Twenty years ago I learned a veritable tome of lessons, some of which I’m just learning now, and it seems unbelievable to me that I can look back at anything in my life knowing it happened twenty years ago. My mom taught me a lot about life while she was alive, and I’ve mentioned that before. She taught me compassion, strength, and determination. She taught me to seek adventure and levity in everything, to make people laugh whenever you can, and to live and love with all your heart no matter how scary the world feels. She taught me to trust my instinct and eschew advice that doesn’t feel right. She taught me to be myself.
What my mother’s death taught me was open honesty. You never know when the last time you say “I love you” or “good morning” or “good night” will be the last. It’s made me vulnerable at times, and I’ve had to learn to accept when it’s not reciprocated, but hey, another lesson, right?
But you see, it also taught me some less than positive lessons. At twelve years old I was already well aware that I was different. I didn’t have many friends, my anxiety and depression were already in full swing, and I’d already thought about suicide more times than I can remember now. I needed help, and I was constantly told I was wrong, broken, or worse…that I was fine. I was fat, I was slow, and I was constantly missing the mark. At twelve I had already had at least one nervous breakdown, I was scared of losing everyone I loved, and I had been proven correct. At twelve I discovered my intuition and empathy in the worst way, and I hated it, so at twelve I learned to hide. I learned to expect the worst. I learned to expect to be alone. I learned that change is terrifying. I learned to build walls, and forgot all those lessons about love and life and laughter.
When I started the Power of One it was immediately pointed out to me that when I’m uncomfortable or anxious I smile. It’s a skill I developed at a very young age, but I imagine I perfected it at my mother’s funeral. Since then it became a crutch I used to get me through parts of my life I felt I could not navigate, and it began to cloud the genuine me. I’ve been lucky enough to have people in my life who could see through the fog and find that genuine me, but for most of my life I haven’t been able to see her myself. I’ve merely been relying on the testaments of others who tell me they see her, like a fairy tale buried deep inside me. As the lessons from my mother started to actually take root and as my intuition and empathy refused to be ignored, life got harder, and the more I stayed inside my walls the more the fires outside tried to cook me out. I tried to let myself be vulnerable…to the wrong people at the wrong times. I tried to be happy…all the time, and ended up holding in the pain and sadness until I couldn’t, resulting in some pretty spectacular meltdowns. I tried to be strong and independent…and all I did was feel more like a failure.
In the year since I seriously started putting effort into my transformation, I’ve worked on being open without being overbearing, happy without using it to cover up when I’m not, and to know when I can be strong alone and when I need to reach out for help. Not all has gone according to plan, but if my mom’s death taught me none of this other bullshit, it taught me that life doesn’t care about your plans, and unpredictability brings as much serendipity as it does tragedy, and the only control I really have is how I choose to react to it, process it, and move on with my life. Losing my mother was not the first tragedy I’d faced in my life, but it was the first one I felt like I was facing alone. The truth is, every situation we face in life we face alone, even if we have the strongest support system on earth, because we’re the only ones who can do the internal work it takes for real survival…and real living.
Love you, Mom. Thanks for still teaching me. after all these years.
Go now, keep learning..keep living….