In contrast, I have a love who loves me lightly.
He lets me fly and loves me through it.
I never knew love could be so gentle,
I never understood that love could be both deep and light—
His love is deep and real, but it is not a weight on my back.
This whole time I thought love hurt,
love was responsibility and codependence.
Love meant giving up bits of yourself to be with someone else,
Love meant compromise and shrunken dreams.
But loving you means loving me
it means I can be, and you can be
and we can both be anything we want to be.
It means independence and freedom
But it also means I have someone who cares
about my day, and how I’m feeling. Someone who’s willing
to stay. And will never threaten otherwise.
It means I don’t have to change or give up anything,
instead I just get to add more. I get to add you
and your life, I get to experience you and your thoughts
I get to live two lives, but I get to keep mine.
I never knew that was possible. I hope you feel that, too.
That you know I love you no matter what you choose to do,
that your life is yours, and I am happy just to experience it.
You’re lovely. You’re everything, I hope you read this,
I love you, darling.
I’d like to think that I am more than how I was raised, that I am my own person who makes my own decisions and reacts to life in my own way. But this morning my mom pointed out to me that my sister and I often treat her like she is not enough— and to no fault of our own, it’s because she raised us under the pretense that she was not enough. There are difficulties in growing up with a mother who has intense anxiety and constantly threatens to kill herself. But up until today, I didn’t realize it could perpetuate my mother’s pain and make me act opposite from what I think.
She’s right, too. I wish she wasn’t. But when my mom buys clothes for herself or hasn’t applied for a job in a year (ok so this one may be a little bit justified), my sister and I scoff. We ask why she deserves so much when she does so little. And to be honest, that’s bullshit. She’s managed to move in and out of state just to keep her children together and under a roof. She’s paid the bills without ever making a big deal out of it. For some reason, I grew up thinking that only daddy paid the bills. But that’s because he made a big show of it. He’d spread them out on the table and sit for hours grumbling and whining about all the debt we’re in. Momma just does it. She doesn’t wait for an audience, she does it because it needs to be done and because it was her choice to have those things. And I forget that because she doesn’t let me know. She doesn’t complain. She just accepts her choices and gets on with it.
My mom is enough, everyone is. And she shouldn’t have to seek approval from the people she raised telling she didn’t deserve it. When I was little, she’d shy away from shopping and choosing, because she said she didn’t deserve it. She’d let my sister and I shine while she stood in the background and forbade photos of herself. For a few years, she wouldn’t even leave the house beyond dropping us off at school and going to the grocery store once a week. She lived in a constant state of anxiety and fear of not being enough for the people who loved her. And she made that fear a reality just by raising us to believe that.
It’s amazing now that she can see the bigger picture, that she understands how much of my reactions are nurture, not nature. She wants it to change, but she recognizes that it’s going to take time to break the way I was raised. I am appalled that it’s true but I can’t take it back. I can only change it and adjust my habits.
Granted, it’s not going to be easy. I realize living with my mother is what has caused my depression my whole life. I don’t want to blame her for it, but every time I live elsewhere, I feel peace. I feel light, I feel happy. And it’s so hard for me to acknowledge that fact because I love my mom, I really really love her. We have amazing morning talks over tea, and we often go to bed later than intended just because our conversations flow so easily. My mom understands me, and I think I understand her. But it is an enmeshed relationship. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is very heavy.
My mom loves me, deeply and entirely. Such a motherly love. But she also loves heavily. It weighs down on me, and when I am around it I feel like I am bearing everything on my shoulders. When she drinks, I feel responsible. When she hurts, I feel guilty. When she says she’s going to kill herself, I want to cry. It’s hard to love someone who loves hard. I do not have the ability to fly when I’m with her, I feel a responsibility to be there for her instead.
And that’s difficult for a daughter to bear. No wonder I can trace depression to when I was just 7 years old. No wonder I wrote myself a eulogy at the tender age of 12. No wonder I wondered why there was something wrong with me, why I wasn’t good enough? My mother wanted to kill herself, and I thought that was my fault. My mother wanted to hide and I wanted to be with her. I hid, too. I love her, but I have some obvious resentments, too. And I guess it comes out in my treating her like she isn’t enough. She gave me permission to do that from day one, because she thought it was true.
And that’s what’s sad. Just because she thought it was true, it seems that it always will be. Because she told us, as children, that she wasn’t enough, she told us to treat her that way. And so she made herself seem, in my young eyes, that she was not enough. Even when she was, is, the world to me.
It’s so hard to love like that.
It’s hard to be a writer
who stopped feeling
just went along wherever
the world pushed her
and said, Ok. This is ok.
I don’t hurt, I don’t hate
I don’t even feel sad
anymore and I can actually
enjoy my drugs.
Not like when I thought
It’s a lot easier
to just go with it.
And stop feeling
But it’s hard
for the writer inside me
still kicking at my insides
I have fed her nothing.