Today is Mother’s Day. People ask me how I’m feeling about it, how I’m doing in the wake of losing my Mom and my sister in the past couple of years. The answer is I don’t really know. Mostly, I feel kind of numb.
And a little lonely.
I was picking up prescriptions the other day when I inadvertently walked by the rows of Mother’s Day cards, Mother’s Day gifts, Mother’s Day decor. It hit me then that I didn’t have anyone to buy a card for—no Mom, no sister, no Grandmas, no mother-in-law. It was a strange realization, a sobering one.
I was lucky enough to sit on a book launch panel this week for my friend, Donna Stoneham’s new release, Catch Me When I Fall: Poems of Mother Loss and Healing. It’s a gorgeous book about a unique mother/daughter relationship, but the themes are universal. It was healing for me in many ways, and it also surfaced a great deal of questions. One I’ve been struggling with since I finished the book is this: What have I learned from my losses?
It would be easy to say that I’ve learned to slow down, to appreciate the little things, to live in the moment because each one is so precious. But those lessons feel tired. I’m slowing down naturally, but I think that’s just a by-product of getting older. I don’t care as much about the little things that used to bother me. But I can still get whipped up by a rude cashier or an aggressive driver. I’m choosing kindness as much as possible, but that’s always been a goal of mine (albeit an elusive one at times). So, what have I learned from losing my little family unit so quickly?
I’m learning how to be who I am without the ones who made me. It seems strange, I know, that as a mother of my own four, I still often defined myself by my own core family. I had, for over 20 years, been a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife. Now I am just a mother. And my little ones are big ones, leading lives of their own. So, I’m left with just me.
And who is that?
I’m not 100% sure, but I’m learning her. And I’m remaking the not-so-attractive parts of her.
In my recent past, I have said and done things I’m ashamed of. My marriage did not end the way I wanted it to. I was not always kind and forthcoming to the people I loved the most. I have been hiding and dodging and dancing my way back to myself, and I’m still not quite there.
But I’m learning. In each new moment, I’m learning. And maybe that’s the point. To continue to learn and grow, despite.
Every day, I wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom for advice, for guidance. Just the mere sound of her voice would ground me, but I no longer have her to rely on. It’s just me.
And I’m still figuring me out. At 53. Good gawd, who knew it took so long to become?
All I know for sure is this: I want a life of honesty and kindness and love and laughter. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to claw my way to the top of a career. I don’t want to have to beg for my place at the table. I just want a table. One with wine and friends and really good crusty bread.
Maybe that’s what I’ve learned from my losses: How little I really need to survive. How very few things matter but my kids, my friends, my loves, and laughter.
And the memories of how deeply I’ve been loved in my lifetime. How gently I’ve been held.