Characterizing Mother

When I was about to leave for the Peace Corps, my mother would call and read me rape and murder statistics. I find this funny now, but at that time, not so much. Now I understand that it’s because she was scared and didn’t want me to go. If I didn’t leave the country, then nothing bad could happen to me. Flawed logic at best.

When I think of my ideal mother, I most certainly do not think of someone reading rape and murder statistics. I wish that situation would have been handled differently. I wish I could have told her I was already scared to go, but I had to go because if I didn’t, I knew I would live the rest of my life regretting it. However, emotions that relayed any kind of vulnerability were always seen as a way to undermine my decisions. I knew I couldn’t tell her I was scared. So, I didn’t, and I went.

This story stayed pinned in my mind as I spoke to my therapist. I didn’t talk to her about it, but instead about how chaotic and lonely my childhood was. I found myself downplaying how difficult my childhood had been. How unstable it had been. Now, I realize the difficulty came from adults downplaying traumatic events throughout my childhood. Whether it was the many partners I was introduced to by my parents, domestic violence, or the nights I spent alone. The “this is really bad and scary” feeling was always there, but I was told it wasn’t a big deal. I learned to push that feeling into the back of my mind and eventually, I stopped hearing my own voice.

I couldn’t remember parts of my childhood because of how traumatic they had been. After a few months of therapy, I was finally able to trust my therapist. I got to a place where I was willing to explore the trauma in my childhood. The trauma felt like dark corners where monsters lurked. I came to realize that the things in the dark were not monsters. They were beasts that had gotten trapped in the dark. They were scared too and now; I had the tools to lead us both to the light. To say goodbye to them or to learn how to live with them. To slowly heal them. To befriend them.

I wanted to move on, and I wanted to heal. In some ways, I was scared to let go. These feelings had been with me since I was little, so it was like saying goodbye to good friends. Dysfunctional friends, but very reliable friends. They always showed up. If I healed these traumas, who knows what I’d feel. Who knows what would show up.

So began the process of “remothering.” I had no idea what this was. Luckily, the blogging community is great and my therapist recommended a helpful resource:

I started by thinking about what I was provided as a child. What were the good things I was given? This way I’d have something to hold onto if I felt out of control. I could ground myself in the things I was given. Here are a few examples:

  • I always had a roof over my head
  • I always had food
  • Religious freedom
  • Material goods

The important thing was to make a true list of what I did have in childhood. What I was given.

Then, I began defining what a mother was to me. This is what I wrote:

  • Calm
  • Kind
  • Gentle
  • Safe
  • Playful
  • Proud
  • Patient
  • Protective
  • Caring
  • Spend time together
  • Stable
  • Freedom
  • Guiding
  • Well-rooted in relationships and community
  • Not always talking about themselves
  • Listens

This is my personal list of what I would like out of a mother. Slowly, through therapy, some of my anger towards my mother started to melt away. Looking at this list now, I realize it’s my job to fulfill myself in these ways and not my mother’s. Perhaps part of the reason I remained angry for so long was to avoid giving myself what I needed. That seems like a lot of work.

As I’m in therapy talking about the anger that’s always seemed to be there, my therapist says, “sometimes we’re afraid to let go of an emotion because it ties us to people.” That’s partially it. I am afraid to let go of my anger because it ties me to my mother, but also because it ties me to my former self. Somehow it feels like a betrayal of my younger self to heal. To forgive. Letting go of the anger I’ve had since I was small feels like I’m telling myself those feelings aren’t valid.

I remember what is was like to be angry and to have no one listen. To be lonely and to have no one comfort me. To be surrounded by adults that don’t have their shit together. Mostly, I remember what it feels like to see adults make toxic decisions that negatively impacted me as a child. I didn’t understand why they ignored the impact of these decisions on my life. Now, I realize my parents refused to address their negative choices because they had difficulty addressing the root causes. How could they accept the added layer of hurting their child? And you know what? I no longer have to think about it. I realize that their decisions are on them. The reasons they made those negative choices has to do with their own trauma—generational traumas cascading down from generation to generation unhealed—not my character. I’m just in charge of cleaning up the emotional wreckage and trauma in my own life to prevent transmitting it to the people I love; to heal fully and to finally feel at home in my own skin.

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…