maybe in that sense, she’s perfect
Sitting across from my mother in a sterile, moderately nice hotel room, I stare into her tear-filled eyes, and I forget why it is I resented her. I don’t forget the idea behind the resentment but the feeling. It dissipates along with expectations of who I think she should be.
I’d thought she should be more captivated by my life. I’d hoped she’d be more motivated to hear my stories. I’d believed she should take a more active interest in how I’ve become the woman I am today.
But instead, she is the same woman she’s been for the past 30 years. She is in pain, seemingly perpetually, and she has little to no interest in anything other than deep explorations of emotional experiences and how they relate to her Christian spirituality.
She is the woman who wants to tell me story after story of engaging with and healing strangers, domestically and internationally.
She is the woman who hates herself so much that even when I am angry with her, I find myself talking her down from self-detestation.
She calls herself a failure for the hundredth time in my life, and the words fall hollow. Not because I don’t believe her sincerity but because they serve no purpose for me. We both know she’s “failed” at playing the part of a traditional mother. It’s so obvious she might as well wear a badge that reads, “Not the mother you’d hoped for.”
Listening to her speak yet again of the world falling apart beneath her feet, I feel something similar to pity. And I’m reminded how grateful I am that she didn’t raise me.
Because she’s so fucking exhausting. Her need for constant affirmation and her default into deeply emotional storytelling drains me, and I’m left wondering what it is I thought I would get this time around. What did I hope for?
They say the universe gives us the same lesson time and time again until we’re ready to finally learn from it.
I don’t know that I’ll ever concede to the reality of my mother, that I’ll accept what is either mental illness or a deep spirituality unfathomable to a mere mortal like me.
She speaks of worlds and situations that would make for a great fantasy novel. She’s been telling me of angels and demons since I was a child, but nowadays, my adult mind is much less inclined to even try to understand.
But she is also the woman I call when my emotional turmoil is so intense I don’t trust any seemingly sane person to bear witness to it.
She is the person I fear becoming. She is the reason I try so hard to not be labeled crazy.
She is the most passionate person I know, and she is utter chaos.
I admire my mother for never falling into addiction or killing herself. Which may sound harsh but is true nonetheless. She has spent so much of her life in darkness, and as someone who’s spent more time there than I’d like, I genuinely don’t know how she carries on. I’m fairly certain I’d be a raging alcoholic with a sex addiction if the tables were reversed.
Which makes me wonder if maybe her faith is all she says it is.
My father’s always been the hero of the story:
The single father who worked nights so he could still take us to school everyday. Who told me I could be the first woman president and actually believed it. Who would sacrifice every earthly pleasure for me in an instant if I asked him to.
My father loved being a parent more than anything in the world. It brought him a joy I’ve only got glimpsed in moments of hanging out with my nephew.
But the thing is, both of my parents did exactly what they wanted. My mom spent her time playing the role of spiritual mentor and my father got to be a papa.
So who am I to put my mom in the category of Bad simply because she hasn’t lived up to expectations she was never going to?
When we try to make people into someone they’re not, who’s truly to blame for them falling short?
My mother is not who I call if I need advice on how to pay a bill, make a career move or vent about politics.
But she is the person I look to when I believe the darkness is so powerful it may swallow me whole. And maybe that’s the exact role she’s always meant to play.
And maybe in that sense, she’s perfect.