Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

Eight years ago today, Jesse and I were living in an apartment in Boone, enjoying our third week of marriage and preparing for student teaching during our senior year of college. Our Monday evening dinner was interrupted by multiple phone calls from my oldest sister. The tone in her voice revealed a sense of urgency. We were told that my mother was in the hospital and we needed to come immediately. We left with a sink full of dirty dishes, food on the table, and not a single bag in our hands. The two hour drive was hauntingly silent. When I finally walked through the hospital entrance, I saw my four siblings waiting for me. Their solidarity on the stairwell told me before their words did. Mom was dead.

I always hear people say, "Not a day goes by that I don't think about [a deceased loved one]." I feel guilty admitting that there are many days where I don't think of either of my parents. I've spent over half of my life without a dad and a quarter of my life without a mom. They simply aren't a part of my daily life. I wrestle more with the absence of grief than I do with actual sorrow.

In the decade preceding my mother's death, her mental and physical health declined rapidly. At age 48, she was an unemployed widow who lacked the confidence and skills to provide for her children. Her depression, financial troubles, and declining health caused great stress during my teenage years. I spent a considerable amount of my young adulthood blaming my mother for many things. I questioned all of her shortcomings. Why was she so weak and dependent on Dad? How could she have given up on herself and her kids? Why didn't she take care of herself enough so she could properly take care of me? 

There were many aspects of motherhood in which my mother excelled. She made every holiday worth celebrating. She alleviated all of life's challenges with homemade chocolate chip cookies. She preserved decades worth of family moments in photo albums. In each of these ways, I strive to be like my mother. 

The unfortunate reality is that I am also like my mother in ways that I despise. The things that most enraged me about my mother are my own struggles as well.
  • I am a stay at home mother with zero income. I 100% rely on my husband to pay the bills. I have no back up plan or savings without his income.
  • I have the same history of anxiety and depression. While I don't currently have a need for medication, there have certainly been periods of my life where I needed anti-depressants to keep me functioning and content.
  • I am already pre-diabetic and obese, yet I follow the exact same habits of sneak eating and self-medicating with sweet treats. 
  • The longer I stay home, the lazier I become. My mother was constantly watching soap operas or talking in internet chatrooms (hello, 1999). I find myself glued to my phone just as often.
Sadly, I know these facts yet I'm doing nothing to change them. The last thing I want is for Maddie or Amelia to write these same words in thirty years. I know I need to be strong, healthy, independent, loving, and fully-present with my children. It shouldn't be difficult to do, yet I feel myself treading water just maintaining life as it is. 

While I may not consciously think of my mother every single day, I am so much of who I am because of her. For better or worse. 

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