A few weeks ago I had an epiphany about my story. One day it hit me suddenly that for the majority of my adult life I have repressed my childhood, trying to just forget it all. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but the direct result of simply trying to navigate all the complexities of life after the death of my mother when I was 16.
Walking through the world as a motherless girl, and now woman, is something I would not wish on anyone. The saying “a part of me died that day too” has never been more true to me. From the day breath left her body, my body, spirit, soul and mind have never been the same.
When mom died suddenly everything got exponentially harder. Friends, family and community members who knew our loving family, didn’t know what to say to me so they didn’t say anything at all. Every joyful memory I had with my mother, and with our immediate family of 5, suddenly made me twinge with pain the second it came into thought. The words “broken home”, in an untraditional sense, instantly became very real for me. Even hearing the simple word “family” was just heartbreaking every single time it was spoken.
As the unbearable days, months and years passed, I unconsciously learned to cope by attempting to forget it all. All the wonderful vacations my family took together, the countless times we gathered around the dinner table, the holiday traditions we cherished doing together each year and the many ordinary days we spent as a family doing ordinary things were all just easier to forget than remember without my mother being present. I guess I must have calculated that for my “peace” in this post mom world, it was just easier to forget the bad and the good altogether.
But as I sit here today, decades later finally a mom myself to a sweet toddler boy, I find myself for the first time in almost two decades wanting to remember my life in totality. At first I thought this urge was somehow connected to me becoming a better mother to my son, but as I dug deeper within myself I knew it was much bigger than that. I know now that “peace” I created by trying to forget my life before mom passed, turned into me forgetting the foundational pillars that created me. I realized I have been only bringing a tiny piece of myself to womanhood, wifehood and motherhood. And I cannot begin to become the woman, wife and mother I dream of being, without finally accepting all that made me who I am today.
I need to allow myself to remember the good, bad and everything in between of my years before my mother died to move forward in my life wholly. This rather simple sounding task, may be one of the most difficult I have ever faced. It will require me to willfully sit in pain, be vulnerable, seek help in new ways and bring down protective walls I have spent decades fortifying.
So although I know this won’t be easy, I know deep down that this is where I need to begin in my storytelling journey.