March 13, 2015

DEAR MAMA

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I originally wrote this post at a very low point in my life last year when I was forced to say goodbye to the woman who had essentially been my surrogate mother since birth. I was too emotional to post then, but I’m in a much better place now…

I have always had an estranged relationship with my biological mother for reasons that only she really knows. That’s just the way it has been as far back as I can remember. In fact, anyone who knew me during my childhood years could readily attest to the fact that something wasn’t quite right between my mother and I. My mum wasn’t the type to bake cookies or braid my hair (in fact, I believe my aversion to hairdressers stems from the fact that I’ve been doing my own hair since the age of about 7 and  as such. I believe that NO ONE knows my hair better than I do). We weren’t very affectionate towards each other. We rarely hugged or kissed and when we did it was both awkward and uncomfortable. She was an incredibly volatile and largely unhappy woman, always seeing the worst in people. Her ugly persona and bleak outlook on life made her very difficult to live with and I remember constantly feeling anxious around her – so wary of her delicate moods that swung so manically at a moments notice. Constantly complaining and drowning her sorrows, I have few memories of her smiling and am saddened that I cannot recollect the sound of her laughter. She was incredibly beautiful; even as lupus and kidney complications ravaged her body you could not deny her that. I used to watch her get ready for work in the mornings; a short and simple routine of brown eye pencil, mascara and lip liner and lipstick. Sometimes a bit of powder whenever she had a breakout. She would tong her hair and spray her favourite perfume; Angel by Thierry Mugler.

I spent my life observing my mother from a distance as she generally preferred me out of the way. She didn’t welcome my questions and very rarely had any of her own for me. She didn’t attend school plays or fun days and she didn’t encourage my hobbies or passions. She was a massive disciplinarian and ruled our home with fear and emotional blackmail. As a result, she didn’t really know me and we eventually became strangers over time. I kept a lot of secrets from my mum and chose to confide in my Nana instead. I became increasingly guarded and detached from her as I grew older and as I matured into adulthood I no longer felt obligated to keep up the façade of a loving mother daughter relationship that just didn’t exist. Visits and phone calls became few and then lesser still, till the point where I have now not seen or spoken to my mother in almost 10 years. Do I miss her? I would be lying if I said I did. It’s almost impossible to truly miss something you’ve never had. But as I draw increasingly closer to motherhood myself, I can’t help but wonder what I would say to her if I ever saw her again? Would I ever welcome her into my life and the lives of my children?

People often pity me when I share the above and I find it massively frustrating. For me, family is not as black and white as blood ties. Family is essentially people bound to you by unbreakable love, trust and loyalty that many genetic relatives just do not possess. I do not yearn for a ‘mothers love’ as I have been fortunate enough to have had wonderful surrogates whose love and guidance has without a doubt balanced and shaped who I am today. Nor do I blame my mother for (what some might call) our dysfunctional status quo. As an adult I can now look back and see clearly that she was riddled by her own demons which no doubt affected not only her day to day actions but major life choices too. Plagued with her own insecurities my mother would often tell me I was incapable of doing things simply because she did not have the strength, courage or confidence to do it herself. The more she told me I couldn’t the more determined I became to prove I could. I became fiercely independent as a result of only having myself to truly depend on, and I developed a ruthless ambitious streak born sheerly out of having only myself to believe in. I am a hugely loving, affectionate and nurturing person, probably because I was starved of the same love and affection from the one person who ought to have bestowed such on me in abundance. I am sociable and in some ways quite extroverted, probably because, through illness my mum became much of a recluse. I exercise patience and kindness and always make time for children. I listen to them, go to great lengths to understand, educate, and motivate them to believe in themselves and their abilities just as my Nana did with me. Essentially, it would appear that it is all the negatives of my relationship with my mother which arm me with an array of positive traits that I have today. One could even argue that I am a better person for it. Having spent years in the background observing my mothers own self destruction I have been able to navigate myself around similar pitfalls, determined to be her exact opposite. All except for books. If there is one thing that my mother and I both share is a love of reading, and for that I thank her.

So as mothers day approaches, I think of the mother I don’t have, the many amazing mother figures in my life which I do have, and the mother I hope to be one day. All of which should be celebrated.