I don’t think my mum was ever a particularly happy person. Not in like, a molecular sense, or deeply, psychologically or whatever. She was born in the 60s, the youngest of eight children in a working class family, in a mining village where the man of the house was not a miner. So, they were poor. Being the youngest when you have 6 sisters, you probably don’t get much in the way of new stuff anyway, but especially not when money is scarce. My mum had lots of self-esteem issues, and perhaps this is where they originated from – feeling like an extension of 6 other people that came before her and never like herself. She told me once that her parents were bored of having children by the time she came along. Maybe that was true, or maybe that’s just how she perceived it. She was even self-conscious of her name, she felt like even naming her had been too much trouble for my grandparents, that all her sisters had pretty, interesting names but she was just plain Jane.
I have a vague knowledge of my mum’s history, in the years before I existed. Lots of details of the good stuff, some vague understanding of terrible things that I was scared to ask questions about at the time, and now I never can and neither of us will find any closure. I know how she met my dad, the way she felt about being a parent. I know the music she listened to, the food she liked, the movies she watched. And I knew this endless undercurrent of sadness even though she was so smart, and beautiful and funny. Sadness, insecurity, deep depression, constantly undermining all her brilliant qualities. My mother was a self-sabotager. I’m worried that I am too.
Not for the same reasons, of course. For someone who couldn’t see their own worth or potential, my mum did an excellent job of making sure I knew mine. It’s generally acknowledged by those who are familiar that I am “like my dad” (shit happens, and we move on) and my brother is “like my mum” (shit always happens, and we dwell on it), but I realise now that it’s not really true. Inside and out I am my mother’s daughter, like a version of her she would have wanted to be herself, if not for the sadness and the insecurity and the deep depression. But the problem is that the sadness and the insecurity and the deep depression are there – I had a fleeting, flooring experience with it last year – and maybe you can’t escape that kind of thing, maybe I inherited it. But the other stuff, the optimism and confidence and happiness, (and yes I do generally feel like an optimistic and confident and happy person), they’re built on top and my mum did that for me. Maybe at her own personal sacrifice.
I’ve lived my whole adult life without my mum and it’s been like a weird, half life. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know myself, because so much of who I am – all of who I am, in fact – is wrapped up in who my mum was, and it’s weird because I’m starting to realise that my mum and both my grandmothers are dead, which means that every woman who made me this girl is gone, and I thought I was mostly prepared for the world and for everything else I’d wing it, like I have done for everything in life, but did you know there is a whole ton of stuff to figure out still and who is gonna help me to do that?
And not to be rude, but… you can’t get this from anyone other than people who have known you since you took your first goddamn breath. Good girlfriends or good gayfriends or even a good boyfriend will not help you get to the core of who you are as a person. Or maybe they will for you, but they won’t for me.
Or maybe, if my mum hadn’t died (not when she did, anyway) this would never have been an issue. It just feels like a lot of me is missing, and not in the sense like grief makes you feel like something is missing, because this is a different kind of missing. It’s like I was being programmed and now it’s half-finished and I don’t know how to finish up the coding. It feels a lot like ~arrested development. You know. Comical, but kinda tragic I guess.
Or sometimes, I feel like it isn’t that I’m missing or broken or unfinished, it’s that my mum is… was… and the disorientation I feel is because ever since I can remember I knew my mum was sad and ever since I can remember the only real, true ambition I ever had was to figure out how to stop her from being sad and I never got a chance to. Whenever I write this kind of thing that doesn’t really make sense because it’s so hard to put it into words, I think I always end up here. Guilt. That’s only the second stage of grief! But I don’t know how to move on from it, because it will always always be unfinished and I will always be unfinished and it’s just exhausting trying to live a whole person’s life when some days I can be as little as a quarter of one.
Anyway, it’s mothers day so I’m feeling contemplative and introspective and then words come out. Mum, you were so wonderful and so flawed, and you were mine and I loved you the most of anything, ever. Today is hard.