ease, but I wonder about her thoughts at night. I wonder what she worries about and what she hopes to leave behind in us. I wonder if she is happy and if her past haunts her. I wonder if there is more I can do or whether or not I should pry. What will I wish I had done when she is gone?

“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we've ever met.” 

― Marguerite Duras

I will be honest; I am often very angry with my mother. I am often disappointed and frustrated and even indifferent to her, but that isn't her fault. It isn't even entirely mine. I am a shitty human being like all of us. Like her too. 

There is another truth too. The truth is, I love her so much it hurts, and I'm never sure I can bare it. I loved her before I was even born and I will keep loving her until the day I die. No matter how much she has hurt me and I have hurt her too. None of it matters. I was once a part of her very body, and my brain has been hardwired to love her. She is a part of me too, and neither of us can escape that.

She made some mistakes, but she got some things right too. I turned out okay, I think. I have problems, and I've fucked up a lot, but so much of that isn't her fault. I'm a good person too. I do my best to be kind and honor the golden rule. I have a decent job, a home, friends, and someone to come home to every night. Much of that wasn't up to her either, but I believe that I started with a good heart because of her and more than money a good strong heart is what makes a person into someone who can love and be a source of happiness and inspiration for others. A good heart is how you find what truly matters in life. 

I am like my mother. Sensitive, anxious, wanting, and hopeful. I am hurt and afraid, but loving and thoughtful when I remember to be. I want to do the right thing, and I always wish I could do more for the people I love. My past walks with me, and my wounds never close, and still, I am stronger for it. I cry easily and my anger, while slow to build, flashes bright and frighteningly hot before fizzling fast into guilt and what ifs. I talk too much and laugh at my own jokes. I'm small and often sickly. I want to be something and leave something behind when I am gone. 

I am like my mother and happy to be. She is the most human human being I know, and I am so proud of her for that. For never hiding and for teaching me early on that both good and bad exists in all of us. I love her more than I can bare.

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” 

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Not all moms are good moms, and all moms, have made mistakes. They carry their own childhoods into ours and sometimes, if we are lucky, they know that and make an effort to be a little better to us than their parents were to them. Too often they forget though and fail to break the same cycles they hate. Sometimes we can work through it and sadly, sometimes we can't.

To everyone out there who's mother got it right more than she got it wrong, make sure your mother knows that you know how lucky you are to have her. Let her know that you appreciate everything she has given you. Treat her right, because she is rare.

To those of you who's mother got it wrong more than she got it right, I hope you can find peace with your mother. I hope she can recognize her mistakes and give you some resolution to your pain. If you can't, all hope is not lost. There is still time. Work on it if it feels right to, don't if your mental health is in jeopardy. Find peace with yourself alone if you have too.

To those who's mother's are no longer with them. I hope your memories are good ones and you have some way to remember and celebrate her. I hope you are happy to have had her no matter how short your time was and I hope you feel her with you wherever you go.

To those of you who are mothers yourselves, happy Mother's Day. You deserve more than you will ever get. I know the job is hard and that there are no instruction manuals but you are doing great and it will get better. One day your kids will understand, and of course, it will be far too late to pay you back for all your sacrifice. Such is life. 

As for me, I will take this opportunity to celebrate the good in my mother, to accept the flaws in us both, forgive the wrongs from both sides, and find ways we can love and heal each other going forward. That is my gift to her, the best I can ever offer. I only wish I had thought of it sooner. 

“We are not all born at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later... Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth.” 

― Mary Austin


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“I never attribute malice where I can identify incompetence.”

— Tom Nichols, Trumpcast​


Thank you so much for reading! 

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