As I passed a doorway, I glanced inside. I caught a reflection in a mirror framed by the door and saw my mother’s face. I saw her eyes, the arch of her brow, the slope of her nose, the strong and determined chin.
I saw a strength radiating from the reflection that I had never noticed before. A set to the shoulders, a sense of self-pride that comes only from embracing hard truths.
On closer inspection, I realized that the woman staring back from the mirror was me.
The resemblance of the women in my family is striking. I can’t look in the mirror without seeing my mother, my grandmother, my daughter. As I grow older, it seems the comparison is only growing stronger.
Since the death of my mother last summer, I’ve learned, and come to accept some very hard truths, about our relationship, about her as a mother, and her as a person. Seeing her face every time I look in the mirror hasn’t been easy. It’s led to a lot of me trying not to look.
Finding out that someone you loved and respected wasn’t who you tried to believe they were is hard. Finding out after they are gone and unable to explain or defend themselves is even harder.
My relationship with my mother was troubled, but in spite of that, I loved her and craved her approval and love more than my next breath. I believed her to be perfection personified. Not that I believed she’d never made a mistake, but the grace and ease she seemed to move through life with left me in awe and with a desire to be like her.
In truth, my similarities to my mother end with what I see in the mirror. This used to upset me, but with the lessons I learned right after she passed, I’ve found that she wasn’t quite the role-model I believed her to be.
Learning that a parent is, indeed, nothing more than human, can be devestating, and it was for me. I spent the first few months grieving more for my lost image of her than for her as my mother. Reality can be a relentless companion.
As I look into the mirror now, I no longer see the woman that failed at everything, that was weak and never did anything right. I no longer see shame in my eyes for the times I disappointed her.
Now, I can stand tall when I catch my reflection. Shoulders back and head held high, knowing that I have not lived a perfect life, but I have lived. I have made mistakes, but I have learned. I’ve had my heart broken, but I have known love.
For all my imperfections and short-comings, I have a beautiful daughter that I love with all my heart, the love and devotion of a good man and a handful of wonderful friends that I can always count on when I need someone.
I no longer live my life by the measure of a woman that hid her impefections while expecting those in her life to live up to unrealistic standards. I have begun to set my own standards for my life. I have learned that expecting the people in my life to perform to my expectations will leave me sad and alone, a fate I am determined not to share with my mother.
I have come to realize that her expectations of me were unrealistic and that if she could have seen past them, she could have really known me as a person and been able to see that I am a good person, with a kind heart. She could have seen how much her love and acceptance would have meant to me.
I will not continue to make these same mistakes with Mini-Me. In my eyes, as well as my heart, she will find the acceptance she seeks. I will know the person she is and not be blinded by my own wishes for her. I will accept her for the beautiful individual that she is and support her in her decisions in life, even the ones I don’t agree with. I will give her what my own mother never gave me, a place of love in my life where she never feels inadequate or unworthy of my love.
I don’t want it to take her loosing me for her to find her self-worth. I want to be part of watching her blossom into the outstanding woman I know she can be.
When I am gone, I want her to see my face in her own and for it to bring her pride and joy. I don’t want her to search eyes so like my own for an acceptance she should have found in mine.
As I finally begin to heal and move past the loss of my mother, I can’t help but wonder if she left this world with peace in her heart. Did she realize, too late, the things she missed out on? Was she satisfied, in her own heart, with the life she lived?
I will never have the answers to those questions. I will always wonder, and I can’t change that. What I can change is leaving those questions in my own child’s heart when I’m gone. I can live my life in such a way that she will always know where my heart is and that I have found peace in my life. I can teach her by example, to live a life filled with the joy of living and the love of those that matter.