I want to talk about a secret. Secrets are tricky. The only reason to keep a secret is to surprise someone, or to hide shame. I don’t need to surprise anyone, but I feel like I’ve been shamed into keeping a secret. Sleeping at last wrote that
“We are made of love and all the beauty stemming from it. We are made of love, and every fracture caused by the lack of love.”
Part of the secret is not my secret to tell. But I have fractures that were caused by the lack of love, that were caused by the lack of love, that were caused by the lack of love. It’s my story too, and you can’t know me until you know where I’ve been. The hard part is that I have to be sensitive to the others who share the same secret. I must be sensitive to those the secret exposes, because the darkness hates the light. Well, I hate the darkness and I refuse to fear it any longer.
It started so so long ago, when my mother was just a little girl. I wish I could go back in time and be her mother. I wish I could have given her the love that every little girl deserves. I wish I could nurture her and tell her she was beautiful; that I loved her singing voice and how she could turn everything she sees and feels into a poem. I wish I could have sewn her beautiful dresses so that she always felt like a beautiful princess. I wish I could run her to a garden full of food and pick all that she wanted. I wish we could bring it home and I could pull up a little footstool so she could help as we made her favorite meal. I wish I could tuck her into bed after a goodnight story and kiss and let her drift off to sleep with the peace and contentment you can only get from a full meal and a loving home. I wish I could empower her. I wish I could tell her that she is strong and brave. That she is never alone and could tell me anything and I would protect her no matter what.
If I can’t do that, then I wish I could go back and be her friend. Back when she was barely 20 years old, living on her own and working multiple jobs and sending money to her parents. Back when she was using any of her 4 cars that worked while she continued to fix the others and rotate parts. I wish we could stay up late and eat ice cream while we listened to her favorite songs. I wish we could collapse in a fit of laughter as we danced. It’s ok to just dance. I wish we could do each other’s hair and nails before we went out. I wish I could have talked her out of that one thing I’m not supposed to know about, or at least been there for her to lean on. I wish we could vent and yell about how f**cked up it was how she grew up. I wish we could just sob and then sit in each other’s silence. I wish I could push her hair back from her face and tell her that she’s gonna be ok and that it wasn’t her fault. I wish I could hold her and rock that little girl in a grown body and yell out and curse that it’s not fair. That she doesn’t have to be that way and that she can start over. That she can run and never look back. That God is good. Not just the way greeting cards say it, but the honest good. Good meaning that He can gouge out the poison and heal the fractures caused by the lack of love and the lack of love and the lack of love. Oh, the lack of love, Mother, the lack of love.
I would hold her hand. I would face it with her. I would be strong for her when she was weak.
If I couldn’t go back and be her friend, then I wish we could have raised our kids together. I wish I could have known her as a young mom navigating the shaky waters of parenting. Just trying to figure out how to protect her children when nobody protected her. I wish I could tell her that nobody feels prepared to raise children and that it’s overwhelming to everyone. I wish I could have gotten us sitters so we could go grab some coffee, get our nails done and recharge. I would tell her to take a deep breath. I would pray over her and let her call me at any time, day or night.
I wish I could tell her that it would all be worth it one day and that her children would be beautiful and they would all grow to love her and thank her for staying as strong as she could for them. For not being any of those things that hurt her as a child.
But I’m not. I’m her youngest daughter. I was given to her while she was so broken, alone, tired and fractured by the lack of love, by the lack of love, by the lack of love. She somehow managed to do some very important things. She taught me about music. She sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” she took us to Florida and blasted Will Smith’s “I’m Comin'” as we drove over the bridge. She danced in the kitchen. Most importantly, she never hurt us the way she was hurt. She loved us with the full capacity of her tired and wounded heart. I sometimes wonder if it was me. Because I was born 10 years later, unplanned. She was already exhausted. Maybe she just didn’t want to do it anymore. Or maybe it was when her mom died. I was only 4 at the time, and she was never the same. Maybe it was when we lost Anne Marie. It had started to feel like someone understood her, but then she was taken away. All I know is that it was dark, and the darkness hates the light, so we drew the blinds.
Motherhood as an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic) has been a rocky journey. Somedays I just can’t understand how her kids weren’t enough for her to just stop. How I wasn’t enough for her. I look down at my beautiful children and I just want to give them the world and can’t imagine ever hurting them the way I’ve been hurt. I can’t imagine ever checking out. I can’t reconcile with the distance. I still shudder at the darkness.
Other days, I empathize with my mother. Her job was so hard. She really did give me all she could, and she loved me, the best she knew how to. She still does. Alcoholism is a mysterious and ruthless disease and some of my questions can never be answered. I can’t know how she was suffering and wrestling with the exact same questions as me.
When I found out I was having a girl during my pregnancy with Lila, I burst into tears. I was flooded with doubts and fatal thinking. I saw myself as broken and inadequate. I never had that Gilmore Girls relationship with my Mother. How could I raise a little girl of my own? How can I be a mother at all?
I’ll say what I’ve said before.
All you need to be an excellent mother is the capacity to love and the desire to do your very best.
So, that’s what I’m doing. I try to keep my heart whole by walking with God, seeking wise counsel and being reflective. And, I pour into my kids. I give them everything I’ve got as a mother and pray that it’s enough to let them know they are enough. I will make mistakes. I’m bound to. Nobody is perfect, but I vow to make different mistakes. To learn from my fractures caused by the lack of love, to embrace the beauty stemming from all of the love I did get.
So, I sing them Somewhere Over the Rainbow when they can’t sleep. I dance in the kitchen to keep them entertained while I get dinner ready. I cut french toast into squares and put syrup on the whole batch so it’s easy to eat. I take all of the good that I was lucky enough to learn from my mother and let it live on. I have people in my life watching closely, who will speak the truth in love and hold me accountable. They won’t let me fall. I won’t let me fall. He won’t let me fall.
God was there for me the whole time. Protecting me. Giving me hope and love. Saving my life, shielding me from so much danger. It takes a village and my Mother’s village came to the rescue on so many occasions. Looking back, I had so many mothers. I sat at so many family tables and shared homemade meals with women who cared and didn’t judge. I was welcomed into their homes and treated like a little girl. Like a teenager. Eventually, like a woman. It was just what I needed.
I’m ready now. I’m ready to let go of my resentments, my fears, my hurt. I’m ready to fully forgive and let go of the past. I’m ready to start a new relationship with my Mother. From one Mother to another.
Meanwhile, I’m embarking on a journey. I’m going back to all the women who were there for me when I needed them., including my own Mother. I’m hoping to sit in their kitchen with a camera and a pen and listen to their story as a mother, while sharing their favorite dishes. It will be my first book. It will be the next chapter in my journey towards healing and will hopefully lead to healing for other mothers like me.
To any mother’s out there who have been motherless, figuratively or literally, for any season of their life, I recommend this book. It was recommended to me when I was younger and wrestling with the concept of having a mother who was a there, but wasn’t really there. It put words to what I was feeling. It helped me to heal, and more importantly, it helped me to grieve. If you know someone who needs to read this post, or read this book, be sure to share it. It’s because women reached out to me, that I was able to start my journey of healing.
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