When I look in the mirror, my mother doesn’t stare back at me, granted some mornings I see the twenty year old me and other mornings the fifty-something stares back. The only time I do see my mother is in photographs. Dr. Doctor shared a candid picture of me and I was struck by how much I did resemble my mother physically. So much so I felt like I was looking at a stranger rather than a snapshot of myself. Since I came of age, I’ve fought becoming my mother and it was horrifying when I did hear her voice as I mothered my sons. It’s not that I discount my mother’s way of moving through life; it’s a matter of being a completely different woman. She didn’t understand my path and her lack of understanding translated into a lack of acceptance which was at the nexus of issues between us. I never wanted to be her. I wasn’t the little girl that dreamed of being my mommy when I grew up. Perhaps it’s because I knew on a subconscious level my mother suffered silently from depression.
My mother has been gone for almost seven years. Her death was a stunning loss but at the same time I was thankful she was taken out of her debilitating pain. Fences were mended before she died and by that time I felt nothing but sadness she suffered from depression without treatment until she was in her fifties. My mother was talented and deeply creative but stymied by her terrible self worth and depression. This is more heartbreaking than any weird messages, toxic behavior, or dysfunction I experienced as a child or young adult.
Years ago, I was in an intensive therapeutic process and one of my tasks through guided imagery was reliving a terrible memory of my mother. My therapist wanted me to picture myself as an adult witnessing eight year old me during a particularly damaging situation. My therapist didn’t direct what should unfold as I described where we were in the house, the time of day, the time of year, my age, the circumstances, my behavior, and my mother’s behavior. I let it unfold and it didn’t go exactly like I thought it would. I thought I would “rescue” little Laura and keep her from the “bad mommy”. But as I moved through the house and to the room where my mother was berating a scared eight year old something surprising happened. I did make sure little Laura was safe and away from the two of us while I tried to calm my hysterical mother who was a decade younger than me as I healed this terrible memory.
I placed my hands lovingly on her shoulder to stop her shaking and looked directly into her eyes.
I held her close to me and I felt little Laura clasp my legs. The past and the present were cocooned and we were all safe. My mother was safe from her lack of control and her depression; I was safe from the past and my child self was rescued from terrible words. I realized I would never be my mother and my mother’s voice would be silenced by my own unique voice, with it’s own imperfect message to my children and to myself.