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.
I awoke this morning to a layer of frost covering everything my eyes touched and it reminded me that in spite of the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, that the Winter Solstice is only a week away.
The days following the Solstice, leading into January, is the time Draco and I normally celebrate Yule, although we haven’t truly celebrated in years.
At my friend B’s urging, we finally put up a small tree last weekend that she sent from her Mom’s house, insisting we use it since her mom passed last month and she leaves today for Switzerland and then Italy, to spend the holiday with her daughter and grandchildren. Before that, my only concession to the holiday season had been a table cloth she insisted I take.
Draco knows I’m trying to reclaim our holidays now that Mom is gone and Mini-Me is grown, but he also knows how hard this year is for me. He is following my lead, listening to every word, and trying to make it easier. I appreciate him for this all the more because being attentive isn’t normally his strong suit. He’s used to me being an independant, strong and assertive woman – at least in our home and marriage. He doesn’t really know what to do with the uncertainty he’s seen in me the last few years. To be honest, I really haven’t known what to do with it either.
As we finished putting up the tree last weekend, which was just a string of lights and a star on top, I mentioned that it looked a little bare without decorations, so last night, he snuck off and bought 2 boxes of ornaments (all our Yule decorations are in storage 2-1/2 hours away).
I had also mentioned recently how I missed the smell of oils in the house (I’m an oil burner junkie), so when we stopped at a store and a lady was selling oils from the trunk of her car in the parking lot, he bought a bottle and got her number so that I will have a steady connection for my oil addiction.
Another thing about this time of year is that as we moved past Samhain (Halloween), we entered the dark half of the year. A time when the harvest is nearly done, sunlight begins to loose its strength, nights get longer and the cold begins to creep in.
At Yule, we are entering the heart of the cold and the dark. It’s a time when activity is limited and families gather around the fire to share stories, memories and to reflect on the passing seasons.
For me, it’s a time of reflecting on my personal harvest from the year and when I attempt to plan better for next year, so that the harvest will be plentiful.
As I reflect, I see that we weren’t really prepared last year and because of it, I am still scrambling trying to lay in supplies for the barren months we now face. There is no doubt that this winter will be a difficult one, but I know we will manage somehow, just as we have in winters past.
I also know that I have learned some very valuable lessons, especially about planning for the lean months.
While I own that our planning could have been better, I refuse to give myself too hard of a time for it this year. This time last year, things were falling apart fast at my parent’s house. We were blind to the fact that Mom had discovered a lump in her abdomen that she would announce to the family after the New Year in January. We were looking for our own place and trying to stay close enough for me to help with Mom without having to live there. We were planning, but Mom’s annoncement in January would throw my family, and my life, into a tail-spin no one was prepared for and all my plans would fall apart at my feet as I tried to help my family while loosing my mom.
That is something I had no way, and no opportunity, to plan for.
Now, it’s just me and Draco. My family is pretty much non-existant with the exception of Mini-Me, Chicklet and a few friends that have clung to my side through it all.
Moving two and a half hours away was “planned”, literally, in a week. When we got here, we didn’t even have a home to come to and stayed in hotels for nearly 3 weeks. My health had gone downhill, especially my mental health, while I spent the last 3 years trying to take care of everyone but myself.
My spiritual life suffered so much that I’ve begun to redefine it and what I want from it. I don’t believe that I could have honestly prepared us, or even myself, for what the last year had in store, so I chalk it up to one of life’s many hard lessons and move forward. We will get through this. I will get through this.
In the last six months, I haven’t always felt certain of that. Loosing my mom has been an experience, and a pain, unlike any other. I have learned so much, so fast, about the woman my mother really was. I have been forced to see our relationship for what it really was. It has been one of the most difficult times of my life, but I have survived.
My family, that I always thought was so integral in my life, has treated me as if I were disposable, and it nearly broke me completely, but I have survived, and what’s more, is that I have learned.
I know now that I can make it without them. I know that with only myself to answer to, I can make the decisions that need to be made. I know that my life should be what I make it, not what others choose for me. And? I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will survive that, too.