January 30th is not my favorite day.
It’s a bit odd to think that it’s been 3 years since my mom died. A lot of things have happened in the last three years; I became a published author, got back onstage, found myself in a serious relationship, started working from home, and moving forward with my life…finally. Granted, the thought of moving forward without my mom was terrifying because it reminded me that she was gone. If and when I get married and have kids, my mom won’t be there to celebrate with me. I often find myself somewhat haunted by her memory with moments. I can see a movie and think, “Oh, Mom would have loved that.” Or I see something in Target and think about how I would have bought it and sent to my mom as a surprise.
I stopped living. But this wasn’t the first time I stopped myself from living life.
No one really talks about the regrets. I had a rocky relationship with my mom that only improved in the last few years of her life. Things happened that would’ve completely destroyed our relationship. Things happened that should have determined that we weren’t a family anymore. But, there’s that thing called forgiveness. I don’t know how to describe it. Even though both I and my mom did things that weren’t part of the “picture perfect” narrative of a mother and daughter, at the end of the day…she still loved me with all of her heart. Her former tax clients and coworkers still come up to me to tell me how proud of me she was and how much she loved me.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you can still make some terrible mistakes while loving someone. Of course there are lines, and there are times where lines are crossed and separation is healthier. But my mom never ceased to love me and do whatever she could to prove that to me. Looking back, now that she’s gone, I wish I would have forgiven her sooner. In the moment, not talking to her or being mean to her seemed like the right decision. At the time, trying to separate myself from her seemed like a good idea. But all it did was prolong the pain and put off the resolution that would eventually happened. It caused me to lose time with my mom, and I truly regret that. I regret listening to those who encouraged me to continue that division, not looking at the bigger picture and only looking within myself. Because I neglected to look at long-term, I’m left living with the “what ifs.” There are a good amount I’ve finally let go of, but there’s still work to be done.
For too long, I have held myself back from living my truth. I literally put myself on hold because I wasn’t skinny enough. I thought that because I was fat, I wasn’t allowed to enjoy things in life-like go to the beach. I also saw myself unworthy of love, and I literally held myself back in relationships because I thought my weight deemed me unworthy. I got this from my mom. She held herself back for decades after I was born. She didn’t date, she didn’t allow herself to enjoy the body she was in because of some awful words my biological father said to her years before. I found myself following in my mother’s footsteps because she projected her issues of self-image onto me. I need to break that cycle. It’s not my mom’s fault, it was the society she was born and raised in.
You know what I also wish? That we didn’t have such low self-esteems of ourselves that we barely took a picture together in the last years of her life. So, next time you’re taking family photos and you’re worried that you look fat, tired, stressed, etc. Just take the picture. If anything, take the picture to remember that moment in your life. None of use look as bad as we think we do. How many times have we seen pictures of ourselves from 10-15 years prior and thought, “I looked pretty good.” I never got to enjoy who I was back then. I’m sure as hell going to enjoy myself now, even if I am overweight, boring, etc. I owe not only myself that, but also my future self.
Grief is truly a funny thing. It comes in waves. You’re fine one minute, but then something as simple as a flower will send you over the edge. You don’t ever get over losing someone you love. You just learn to live without them. Yet, no one talks about the regrets you have. You can’t go back in time and reverse your decisions. For the sake of not going through the same thing I am, call that family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take that picture with your kids. Say, “I’m sorry.” Go to the beach and let your bat wings fly.
Go ahead, just live.