I still believe in gratitude. My life has changed dramatically since August, when my Mom’s best friend died and I had to step in and help my mom with her needs. The bottom line is, my mom wants to stay where she lives, with her neighbors and friends and church, and her wish is to die peacefully in her home. I’m trying to help her with her final wishes. It’s hard. I get angry sometimes. With her. With myself. With the situation. Maybe I even get really mad at our very imperfect and very fraught past. I think it’s probably unfair for me to post my deepest thoughts about it all online, but I also think I’m probably not the only one struggling to help a parent who wasn’t picture perfect, who fucked up a lot, who caused drama and hurt. When I think about how much my mom would hurt if she read what I wrote, that hurts me. She asked me sometime last fall, what was a happy memory of her in my childhood. I couldn’t think of a single memory with the two of us that was happy.
I’ve made a point to give my children happy memories with me in them. Maybe that makes me sound superior? I’m not sure. I remember how much I suffered, and that not all of it is my mother’s fault. But I also keep in my heart that my children are humans and if I hurt them too badly they will choose not to be around me when we’re all older. That’s one way I try to keep myself in check. I try to use empathy with my kids and let them know that other people’s actions are not their responsibility. Including mine. If mom’s upset about something, it’s not your fault, unless I say “this is your fault,” and even then.
I’m sure my mom did not intend to wound me so deeply. I wonder how I’ve unintentionally wounded my own children. I try to stay aware. There just aren’t any simple answers.
I am grateful for a few things stemming from having new responsibilities with my mom. Somewhere in the morass I realized I had to stop waiting to have my own life, outside my kids. I make more of an effort to step outside my comfort zone, take risks and make new mistakes and do things for me. I had some dark back and forth with my mom and I got to ask her if she only felt loved if she sowed chaos in my life. Sure, that sounds terrible, but it was an important moment between us. We have had some lovely, quiet, special times together since I’ve been visiting her once a month. She’s talked about her regrets. We’ve talked about death. We’ve talked about my Dad. She tells me not to neglect my family in order to help her. This is a terrible position for all of us to be in. But it is reality and unavoidable. I’m willing to go out of my way to help her as much as I can. I have a lot of responsibility in my own life to take care of family, and I take it very seriously. So I take care of myself now. Which means letting myself get angry and feel anger and BE anger and maybe share too much online. Fuck, I’m not really sorry that I do that. I’ve been doing it in some form or another for 12 years.
If I lose my memory like she has, I’ll have my writing and my photos to look back upon to help me remember. I’m more vigilant about existing in my photos and on videos, so I can look back.
I’m not afraid of anger or shame or guilt. I’ve worked very hard to be able to allow myself to feel a full range of emotions after a very long period of feeling numb. And you know, you can’t feel great happiness if you don’t feel great pain.
I’ve been reading Golda Meir in search of feminine leadership. She has a beautiful quote, that touches me.
Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.
So I’m ready to laugh and to cry and speak to my experience, even though I know that my truth will be painful to others. Authenticity is everything. So today, I’m grateful for authenticity.