BY: Joan Poiner – “November’s Guest Blogger”

A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ― Kristin Hannah, Summer Island

When I was a little girl, there were no happier moments than the simple times spent with my mother, in the kitchen of our 2nd floor apartment.  Her chatting with me from the sink or the stove or leaning out the window to hang laundry on the clothesline, while I sat at the big, oval, ’70s, silver-trimmed table that took up most of the space.  I remember thinking how big it was.  Now I realize it was just me who was so small. It was here that we spent most of our quality time.  Mom worked, sometimes, 3 jobs.  I didn’t get to see her much.  So, when we were together it always seemed we were in the kitchen.  Preparing a meal, cleaning up, doing my schoolwork, and even setting up an obstacle course of kitchen items for my hamster, with Trix cereal hidden behind the items that she would scurry around to find, and fill her cheeks with while we chatted.  It was here, that I always felt safe, and loved. 

Childhood, for me, was complicated.  I was a very sad and lonely child.  I did not talk a lot. I did not make friends easily.  It would take me many years to reflect on all the things that made me this way.  Trauma, isolation, harsh blows to my self-esteem, and a never-ending feeling of being alone in a world that didn’t see me didn’t seem to want to, and certainly didn’t understand me.  My mother was the only person I ever felt true happiness with as a child.  She was my safe place, my haven, my peace.  She never judged me, although I know she worried and wondered.  She never made me feel “odd” or “out of place”.  She just simply loved me.  It was through the eyes of her love, that no matter what was happening to me, I felt that she was the one person who would never hurt me.  I truthfully do not know if I would still be here today if it were not for her unwavering, and unconditional love.

It is a strange thing, the relationship between a mother and daughter. It ebbs and flows like the tide. Sometimes it is shallow and murky and other times it comes crashing into you with its sheer magnitude of force like a tidal wave.  And in between, there are those beautiful moments of the peaceful calm and serenity. My relationship with my mother is no different.  All our stories may be different, but so much of our soul, and so much of our defining threads of existence, are deeply rooted in the mother.

As my mother and I, ebbed and flowed there were times where she was my best friend, and times where she was my worst enemy.  Times where we laughed, and hugged, and smiled and times where we screamed and raged and cried. But always, when I needed her, she was my biggest cheerleader and my constant support.  No matter what stage of emotion we were in, she was always… always there when I called her name.

I wonder if other mothers feel a tug at their insides, watching their children grow up into the people they themselves wanted so badly to be. – ―Jodi Picoult, Keeping Faith

I am, in almost every way, who I am today, because of my mother.  Some of it I am proud of.  I am kind.  I am empathetic.  I approach life with open eyes and an open mind to everyone I meet.  I will give every fiber of my being, every crumb of who I am, to someone I feel needs it more than me. I am strong, hardworking and capable of anything I set my mind to.  I do not want to hurt anyone, no matter how much I have been hurt.  She taught me that everyone is fighting a battle we may not understand, and we should always try to put ourselves into their shoes before we judge them.  I am proud that I am this way and I strive to be better, every day.  Some of the things I learned from her, I am not so proud of. I sometimes hold too much in.  I pretend that everything is alright even when it’s not.  I “fake it til I make it” and never let anyone see me break.  I feel tremendous guilt when I do “too much” for myself, or when I shut down and “take a break”.  I am incapable of living without guilt.  I hold back my words all too often.  I don’t feel like my feelings should matter, I am here to be the rock, the strong one.  I am here to make everyone else believe that I am whole.

If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have to take jobs like this. She would be half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar. I felt my guilt like a brand…I had seen girls clamor for new clothes and complain about what their mothers made for dinner. I was always mortified. Didn’t they know they were tying their mothers to the ground? Weren’t chains ashamed of their prisoners? –― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Things have changed so much over my lifetime.  Somewhere, over time, my mother changed.  She became judgmental and overrun with cynicism.   Maybe just tired from the pain of life and living in a world that was never kind to her.  Maybe she is sick of being taken advantage of, or just plain exhausted.  Maybe, just maybe, she is angry that she never “lived”.  I don’t know.  Maybe she was always a little this way, and it is me that has changed.  I don’t know. 

My mother has not spoken to me in nearly 10 months.  At 44 years old, I have had to learn what it is like to lose your only parent, without, actually…losing them.  You see, at 44, I decided to choose me.  I always took care of myself, and my children in the literal sense. I worked hard, paid my bills, provided them opportunities, education and the safest world I could for them to grow up. I lived with my mother for nearly all my life.  Post-divorce, with my girls, I moved back home.  It was easy. Occasionally, I would move back out on my own for a while, but I always went back.  For the past 15 years, we owned a side byside duplex.  For a few years with my ex, but most of that time, just her on one side, and me and my 3 girls on the other.  She helped me raise them.  Many times, she raised them for me. I own my role in this.  It was easy to let life move on with someone else making the decisions that mattered, someone else to take the wheel when I didn’t feel like driving.   I had very little control over what happened in my own home.  She would walk into my home before 7 AM and many times was in and out until I went to bed. My mother made all the decisions and all the rules. And even though, everything I did was judged and scrutinized, I allowed it anyway.  Everything was fair game for comments or judgment where I was concerned. Whether it was how much I didn’t “need another pair of shoes” or how I was not paying enough attention to a certain “troubling” behavior of a child, or how I could have gotten a better price on my groceries if I wasn’t so lazy.  Nothing I did was ever right, or ever good enough for her.  She would always have done it better, smarter, harder.  Always, and I always knew it.

You might say, “Why wouldn’t you say something?  Well, as I said… in many ways it was just easier.  I do not like confrontation.  But mostly, as I mentioned earlier…. GUILT.  I never wanted my mother to ever think I did not recognize all that she had done for me growing up, and for my children.  I never wanted her to feel I was not thankful, or appreciative.  I know my mother, and I did not want to hurt her. She needs to be needed more than anyone I know.  And to say anything to the contrary, coming from me, would have crushed her. I thought I could take it.  It didn’t matter what I felt.  This is the woman who broke her back to give me everything growing up.  The woman who made it so “easy” for me and my children. How could I tell her to back off, back away and get out?  I couldn’t, and I didn’t.  That would have been much harder, and as history says, I am all about the “easy”

8 years ago, I met my now husband.  Let’s be clear, I am fully aware he is not everyone’s cup of tea. He lacks a filter and speaks from a brutal place of honesty, often without tact. He is bad at owning when he is wrong.  He is not always so delicate in his delivery and is very, very bad at “pleasing people”. I am the opposite… and specifically in my mother’s case, have always been a “people pleaser”.  I am sure you can imagine, she hates him.  And while he can be difficult, he has also been the most supportive man to me, that I have ever known. We have fun. We laugh, and we love HARD.  He reminds me, and encourages me EVERY DAY, that I am enough, and if I want to do more, be more, I can, and I should, and he will help me in any way he can.  He has made me break wide open and own all of my trauma, and all of my pain, and he has helped me through the journey of putting all of the pieces back together…and he loves me harder for it.  He has helped me to recognize my own strength and sacrificed many times, his own spine as my ladder to climb out of the darkness of life.  He sets no expectations on me.  He allows me to be wholly, and truly me, whoever I may be in that moment. 

In January, I moved out of my home with my mother and into the home he had purchased for us.  My mother was not at my wedding last month.  She refuses to answer, or acknowledge the many letters, texts, emails I have sent to her pleading for her love, her acceptance and her forgiveness for any pain I may have caused her by choosing this life with him.  She says that he controls me, and everything I do. I focused a lot on that statement. And what I have realized is that he does not control me… but she doesn’t either.  That is where I think the pain lies, for both of us in some ways.  I no longer “need” her… though I still want her every day.  There is not a day that passes that I do not feel the incredible grief of not having her in my life.  I miss my mom.  I hate that I have hurt her.  I have a tremendous hole in my heart no matter how much other joy fills it.  And there will always be a time, in my darkest of moments, where I do “need” my mom because she offers a level of security, and comfort that no one can replace. 

My mother is close enough every day that I could nearly touch her.. a matter of 2 miles distance.  And I some days I still call out for her, hoping maybe she would still come and hold me.  But she doesn’t.  It is a mourning, it is grief and loss and death in its own sense.  It is a death of time, of opportunities, of lost fibers of our souls.  It is a death with no body, no closure, where you are always hoping… one day… to have answers…and maybe one day, to hold each other again. But even though I grieve, I hold tight to the knowledge that I am a survivor, and I show them no pain.  Because this, I learned from my mother.

“Love as powerful as your mothers for you leaves its ownmark.
To have been loved so deeply, even though theperson who loved us is gone,
will give us some protection forever.” – J KRowling, Loved So Deeply

Joan Poirier is an Empath, a goddess, a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend.  She is you, and she is me.  Just a real woman, embracing her age and her wisdom, and not afraid of opening the da,m and making some waves during her short time on the wild ride of life. She is on an ever-growing quest to live better, do better, be better and taking all the lumps that go with it.

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