So for whatever reason when I was running yesterday I got the intuition to text a bunch of people and tell them I love them or was grateful for them in some way. One was a sponsee and the other was a mentor. I did think about my mother, but I didn't text her on the run. But I did think about how she is basically my best friend in many ways. This is the good news. There is some less-than-goodish news too, but really all the struggle I'm going to talk about I am mostly okay with today. I have written some things about my mother that I'm sure she would hate, and if she ever reads, may ask me to take down. Just for today though I'm living my truth, and it does seem to ebb and flow. If you ask me on a particularly rough day, it might seem that I don't love her at all, and the next I will have lots of soft space and grace for her. So be it.
My mother is diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. Her's is so severe that without medication her mania can lead to days on end of no sleep and her lows leave her holding a gun and wanting to end it all. This is a true story. When I was about 5 or 6 she purchased a gun with the intent to kill herself. In fact, she sat on a curb with it for most of the day and called my father repeatedly telling him what she was going to do and was in a belligerent state. When she told me this story about a year ago I asked "where were we?" She said "I don't know," very plainly. My brother says he remembers this, that she was gone and went away to the psyche hospital for a week. I don't recall it, but our grandparents did come stay with us from time to time without our parents and I guess maybe I was told they were on vacation or something. I did find the gun in my mother's drawer and assumed it was my father's. I cried and told her I found Daddy's scary gun and I wanted it gone. She reassured me and said "ok, I'll tell him." It was after that the curb incident happened. This is just one of the trying times in our house as a child. I remember a time I was sick with a stomach flu and about 5, and was crying out for help from the bathroom and she swung the door open so violently and screamed hysterically at me to "SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!! SHUT UP!!..." I wedged myself into the little space between the toilet and the wall, terrified she was going to hurt me. I laid there for what felt like an hour and when I crawled out the house was silent, I guess she went back to sleep. In her defense, she was in Law School, raising two children, and suffering with a lot of mental health issues. As an adult with kids I know what it's like to lose your cool, especially when tired and stressed. My father was working 16 hour days at two full time jobs. Shit was hard. She did get diagnosed and on Lithium when I was about 12. This changed things, a bit. See, the thing with medication for mental illness is that it is a plug in a huge hole in a faulty dam. There's still a lot of leaks. Instead of huge peaks and valleys we were gliding along the rolling hills of her disorder, and still are sometimes. I have become so good at reading my mother's moods I can predict an entire day from the first words out of her mouth in the morning. Go figure I went to school to become a therapist.
As a mother now, I have read lots of articles on parenting. Books too. Many of which are in direct opposition to one another. It is a revolving door of do's and don't's. I'm learning to trust my inner parent and go with what I feel is right for my girls every day. Something I don't like anymore though, is that "you can't be both a parent and a friend to your children." I don't remember where I read it, but I did. It came with some great reasons why too, but I like better "you can be a parent and friends with your kids." This feels more right to me, it makes me happy, the other statement, makes me sad and frustrated, so I'm going with my gut. I will try to do both. I know my mom could only really do one, be my friend. I know its a lot to handle for anyone without her challenges.
When I was little, I wanted so badly to have normal parents. Or what I thought of as normal, by that I mean perfect humans, with no flaws. I now know, as a parent, how impossible that is. Some days you just need to be a crappy parent, meaning you at least keep them alive and you might give them a little too much screen time (waaaaaaay too much). Because, as it turns out, parents are human beings. I never gave my parents (especially my mom) enough credit for what they were doing right. They may not have been cuddly parents, or emotionally available but my Dad did everything he could to make sure we would never want for anything, and my mom...my mom showed up, and still does. This is why she is basically my best friend. I am terrible in friendships. I hate the phone and communicating, I am so afraid that people are tolerating me instead of enjoying my company and I ask a lot of weird questions. Basically I'm your loving, introverted, awkward friend who has no time. I've come to terms with a lot of my eccentricities and am working on being a more connected person in general (I mean I'm writing a blog here! progress...).
But with my mom, she is always there, witnessing and checking in. I don't think she missed a sports event or was late ever, for anything during my whole childhood and she continues that even now, even though she lives half a nation away. She wasn't happy she was at my basketball game, you could read it all over her. Maybe it was the scowl, crossed arms and sitting silently by herself that gave it away, but I dunno. I'm only half kidding here. There were plenty of "upbeat" days that she smiled, waved and cheered, but also equal "down" days. I gave my father so much leeway just because he was consistent in mood. But he almost never showed up. Lots of empty promises. I know too, it's because he worked so hard and didn't save any energy for children-related things. But at the time, it broke my heart and still does a little. He hasn't changed a whole lot. He barely made it to my wedding on time, wasn't involved in the planning of it, and was talking to an employee through much of the father-daughter dance. He doesn't do grand-parenting, at all. Sometimes when I see a grandfather at the beach with his grand-kids I get angry... And I idolized him for so long. I can see now it was and is a longing to be close to someone who is wrapped in addiction so thick, nothing else can get in. For him it's work, sex, food, shopping, television and technology, the internet, and cigarettes and coffee. I sit outside his fortress waving to him, and he waves back, but when I beckon for him to come outside and play with me, he believes what is inside his castle is too important and will fall apart without him, so I walk away alone. The sadness behind my eyes and deep in my throat and chest sometimes feels like it will crush me if I let it flow over and through me when I stare into the abyss between us. I will write more when I can about my father because I love him so much. It wasn't until I started to do work around the wounds of my father that I noticed how hard my mom really tried. How much she just continues to show up despite how hard every day can be for her. When I text, she texts back. Not a week goes by that she doesn't hound me to call her back and make sure I haven't "fallen off the face of the planet." Or a conversation where she isn't planning the next time she is going to see me and the girls.
I am not alone anymore of course. I have my husband, and my kids, and my mom every once in a while. And my recovery community. My sponsor has my back no matter what, she is a warrior for me (and I for her) and I highly recommend joining a recovery group of some kind (introverts anonymous?) just to get a person like this in your life.
I was talking with my husband about how to some, my Mom's showing up may seem commonplace or nothing to celebrate as it is what all Moms "should" do. But that's not my reality. I don't live in a Norman Rockwell painting. My parents are people, with flaws, just like me, so what good is it to compare them to an ideal they can never attain? And to stay stuck in that looping resentment is futile and quite frankly, not smart. My mother is what was perfect for me in many ways and I do love her. I have become many things she was unable to achieve, because of her fear, I have been able to love others who are afraid. I have developed a deeper understanding of why I might, or others might, do things. I have searched for the answers to my own illnesses and shortcomings. I have sought recovery because I watched addiction ravage myself those I love. I show up for my kids emotionally and I hope and pray they become better and freer than I could even conceive of. It is because of her that I show up. I know that it is more than half the battle. It is because of her that I ask myself if I am okay or need help and then seek the answers and reach out. It is because of her that I know the power of the written and spoken word. It is because of her that I cuddle and assault my children with a million kisses and I love yous a day. So, thank you mom. You are a warrior. Keep looking for the answers. I'm right behind you.