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 can’t just run away from my problems, Mom”, spoken in the closest imitation of an “adult voice” 19 year old Mini-Me can muster.
While I agree with the sentiment, I can’t seem to get her to understand the difference between “running away” and moving on.
Running away is being in the middle of problems you can’t or don’t want to deal with and removing yourself instead of dealing with your problems. Moving on is walking away when you’ve done all you can to resolve those problems and you refuse to stick around letting the people in your life run over or mistreat you.
In truth, she’s not doing either. What’s really happening is that the situation has reached the point where it should end, but she’s unwilling to let go. She would rather suffer than write the end of the chapter.
It’s hard being the parent of a young adult that is so head-strong and so confused at the same time.
Draco shakes his head in frustration, as uncertain as I am as to what we should, or even can, do. I remind him that Mini-Me, right now, is only one year younger than I was when we met. He looks at me in disbelief, and I can understand how he feels.
As much as Mini-Me has been through that is so similar to my own experiences, when I was 19, I was the mother of a toddler, I had been in an abusive marriage for a year with the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. At 20, I was legally separated, in the process of a divorce, had had my child taken from me by my abuser and was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. I suppose I seemed so much older to us both because those experiences matured me. Life has a way of doing that.
I know that 75% of her situation is a matter of the heart. She loves him, right or wrong, and is still trying to hold on to the illusion that one day, he’ll change and be the man she needs him to be. I went through that with her father, I guess her existance is where the path split for me.
Would my choices have been the same had it not been for her? Would I have held on longer had I not had a child to think about? Would he have ever changed had I stayed?
I like to think that I would have made the same choices out of respect for myself, but is that what 19 year old me would have done if Mini-Me hadn’t been a factor or is that nearly 38 year old me speaking with the hindsight I now have to see how my ex-husband’s life has continued a downward spiral to where he is now?
I won’t lie, nearly 18 years removed from the situation, and I still ask myself in the lonely hours of the night if I could have saved him from himself. That’s what love gives you sometimes, unanswerable questions.
I still don’t know what choices Mini-Me will make, or if she’ll live with a lifetime of regrets and questions she will never have answers to like I have, but I do know that she’s not the only one learning as we continue to try to move from a parent/child relationship to one of mother/daughter.
As we progress down our own path, I’m constantly reminded that while I continue to try to teach and guide her into full adulthood, that I continue to learn from our experiences as well.
She is teaching me, just as I am teaching her. She reminds me to be open, to question, to look at my own life and choices with new eyes. To ask myself what I might have done differently and wonder if those options would have been right or wrong. She reminds me what it’s like to see life, and love, through the eyes of a soul not worn down by time and bad decisions. She reminds me of what it felt like to love blindly, without hesitation or reservation.
Watching her love is like riding a bicycle downhill with no hands and sometimes, I think we could all use a reminder of what that feels like.
Not many people are aware of the reality Draco and I have been living. Most people don’t know all of our history, the things that have been said and done that no two people who truly love each other should have done.
Very few people know that while we still cared for one another and have continued to stay together, that our relationship lacked substance.
Fewer still are aware of how close we recently came to going our separate ways.
I have to admit that even though I knew I would always love Draco with all my heart, even I was on the verge of giving up. There has been something between us for years that neither of us could move past, each for different reasons.
I told Draco recently that I couldn’t live this way anymore. I needed closure of some sort, and so did he. We needed to move forward somehow. I was beyond caring how. I told him he had until the end of December to figure out what he wanted and to make something happen.
I have to be honest. I expected to start the new year heartbroken and alone.
I took him for a trip down memory lane, to the place it all began to go wrong, giving him the option of a different life. It was a gamble, and one I fully expected to loose. That was a few weeks ago now.
Last weekend, we spent the weekend at home. Just the two of us. It began quietly, neither of us saying much, but on Sunday, my world changed.
Draco had finally made a decision about what he wanted and I was shocked to find that it was me.
Sincere apologies were offered for things said and done years ago. We talked, really talked, for the first time in years. The beginnings of something new for us glimmered like an oasis in the desert. Hearts reopened to the possibility that we might not be done yet.
The last few days, I have been happier than ever. I’ve managed to loose weight without trying and can even see the difference in the mirror. Day to day struggles have seemed smaller than they used to be. Colors seem brighter, my “job” as a housewife seems more of a joy, knowing I’m taking care of a man that works hard every day to come home to me.
Draco seems happier too. There’s been real laughter this week as we’ve loved, played and acted silly to make each other laugh. He seems lighter when he comes home from work and has mentioned looking forward to the long weekend, eating lots of turkey and getting in lots of snuggles on the couch.
I’m happy to say that even my passion for sharing my life through my writing is returning, something I was beginning to fear I’d lost forever.
I’m in the process of changing the blog back to Phases of Me, where I actually got my real start blogging. I’m changing my blog identity to Raven Moon, and my style of writing may soon change to the voice I speak with in my mind instead of the voice my family told me was acceptable. These are things that have been pulling at me for some time now.
With Draco’s support and encouragement, I no longer feel the need to hide who I am from anyone. I know that, come what may, he loves and accepts me, and that’s all I ever really needed or wanted. The rest will find it’s way.
I hope that everyone considers the changes positive ones and chooses to stick around, but either way, I’ve got to be me.
Love and light,