Life can be serious business.

Grieving 64 Candles – Happy Birthday, Momma.

Today you’d be turning 64. I’m not sure if we would have had a party for you. I can’t say we would have gathered like a normal family, while you played with your grandchildren. It’s a picture I like to believe was possible. One that under normal circumstances would be predictable. Then again, nothing about your life was predictable.

I’ve learned more about you since you have been gone, but still feel like a huge piece is missing. When did it all start to unravel for you? Who dropped the ball and failed to reach out to you? Why didn’t you ever reach for the hands that did?

I walked into your childhood bedroom this summer. If only walls could talk. I have a fitful rage to know what it was like for you. To unravel your story, so that I can see where the direction my life took began. Drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, inability to parent, not seeing yourself worthy enough of love until the very end…that doesn’t stem from no where.

I have such a good life. And that is why my heart breaks for the life you lost. Not just since you’ve been gone, but I get the sense, since the day you were born – today. There must have been love around you – I’ve seen your baby pictures and they are ones of proud parents and a beautiful baby girl, but the photos never tell the whole story. You are no longer here to tell me your story. That’s what I grieve the most. the inability to acknowledging your story.

What I can’t see, I feel inside. I know there was a survivor’s strength fueling your wild heart. I have that light. Your granddaughter has that light. I just pray she won’t ever have to go looking for it, like we did. Maybe the generational cycle of dysfunction is ending with me. I can only hope.

The difficulties your survived, while you tried to find your place in the world have not been forsaken. The movement forward you made in your short time here, travels on with my soul. I love you, Momma. Cheers to you – the life you lived and the life you gave me.

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Life can be serious business.

A Voice For The Motherless.

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. I want to cradle my babies and absorb the blessings that they are; however, I just as much would enjoy telling everyone to go piss off. I don’t have my Mom anymore, so please, keep the ooie gooey convo about how much you love and admire yours, to a low whisper. Please don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate Mothers. I don’t think we do it enough. But this particular holiday, the one where you celebrate your own Mother…it’s tough.

It’s not memories of past Mother’s days that make me tear up. I don’t have any to remember. It wasn’t until I was 14, that my Mom was stable enough to take care of me. I’ve written before about how saddening it is that when my Mother’s mental stability and addictive demons were finally in a safe place, her body rejected life, and she died from cancer. I was just shy of 16.

Not having a Mother around to celebrate is only half the battle for me this year. What’s just as difficult is coming to terms with what kind of Mother she was. I recently asked an older cousin if she had any memories of my Mom. Her response brought this struggle to the surface again. She said a few, but they weren’t anything I would really want to know. I didn’t push it. I didn’t want to. I know the memories would hurt me and only enforce my inability to sugar coat or glorify who my Mom was.

What’s so tough about her not being here now though, is not being able to ever learn my Mother’s story. I never got to hear her side of things. What it was like being her. I never knew her parents either. Both of them died before I ever got to know them. What effect did her parent’s have on her? What did it mean to her to lose her brother to suicide? What was it like to have your first baby at 15?  Was it the chicken or the egg – did the drugs & alcohol come before the bipolar disorder or after? Where were you, when you weren’t around? Did you want to take care of us and couldn’t, or are you just built differently than me – without a maternal heart.

It’s odd to me that as I think about these questions, I’m not angry. I’ve never been angry at my Mother. When she did pop in for a few years, months, weeks or even days, I was the happiest. It feels strange because it feels like I should be angry at her. She made choices that negatively affected all four of her children and I don’t even know of the damage outside of that. Perhaps I’ve channeled that anger somewhere or at someone else. I don’t know.

Leading up to Mother’s Day is always harder on me than the actual day. My eyes and ears pick up on every thing  – the sappy commercials, the questions about plans and of course, the awkward bump in conversation, when the other person realizes, he is talking to someone that no longer has a Mother to buy flowers for. The overload forces me to think about my Mom and in a sense, mourn her. I mourn her loss, her absence in mine and my children’s life but mostly, I mourn her life. It was cut short at such a tragically ironic time. A life’s big fuck you.

My husband has done a good job of creating a tradition on Mother’s Day, where we go for a nice hike and buy flowers for the garden we planted in honor of my Mom. That always makes the day bearable and actually enjoyable.

So to Motherless Momma’s and Motherless daughters and sons everywhere, don’t feel guilty if you would rather sleep through the day, or even the week before Mother’s Day. You’re not alone. Throw the blanket over your head and go have yourself an ugly cry. And then gather up your babies and celebrate, if you feel like it.

I’ll always raise a glass to my Momma. She gave me life. She gave me qualities that make me a pretty awesome human being. She did the best she could. I’ll always love and cherish her, on Mother’s Day and everyday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

While searching for blogs related to mental health awareness, I stumbled upon A Canvas Of The Minds via  Twindaddy at Stuphblog.  I’m so grateful I did.  This blog is exactly what we need to see more of in our everyday lives.  Combatting the stigma in order to treat the minds of those that carry a mental health diagnosis is crucial to our society.  Especially in a time like now where random acts of violence are mistaken for an opportunity to vilify anyone with a diagnosis and attempts at suicide are  labeled “attention seeking behavior”.

I want to do my part in raising awareness so I am taking the “Blog for mental health pledge” and will continue to make my own struggles and knowledge on the matter transparent.  Here is my pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Here is a story I wrote just about a month ago that I will use as my introductory piece.

My mother was bi-polar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this but I know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on female patient’s faces I worked with both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 12 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

Life can be serious business.

Motherless Mom.

I tend to express more grief on the day my
mother was born than the day that she died.  A little
baby girl entered the world as innocent as my own,  and then
endured four lifetimes worth of struggle in 46 short years. 
That’s a tough pill for me to swallow.  Even harder because
I am her baby girl.  Having said that,
today marks the eve of her death 17 years ago and I am missing her
terribly.  It’s always the days leading up to anniversaries
and holidays that are the hardest for me.  In honor of her,
myself and other Motherless Moms, I wanted
to share this post I wrote early on.  I tried
to capture the essence of losing her and what it means to me at
this point in my life. 6455_1190790687614_1163766376_30564651_1135391_n For me, it’s hard to find
the words to convey what it is like to be a Motherless
daughter.  It means something different at every stage in my
life.  Hope Edelman wrote in her book “Motherless
Daughters”
about wanting to shout
to everyone that her mom died
because it sums up so much of who she is.  I get
that. The only thing that has impacted me greater than losing
my Mom at the age of 15 has been becoming a Mom myself. Not all of
thsadness comes from not having that
person who you know above all would answer your call or would
have a piece of advice whether or not you want it.  My
sadness has morphed in to comprehending the absence of time
needed to know your mom beyond being your Mom.  My
Mother was a beautiful kind of chaos.  A kind of chaos
that rears it’s fury all over my own thoughts, reactions and
emotions.   I know it’s there…I can feel the
connection.  I just wish I could
see it in her eyes these days. 
That my daughter could see the common
fragile thread that exists between me and the woman that
created me so that when she gets older, she’ll be able to not
only see but understand and embrace
the kind
of crazy
we share. My Mother’s battle with mental
illness and addictions prevented her version of mothering to be
found in any how-to book; however, I still crave to know what her
answers would have been to the questions I need to ask her about
how I am suppose to mother. 
It’s unsettling that no matter how dysfunctional
or even neglectful your Mother may be, you still
love her and want her in your life.  She is the first
piece of my story and it is the piece I know the least about
because of the point in my, and her ,life when I lost her. No
body goes to a school and learns the tricks of the trade on
parenting but most have that go-to professor she calls
Mom.  That’s the void that I live with in my heart. 
However, I have been blessed with women landing in my life for
reasons I am just now starting to really understand.  Women
that if were asked to gather in a small space, would form
a shape that fits perfectly inside the void in my heart left
when my Mom died.   These women have molded me by
offering divinely designed doses of lessons my Mom may or may not
have been able to teach me… had she had enough time. These
women, have taken many forms.  A sister that cared for me (and
still does) when there was no body left to do the job and
that understood that her sheer presence in my life was a
matter of tipping the scales towards history NOT repeating
itself.  A teacher who created lesson plans out of thin
air just so she could carry me under her wing for a little
while longer.  A co-worker and friend that gave me a
glimpse of what recovery could have looked like for my own Mother
and shared her many lessons learned along the way.  A coach
that hugged me and then told me to get up when I fell and try
harder.  A friend that no matter how dark or mundane it gets,
has the power to raise me up and keep me laughing.  A boss
that didn’t accept my judgments of people presenting weaker than me
and pointed my heart in the right direction to help instead of
judge.  A college professor that supported my quest to
identify a diagnosis that best suited my Mother’s actions and
personality.  Not one but two single Moms who
opened their doors to me when I rebelled the hardest and
needed love the most.  A soul sister’s Mother who embodied
what a Mother should look like and taught me the power of
prayer.  And a woman, my Mother’s,
brother’s daughter, who by no coincidence, I connected
with to ensure that I knew I was not alone. So Mom…I say
this to you with a broken but healing heart.  I
understand why you couldn’t be the one to parent and/or, in
the flesh, support me in parenting my own.  The only
beauty in your departure has been the grace in which these other
Moms have and continue to imprint my life.  I have grown
from a Mother-less daughter to a daughter or many Mothers.

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

My mother was bipolar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this, but know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother, not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on the female patient’s faces I worked with, both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 10 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind, when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.

Life can be serious business.

Motherless Mom.

6455_1190790687614_1163766376_30564651_1135391_n
For me, it’s hard to find the words to convey what it is like to be a Motherless daughter.  It means something different at every stage in my life.  Hope Edelman wrote in her book “Motherless Daughters” about wanting to shout to everyone that her mom died because it sums up so much of who she is.  I get that. The only thing that has impacted me greater than losing my Mom at the age of 15 has been becoming a Mom myself.

Not all of thsadness comes from not having that person who you know above all would answer your call or would have a piece of advice whether or not you want it.  My sadness has morphed in to comprehending the absence of time needed to know your mom beyond being your Mom.  My Mother was a beautiful kind of chaos.  A kind of chaos that rears it’s fury all over my own thoughts, reactions and emotions.   I know it’s there…I can feel the connection.  I just wish I could see it in her eyes these days.  That my daughter could see the common fragile thread that exists between me and the woman that created me so that when she gets older, she’ll be able to not only see but understand and embrace the kind of crazy we share.

My Mother’s battle with mental illness and addictions prevented her version of mothering to be found in any how-to book; however, I still crave to know what her answers would have been to the questions I need to ask her about how I am suppose to mother.  It’s unsettling that no matter how dysfunctional or even neglectful your Mother may be, you still love her and want her in your life.  She is the first piece of my story and it is the piece I know the least about because of the point in my, and her ,life when I lost her.

No body goes to a school and learns the tricks of the trade on parenting but most have that go-to professor she calls Mom.  That’s the void that I live with in my heart.  However, I have been blessed with women landing in my life for reasons I am just now starting to really understand.  Women that if were asked to gather in a small space, would form a shape that fits perfectly inside the void in my heart left when my Mom died.   These women have molded me by offering divinely designed doses of lessons my Mom may or may not have been able to teach me… had she had enough time.

These women, have taken many forms.  A sister that cared for me (and still does) when there was no body left to do the job and that understood that her sheer presence in my life was a matter of tipping the scales towards history NOT repeating itself.  A teacher who created lesson plans out of thin air just so she could carry me under her wing for a little while longer.  A co-worker and friend that gave me a glimpse of what recovery could have looked like for my own Mother and shared her many lessons learned along the way.  A coach that hugged me and then told me to get up when I fell and try harder.  A friend that no matter how dark or mundane it gets, has the power to raise me up and keep me laughing.  A boss that didn’t accept my judgments of people presenting weaker than me and pointed my heart in the right direction to help instead of judge.  A college professor that supported my quest to identify a diagnosis that best suited my Mother’s actions and personality.  Not one but two single Moms who opened their doors to me when I rebelled the hardest and needed love the most.  A soul sister’s Mother who embodied what a Mother should look like and taught me the power of prayer.  And a woman, my Mother’s, brother’s daughter, who by no coincidence, I connected with to ensure that I knew I was not alone.

So Mom…I say this to you with a broken but healing heart.  I understand why you couldn’t be the one to parent and/or, in the flesh, support me in parenting my own.  The only beauty in your departure has been the grace in which these other Moms have and continue to imprint my life.  I have grown from a Mother-less daughter to a daughter or many Mothers.