My mother gave me life, and has spent most of my difficult existence breathing it back into me. She still regularly throws me lifelines, even though I’m 36, and should have all this crap figured out by now. I definitely do not.
Mama still regularly calls me on my wrongdoings, my bad decisions, and my poor choices. I could always just lie to her, but not having my shit completely together is part of my charm. It makes me human; and who else will love me through all of my imperfections?
I was born into a marriage that ended in divorce before my long term memory even kicked in.
I have zero memories of my parents being married, and that was always fine with me. My father died of esophageal cancer when I was 12, and I went into a dark, deep, seemingly endless hole of sadness and self pity.
Anger was my chief expression of these emotions. I was constantly triggered by the anxiety that came from my world being flipped on its head.
Mama put me in therapy and tried her hardest not to kill me, I’m sure.
I remember so many times as I cried for no apparent reason, that she just sat with me. Silently. What do you say to your torn-through child who just CAN’T. STOP. CRYING?!
I was often sarcastic, rude, disrespectful and grumpy through my teenage years.
My stepdad was a mean alcoholic who routinely used me as his verbal punching bag, mostly because Mama wouldn’t fight with him, unless he came for me. So she rescued me.
From the verbal abuse and his particularly psychotic language and insults.
Then she just kept on rescuing me from myself.
She rescued me from a severe drug addiction when I was 19.
Nobody could find me, so she recruited all of my friends to find me, and find me they did. I was living in a hotel room, strung out on cocaine, and really at the end of my road.
If she had not sent out her army of daughter-hunting minions in that moment, I probably would not be here today. She saved my life. That would not be the last time she did so.
Two suicide attempts by the age of 22, and she showed up kind of sad, kind of pissed.
“Amanda, why are you doing this? Why do you not want to live when you are so loved?”
More saving going on here. Thank God I wasn’t successful. This self-inflicted form of punishment all came to a screeching halt when I became a mother. Yet, I still didn’t understand my mother.
Now, one of my daughters is dealing with some severe anxiety.
She cries a lot. A LOT! It breaks my mama heart. It also frustrates the shit out of me some days.
Some days, I want to scream, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU CHILD?!”
But then she looks up at me, those eyes of mine in her tiny face, filled to the brim with big tears, and she says to me, “I don’t want to feel this way, Mama. Why can’t I just be happy?”
When she said that to me last week, I was reminded of my mother’s silence. I have talked this with her to death. I’ve tried everything.
It all stems from missing her dad. We are divorced (HALLELUJAH!) and when she’s with me, she misses him.
We share custody so there’s an every other week schedule, but this daughter of mine, the child who made me a mother, is a Daddy’s Girl, through and through.
And she misses her dad. And I am not her dad, and my husband is not her dad, so we are riding the struggle bus. I say WE and not SHE because I am struggling right along with her.
When I struggled so hard growing up, sometimes I hated my mother’s silence.
She sat there. She hugged me. She held my face in her hands. She stroked my hair. Sometimes though, she said NOTHING.
Most of the time, this was just enough, but then I started to wonder why.
Sometimes I flat out hated it. Why wasn’t she talking to me? Offering comfort? Words of wisdom? WHY ISN’T SHE TELLING ME HOW TO FIX IT?!
Mama is known for saying, “sometimes nothing is the best thing to say.” She often tells me that to this day, often in reference to my own temper.
But when my girl looked at me so sad I could feel it in my soul, and asked me why she couldn’t just be happy, I had NOTHING to say. Because I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better.
I can’t do this FOR her. Hell, I still struggle with my own anxiety and doing it FOR ME! So, I held her face, and I wiped her tears, and I stroked her hair, and I hugged her tight. Nothing I could say would change it.
It was in that moment, that I realized how many times my mother’s PRESENCE saved me. I finally understood her silence.
Mama often calls me now on her way home from work.
I am frazzled and crazy, because all of the kids are home from school, and I am making dinner or cleaning the house.
When my phone rings and it is her ringtone, I turn into a track star to get to my phone.
I need her lifelines, and her calls are just that.
Most days I am holding it down, but on the days my anxiety is through the roof, she is just what I need.
I wonder if she knows that while I’m not still doing drugs or trying to kill myself, that her voice, her support, her love, her honesty, often keep me from going to the dark side. She knows when something is wrong, or just a little off, and sometimes she offers me her nuggets of wisdom – and sometimes, she says NOTHING! Now I understand.
My child’s struggles are my own. Just as mine are my mother’s.
I will keep trying to be her shelter on her bad days, as my mom has been mine. Parenting a child with severe anxiety is very difficult. I just pray that my presence brings her peace and comfort. And that I don’t lose my shit.