who are you?
I was innocently perusing Instagram this afternoon when I came across Will Cole’s post about bone broth protein powder. I’m going to admit something a bit embarrassing: I got a little giddy. OH MY GOD. They combined those things? Mind blown. Immediate Googling and then Amazon wishlisting.
And then horror. And shame.
“That is the whitest thing I’ve ever done.”
Now, for most white girls, this would be fine. But–for me–an honorary Asian/Mexican–this was decidedly not okay.
Who am I? Just who the fuck AM I?
And I realized that my Mama would have had no clue wtf I was talking about and would have no idea who this girl was–this woman that I’ve become.
Like earlier–in a dress and inappropriate shoes–while walking–I decided to race around the block a few times. For no real reason. Timing myself each time–trying to beat myself. Why? I dunno. But I aggravated my damn shin splints. That was dumb.
Everyone knows I’m a slower than sloth runner. Why was I sprinting? I have asthma. I don’t sprint. Sprinting pisses off asthma. Except it didn’t today. I was able to limp over to the leasing office and get my package and did not wheeze a bit. The beauty of not being a mile high.
There are many things about me that my mother never knew.
She never knew that I have an affinity for gin-filled cocktails. She would’ve been judgmental and disappointed by that–scared for me–and I would have tried to convince her I was right. But she would never have heard it–which was why she never knew I drank when she was here.
She never knew that I’m the biggest flirt. That if I set my sights on a guy, I usually get the guy. But that I rarely set my sights on anyone.
She only met one of the men I loved. And she never knew I stopped talking to him because of how things were when she passed.
She never met the cat whose ashes sit somewhere in my living room. Who was my best buddy for 10 long years–who I got the month after her death.
She never saw any of the apartments that were just mine or this one–which she would have been astonished by.
She never knew I was a photographer or a playwright. Losing her made me one.
She never knew about my two Master’s degrees. Or my actually impressive career. That I rarely worry about bills these days.
She never saw me drive all the time. And never heard about my dozen near death incidents.
She never held my hand after my surgeries. She never saw my crazy kaleidoscope of herbal remedies, my hippie rocks, or Buddhist trinkets.
She only knew me as the girl who worked harder than anyone; who tried hard to protect her heart, but always failed; who was always striving, but never being; who was just trying to buy a house so she could take care of her mother always. Who wanted nothing more than to make her proud.
In 12 years, I’ve become a grown ass woman. A competent person who is respected and valued by her peers. A woman with umpteen degrees and three cats. A Buddhist–with training wheels. Someone who left Westwood. A survivor like her Mama. A woman who kept going after losing her. A woman with her heart firmly affixed to her sleeve who clings to hope like its her best friend–because it actually is.
For years and years and years, I held back after her death. Terrified that I would change too much. That if–in some miraculous something–my mother returned to this planet–she would find me and not know me. As if that is even possible.
So, I often played safe and stayed small. But that hurt. And so, I tried to be different. And that is one reason why I moved here.
And part of me has been hard core grieving that since then.
It’s losing the girl my mother knew by becoming the woman I am. I was not okay with that. But then–this month happened. And suddenly–whatever part of myself that clung so tightly to that old me–started accepting this truth: you can’t stay the same forever.
My last therapy session really grabbed onto that.
My amazing therapist is taking a month off to be. And so, she decided to teach me a new tool. A tool that enabled me to rescue the parts of myself that were left in shambles by trauma–those parts that kept causing me pain–that made suffering so easy.
I had talked to her a lot in past sessions about feeling like I was stuck in a corner–surrounded by a moat–and having to fight to get out. That it caused me to withdraw or be super angry. My therapist connected it to the small child I had been when my father cared for me when my Mama worked. For me, age 4 was the height of it. So, we decided we’d rescue her.
A lot of it was visualizing and speaking to that abandoned, neglected child who so often runs the show. We gave her a room in my heart–with everything she wanted–earning her trust and parenting her. It was not an easy exercise. But at some point, Emily asked her if there was anything else she needed or wanted to feel safe and happy in my heart. And the first thing? “Can my Mama come too?”
It was gut-wrenching. But I held it together. And then I explained to her that Mama doesn’t live here anymore. That she is in Heaven with Cleo and Terry and Papa and all those people we loved. That she is always with us–tethered–and that we can talk to her always–but she can’t live with us. That we don’t need to save her anymore. She’s okay. That four year old me is responsible for no one. That I–adult me–will take care of her. The only thing she needs to do is tell me what she needs.
And that’s when I started bawling.
And it was so healing that I decided to revisit a book I’ve used in the past–The Grief Recovery Handbook–to rescue all those people I’ve been.
But the thing that stuck–letting go of being responsible for my mother–even in death.
I’d been in a funk for quite a while before this session, but after it, while I felt better–a new wave of grief started. And it was dark and heavy and shitty. Curl up in a ball and cry all day paralyzing. But I couldn’t. So, I kept going.
And then I just decided–on instinct–to buy a bunch of books. And then I got an email from Danielle Laporte saying free things–yay. So, I listened to this thing about suffering. And–my God–it helped so much. I realized that the pain I’ve been in since that therapy session was pain of suffering moving through me. It was the last bits of the trauma clearing the fuck out. Finally. But, as Danielle said, clearing out can be the worst suffering of all.
That was earlier this week. I’ve felt night and day better since then. But there was this lingering profound sadness. A need to express, but also childlike flints of joy attached that would show up often. And hope. This bright as day shit that showed me that everything I want can be in my life.
So, I accepted it and rested. And then today–I ran like a banshee–because I could. And I wasn’t afraid to be anyone except me. This wonderful person my mother will never meet.
And as I’m sobbing, writing this–I realize it’s okay that my mother will never know this me. In fact, it’s fucking necessary.