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anne lamott quote

This CHALLENGE is aptly named. Some people are more challenging than others, yeah? I could let myself off the hook and choose a mother figure, but part of the reason I do these challenges is to make myself do hard things. It’s good practice for life. Life is hard.

I haven’t had any contact with my mother since July. It’s by choice, both mine and hers. Mine because there has been a need for stronger boundaries and healing in our relationship for years and I’m finally taking care of myself and drew the boundaries I needed. Hers because she chooses not to take responsibility for her actions and doesn’t respect boundaries. I won’t go into detail here, but I will say that I plan to post more in the future regarding dealing with parents with mental illness.

I am not blind to my mother’s good qualities. She loves God, her family, and her friends. People who meet her think she’s nice. She’s creative and artistic, and resilient. She’s also overly medicated for her many different mental illnesses, disorders, and a varied set of physical issues due to polio when she was a child, and extreme allergies as an adult. Add to that her horrifically abusive childhood, and you get a small glimpse into my life as her oldest, and only girl child. I know I’m one of millions with family members who fit a lot of that description. I’m guessing someone out there will read this and nod their head, understanding me on a deeper level because they’ve been there. Mental illness sucks.

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in life, and I didn’t want to be one because I thought I’d stink at it. I cried when I found out I was pregnant with Max because I was so scared I’d become my mother. It turns out I’m pretty good at this mom thing. Still, every Mother’s Day is a struggle for me to view the holiday through the eyes of a mother instead of a wounded daughter. I’m getting there. I haven’t mailed any cards that say, “Happy Mother’s Day, I’m thriving in spite of how you raised me.”

She did some things right, but they get overshadowed by the things she did/does wrong. I know she struggled to be a single mom and there were many times my brothers and I didn’t make it easy for her. I know she thinks she did the best she could. As a child, and again as an adult, I vowed I wouldn’t be her, or parent like her, or be the kind of wife she is, or deal with my struggles like she does. I know women joke about turning into their mothers, but for me that was a real fear. I wonder if she felt that way too; her mother was no picnic either.

Generations of women in my family have passed on a legacy of fear, control, and manipulation to their children. I refuse to live like that. I fight NOT to be those things. I cannot, do not, and will not continue the cycle of abuse passed down on my mother’s side of the family. It ends with me, even if that means she is no longer part of our life. I don’t know if the future holds mending for our relationship, or if I even want that right now. Here’s what I do know…

Our last interaction was on July 4th. America’s Independence Day. It wasn’t planned that way, but it‘s become quite symbolic for me. Since then I’ve experienced a freedom I have been craving for most of my life. Freedom comes at a cost, but I keep reminding myself that I am not responsible for her – what she does or what she says, and that feels really, really good.

Anne Lamott once said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

I agree.

Read about my fellow challenger’s moms:

Don at donhillson.wordpress.com

Beckie at free2b2much.blogspot.com

Tracy at countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com

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