The ridiculously tiny woman in the photo above is my mother.
You won’t find her on my birth certificate, or in the delivery room. She can’t complain about how big my head was or how long labor was. She didn’t hold my hands when I took my first steps, or teach me how to tie my shoes. She missed every cute baby smile and giggling little girl moments when everything was easy and happy.
No, I met my mother when I was a pre-teen and she began dating my father. The happy little girl was a distant memory, and in her place was an angry, bitter young woman who had no idea what anything meant or why her biological mother hadn’t loved her enough to…stay.
For years, I fought her being a part of our family. Imagine the worst behavior a pre-teen, then soon, a teenager, can possibly display, then double it. Maybe even triple it. I threw everything I had at her, but for some damn reason, this new woman stayed.
She didn’t push me to be her friend, or call her mom, or even like her. Yet, she also didn’t let me walk all over her, or ignore her, or disrespect her–though I gave it a real college try! When I pulled back, she reached out and reminded me that she was there and that she loved me and that she also wasn’t going to take my shit.
This woman loved me, and she wanted to be my mother.
She may not have been there for my first steps, but she was there for every school function. She was there for every birthday party and comforted me when only one friend showed up (bitter child doesn’t equal tons of friends, y’all). She was there when police dragged me back home, and principals called home complaining, and for every other time I messed it all up and everything came tumbling down around me.
She encouraged me to write, turning my moods and penchant for beating up my siblings, into journaling my feelings with angsty poems written while wearing all black with thick eyeliner inspired by raccoons. She put up with Avril Lavigne at full blast as my 13 yr-old self sat and contemplated how unfair everyone was, how no one understood me, and how lonely and unloved I was (reminder: I was 13, guys.)
But, she was there the whole time, and she loved me. My father loved me. My siblings loved me (okay, there’s still some debate on this one). Everyone loved me, except me.
Maybe that’s why I fought her so much to begin with. And by “begin with”, I mean like 10+ years. She dealt with this for a DECADE, you guys.
She gave me something from day one that I couldn’t give to myself–unconditional love. And it was terrifying. I didn’t recognize it and I couldn’t understand it, which meant I couldn’t accept it. From her, or myself.
I’d like to say I grew out of it in a few years, learned my worth, learned her worth, and everything righted itself…but no. My teens came and went, and I was an adult before I could truly look back and see everything for what it was, rather than what I’d wished it had been.
Learning radical acceptance, and to take life and people at face value was a process, but when I finally embraced it a few years ago, my perspective shifted. I realized that my expectations of others were so much higher than my expectations for myself, and that I needed to love myself before I’d know how to accept it from others.
And now that I do, everything is different, even though everything is the same. But the difference now is me. I learned that loving myself meant loving all of me–even the parts that make me cringe.
I also learned she wasn’t perfect, and that I didn’t need her to be to love her. Just like I wasn’t perfect, and she’d never held that against me the way I had against her. I learned that the shame I harbored for my younger behavior was irrelevant, because it was long forgotten in her eyes. She’d loved me…always, and she always would.
I learned that my biological mother wasn’t trying to hurt me when she left, but that it was okay to feel hurt anyways. I learned to stop judging myself based on people who didn’t love themselves, and therefore couldn’t love me.
But most of all, I learned that I was a motherless daughter only because I’d spent so much time refusing to accept the mother who’d been standing by me for the majority of my life without fail. Because the truth is, I had a mother all along, and her name is Lucy and she didn’t give birth to me, but she loves me just the same as if she had.
I did everything I could to get her to leave, because I’d been taught that that’s what mothers do. But Lucy stayed, because that is what mothers do.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.