Mother’s Day is here and every year I have a hard time finding the right Hallmark card. I’ve always had a really complicated relationship with my mother. As a young child, I remember being in such awe of her. Her beauty, her grace, her magic. I wanted to be around her all the time, it was like I wanted to soak her in–I wanted to be her. As I grew up and I began to see a more realistic picture of who she is as a human being, and how her expectations of me clashed with who I was, the tensions quickly arose. We have had many iterations of a mother-daughter relationship through the years, much of it neither close nor positive. Through it all, we loved each other deeply, and very ambivalently.
I have had trouble accepting her for who she really is, and, although I can’t know, I know she feels the same way about me. She, bless her heart, hasn’t had the easiest life. Unfortunately, she’s not very resilient so often plays the victim-card. You know, the “Oh woe is me, life always hands me a raw deal”-card. She’s the kind of person who can see something wrong in every possible circumstance, person, or rainbow. And she’ll gladly point it out for you. To be helpful, of course. She won’t do anything about it, but she’s generous in sharing her observations. She is always the helpless complaining damsel in distress. There is no bright side to anything. Silver lining? Gold is more valuable. There is nothing to be grateful for in this cold, unfair life. I have difficulty with people like that. Needless to say, conversations with my mom are short, and few and far between–I’ve found it best that way to keep our relationship positive. She is my mother, I do love her deeply. But no, Hallmark, she is neither my confidante nor my friend.
She can, in fact, be kinda mean. She is a master of backhanded compliments and passive-aggressive love. I think she lashes out and plays the victim as a coping mechanism in the hopes of avoiding additional hurts in life. If she can keep people at bay, her theory dictates it minimizes chances of her getting hurt again. She can also feel better about herself if she tears others down.
And I realized that she and I genuinely get along only when she’s vulnerable. She has been in poor health the last few years. Some days she’s so weak she can’t open a kitchen cabinet or walk up the stairs. She has her good days and her bad days, the latter outnumbering the former. I’ve found that on her good days, I can’t talk to her. I don’t want to talk to her. Because I don’t want to hear my own mother essentially tell me she doesn’t think I’m worthy, that there are conditions to her love. But on her bad days, when she’s too physically exhausted to put up a front or keep people at arm’s length, I can have real conversations with her. We actually connect. She’s not judging or condemning me; in those moments she’s the mother of my childhood.
And I’m sad that she can only be genuine and authentic when she’s at her most vulnerable physically–when she’s literally so weak she can’t do anything else but put down her armor and be her true self. I wish she could be my mother more often.
I used to want to be just like her. Now I try my hardest to not be anything like her. I won’t wait until I’m sick or dying or compromised to open up to people and show my real self and connect truthfully with others. I want most days of my life, if not every day, to be a good day for me and those around me. I’ve accepted that we have an ambivalent and complicated relationship, and I know we love each other very much, and as best as we can. I’m not sure I’ll ever find a Hallmark card that conveys our complicated yet loving relationship, so I always just end up sending cookies or fruit. Can’t go wrong with food. Most cultures demonstrate love through food, so I’ve sent a tower o’ love.