Friday, November 20, 2015

The best thing about a bad day: tomorrow.

As a mom, I always have the best of intentions. I start each new day wanting to be patient, supportive, loving and kind to my boys. And, I generally end each day wishing I had done a far better job at all four of these endeavors.

Before motherhood, I had such high expectations of everything I would be someday as "their mother."  Some of this was engrained in me by the heartache left behind after my own mom left us when I was a "tween."  I’m confident my Type-A personality also played a role in the kind of mother I hoped to one day become. The motives behind my intentions are neither here nor there. All I knew was that my someday-children would never doubt the love I would have deep in my soul for them. They would have great confidence knowing that “home” truly would be where their heart resides. My children would know they were loved – in the big ways and the small.
The simple acts my teenage girlfriends partook in with their moms regularly, like a short shopping trip to the mall, lunch on a Saturday afternoon, or a trip to the hair salon together were what laid the foundation for the “perfect” mom I would be someday. Little did those friends back then realize the kind of impact their relationships had on their friend who longed to have what they often took for granted. And, little did I realize how hard it would be to become that "perfect" mom I conjured up in my adolescent mind.

My life revolved around my sports when I was growing up. I played soccer all year round, and basketball and softball in between. There was one teammate in particular who I spent a lot of time with back then. We attended the same school and were on all the same teams. It was often tough for my dad to jockey both myself and my younger sisters' schedules, so I got to know her family quite well. And, I often longed for what she had with her mother. They shopped, they dined out, they did "girl stuff", but more than anything they enjoyed one another's company.

But, she wasn't the only one who seemed to "have it all" in my mind's eye back then.  Many of my team mates' moms were on the sidelines every Sunday for our weekly games. They weren't too busy fulfilling other life obligations to be in attendance for their daughters. And, they were present at the “game of all games." Sadly enough, my mom wasn’t there to see my team clench the state title in Columbus, OH that summer when I was in the eighth grade. Maybe she was at work? Or, there might have just been other things more important in her life to attend to. Whatever the case may be, as a nearly 40-year-old mother-of-two, to this day all I know is my mother was not there to celebrate one of my life’s greatest victories. My dad was there…he was a coach. My little sister was there…I don’t think she had had much of a choice. “Keeta” was there…my biggest supporter, and my confidant…because she wanted to be in attendance to support me. But, mom wasn’t there. And, her absence has lived in the pit of my gut my entire life.
I couldn’t wait to have kids of my own so I could take them out for ice cream “just because.”

Our relationship was severed when she left. And, it took me many years to trust her again. My mother was a wonderful woman that had babies too young. She floated through the first ten years of her adult life unsure of the direction God had planned for her. And, then she spent the second half of it gaining back what she had lost. When she was in her early thirties, she dropped more than 100 pounds, gained a little bit of confidence, and decided it was time to take on a new life, free of the chains she felt within the grips of our household. Granted, our home wasn’t the most peaceful of places. But as a kid, it’s all I knew. And, when she left, a part of me died inside. She left me to be the sister, the daughter, the wife, the homemaker, all in one fair swoop, at the ripe age of 12…and I was angry.

In the last few years of her life, we were blessed with the opportunity to make up for lost time. Even though we never truly had the mother-daughter bond I longed for, we had the chance to mend some of our brokenness. My 19-year-old sister had a young baby boy to care for, and we all three collaborated together to do what families do – we loved and supported each other through it. And, in the midst of that, I grew to “know” my mother in a whole new “adult” way. Seeing her nurture my baby nephew was comforting to my soul (a soul that still longed for her loving embrace). She poured out such unconditional love on that child that I don't believe she was ever able to provide to her own…the kind of embrace you receive that makes you feel completely protected and “home," no matter how old you are. 

I never truly let her back in, though. My heart wanted her friendship in a way that pained me as her adult child, but my mind just couldn't get past the abandoned child from years prior. Then, one day me, my heart and my mind ran out of time.

She left us for good in February of 2005. And, we left this world with her.

I became a mom later that year, and reality hit me like a brick. Losing her at the age of 48 to complications from a brain hemorrhage (only a few weeks before finding out I was pregnant with my first) impacted me as a new mother in ways I never knew existed.

I didn’t have the joy in my heart every day that I expected as a new mom, and I didn’t know why. And, although my baby didn’t sleep well at night, leaving me utterly exhausted and depleted, the darkness didn't lift during the day very often, and in fact lingered for months-on-end. There seemed to be no break from the intensity of my broken heart and soul. The guilt from this lacking, coupled with the grief of losing her, led to post-partum depression…not just once after the birth of my first, but a second time two-and-a-half years later when my second was born. And, the second time it nearly blindsided me. I was utterly lost in mind, body and soul. I missed her. I missed what we never had. I missed what we could have been. I was broken.
God blessed me with two healthy, beautiful boys, yet I had no joy in my heart to give them or my husband. It was a dark place to reside. Looking back on those days, I wish I could tell my younger self to just breathe. I would tell her that being a mom is the toughest job imaginable, but the most rewarding. I would tell her that “this too shall pass.” I would tell myself that even though today is a tough day, the good news is we have the blessing of tomorrow to wake up and try to be a little “better” than we were the day before. I would also remind her that not only are you grieving the loss of a mother, but the loss of a dream.  She was never coming back. She would never meet my boys. She would never get to see me be a mom. We would never get to be moms together. I gave no credence to the fact that this had crushed my spirit in unfathomable ways. It left me bitter, and broken during a time when all I wanted was to experience joy.

Now, ten years after first being introduced to motherhood, I can attest that it gets easier with time in many ways, but my heart is still tested to the core. I’ve done a whole lot of soul searching and healing. My faith has grown ten-fold as I’ve watched my husband and my boys and I mold and shape our own little family-of-four into that blessing I always longed for. And, I know for a fact that she’s proud.

The road traveled into a more mature and confident mother has not been without heartache and total frustration. There are many nights I’ve gone to bed just completely horrified with how I’ve conducted myself in the midst of my boys, let alone my God.  I’ve grappled with what I could have done or said differently in certain circumstances. My words of angst and irritation towards them often play out repeatedly in my mind. Ten years ago it was guilt because the joy was sucked from my soul. Now, it’s guilt because I’m not showing them joy through my actions and words. “Mommy guilt” never ceases, but now-a-days it ebbs and flows in more manageable doses.

I often think about her and wonder what kind of advice she would give me today. Would we have grown closer with the birth of my boys…she always wanted Chris and I to start a family. Would my boys enjoy time with their “MeeMaw” on her off-days during the week? Where would she take them, and what would they do? What kind of “little secrets” would they share? I would give anything to see her face light up and hear her contagious laugh at the sight of my two silly boys being who they are – her daughter’s rotten, beautiful offspring.

I wonder if my transition to motherhood might have been softened had she been around to lighten my load? Would I have had more joy in the wake of the births of my two children? Could I have better managed the load of being a full-time mother and wife in those early years? Would my marriage had not seen such depths had she not left this earth so soon? I often ponder these things. And, for the longest time, these questions hardened my heart. I would see so many others around me raising their little ones with the love and support of their own mothers, and I would get jealous, and bitter, and my heart would harden even further.
But, my God had a plan for me – a plan to help me rise above. He wanted me to make this mess a message. I reached a point in my not-so-distant-past when I loathed being angry and resentful for the mom that was taken from me entirely too soon, and from the dream that was ripped from my grips. I overcame the chains of my past, and the victim I’d become as a mother, and turned it into a victory. HE invited me to make those tests my testimony. And, so I did through Christ Renews His Parish at my church. This amazing program gave me the strength a few years ago to begin my journey of healing. Then, this past year I was able to experience another term in this amazing formation process at my church, and this time it touched my soul in ways I never thought possible. HE let me be a witness to his amazing grace and healing. Those tears I saw others pour out for me brought great redemption. Then, shortly after that experience drew to an end, my God blessed me with yet another opportunity (through an amazing employer) to discover the place within my hardened heart where tranquility lies…that peace with HIM that surpasses all understanding.

It’s only been in the recent few months that I’ve finally been able to lay my head down and be at peace with who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Each day I can be thankful for the life I’ve lived, and even more than that, be thankful that I can be a better version of myself for my boys and my amazing husband tomorrow than I was today. For with tomorrow lies great hope. I have a God in heaven that knows me, and loves me anyway, despite what I did yesterday, or the day before that. And, I have a mom up there with him that wraps her arms around me each night and lets me know “everything is gonna be okay” in a way she was never truly able to do here on earth. I know she’s there…sometimes she even comes for a friendly visit in my dreams. And, when she does, I embrace it.

I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a daughter. I’m truly blessed.  
Jesus is my peace Meditation:

No comments:

Post a Comment