The Journey to Belong
My relationship with my mother has always been complex. I love her so much, but there were many times she and I couldn’t quite get through to each other.
I had all these filters of who I thought she was supposed to be, all these expectations I put on her shoulders without her ever knowing they were there. I wanted her to go left when she would go right. I expected her to say one thing when she felt compelled to say another.
But the greatest gift God ever gave me was the opportunity to see my mother without the filters, the chance to get to know her without all those expectations. The child version of Christine couldn’t see that my mother was a woman who spread herself too thin, who gave a little to all but didn’t always have enough to give everything to one.
She tried. God knows she tried.
There’s a part of me who feels immeasurable guilt because it took so long to lift the veil I had had over my mother’s true self. I was stubborn. I wasted time blaming her, hosting resentment, feeling bitter about things I knew I had already healed from but still couldn’t quite let go of.
And then we looked death in the face. Then the Grim Reaper paid a visit, handed us a ticking time bomb, and said he’d be back when it went off. The real humdinger? We didn’t know when that would happen. We just knew it would be soon.
Suddenly everything unraveled, and I was looking my mother in the face for what felt like the first time. My goodness, she is so beautiful, so full of love, so friggin’ innocent despite 70 years of life trying her to her limits.
Nothing else mattered after that. Every disappointment, every upset, every instance of clashing heads all wisped away, feeling so small and so distant from anything that would define what we had created as mother and daughter, for who she was in her core.
Now, I see my mother for who she really is.
I see her because I am her. And not only do I finally know it, but I’m proud of it.
My mother told me that if she ever wrote a novel she wanted it to be about her childhood. So, I decided to outline a fictional story with a protagonist made in her design. I wasn’t sure what the book would be about but I figured I’d sit with my mother for a few hours and ask questions to see what came up.
On day one, I learned so much about my family tree that I couldn’t believe my mother never told me. It was remarkable. But I also uncovered that my mother was always an insecure child, a bit shy, and absolutely loathed the idea of anyone ever being displeased with her.
This struck me. I recognized that person…
On day three, I finally got the guts to ask her some questions about why she chose to do some of the things in her life I disagreed with. I was curious as to what was inside her head, knowing that we were far beyond judgment or ridicule.
Her answer changed my life.
She adjusted her oxygen tube in her nose, shook her head with a tsk and a chuckle while waving her finger at me, then looked me dead in the face and said:
“You know, baby, mommy did some pretty destructive things to try and make herself feel like she belonged. Do you know what I mean?”
I broke down at that moment. Hands buried in my face, sobbing with my legs tucked under me as I sat up in her bed. At first, I didn’t know why. I mean, I felt terrible for her because it all made so much sense. Every way my mother ever back-pedaled in life was because she was trying to save someone else. She was always trying to be someone for someone.
But that wasn’t why I was crying.
I wiped my tears with the sweatshirt I had been wearing for three days at that point, leaned over to my mother, grabbed her hand, and said:
“Yes, ma. I know exactly what you mean.”
I am my mother’s daughter, and I had been running from that my entire life.
I have emulated my mother’s patterns in more parallel ways than I think I’m ready to admit. I mean, generational trauma galore. But, I know now that everything my mother ever did was for the sake of living through love and seeking a journey to belong.
And that’s it.
The Journey to Belong. The working title of the novel I’m outlining in honor of my mother, and one of the most formative introspective revelations of my life. We all do destructive things to try and feel like we belong. My mother spent a lifetime trying to belong, just like her daughter after her.
So, maybe I was wrong. Maybe the greatest gift God ever gave me wasn’t seeing my mother without the filters, but seeing myself through them. Maybe it’s the knowledge to know and the ability to change the course. Maybe the greatest gift God ever gave me was sparing my daughter the same path.
I’m proud of my path. I’m proud of my mother’s path. It's just time to do things differently, and it starts with me.
I am my mother’s daughter, and now, I have to be there to guide her when she takes her last breath to remind her of what I’ve said from the start:
“You’re going to go from my arms to your mother’s, and it’s going to be so beautiful.”
There’s nothing I believe in more.
Just before my mother landed in the hospital, she had a dream where she was not feeling well and called out for her mother to come and help her. Her mother came, put her hand on my mom’s cheek and said, “She’s got it from here.” My mother said her mother's face then turned into mine, and she woke up.
Damn straight it did. Because I am my mother, and my mother is her mother, and we are all always working together. Death is a human concept. It’s got nothing to do with soul.
Soul is everlasting. Soul is where the journey to belong matters most.
Our journey to belong in soul will not end when my mother’s body ceases to exist. I know it will look different, feel different, be different, but it will not end.
I’m more afraid for myself than my mother. I know my mother is transcending. But I don’t know what to expect in the after for me.
Right now, I’m just holding on to hope. Just holding on to the thing I am most honored to belong to: My mother.