My tender years were filled with daily harshness and critical evaluation. No wonder I grew up feeling less than someone. My mother was so very demeaning and cruel to me, making my alcoholic, absentee father resemble a saint. My life, like all others, had its own set of hurdles to overcome. I’ll be the first to admit – it was a daunting task.
In August 2012, she died in Asheville, NC at the age of 73. She was hit by a speeding truck as she was jogging home. Yes, she was jogging. The man who hit her only had one brake working on his vehicle; otherwise, I’m guessing he would have been able to stop in time. She was dead on impact but resuscitated. Still, she was brain-dead at the scene and would be until she finally expired four days later. Her heart was strong. Probably because she was a runner, that’s why it took her so long to let go. Maybe if she’d lived as unhealthily as my father, she would have died within fifteen minutes like he did when we took him off the ventilator in 2014. But it doesn’t matter now. They’re both gone, and that’s not a bad thing.
This past September, I went on an excursion held in Asheville, NC. It was the first trip back since my mother had died. It was a much-needed mini-vacation and nature retreat of sorts. I got to spend some quality time with a dear friend for three days as well. I expected some emotions to well up, but not prepared for how deeply it would affect me. Amazing how seven years later, the learned self-loathing from my past reared up its head. I thought I was past it.
During the excursion, I met so many loving and caring people. Quite different from my upbringing. One in particular – France Dormann – who connected with me right at the beginning. She had a rather emotional epiphany as we talked. She said to me, “What’s beautiful doesn’t need to disappear.” It’s not up to me to discuss the details surrounding what made this so tremendously valuable for her, but I will share why it was for me.
Her words echoed so much of what I dealt with in my childhood and even into my adulthood. What was beautiful about me did disappear for a long time. After you get told all of your childhood that you aren’t good enough, worthless, crazy, a problem child…
Well, you believe it. But not anymore. Once and for all, I realized my mother was wrong. Totally wrong. This was my take-away from what France said and what made this so beneficial for me.
After years of denigration and lack of connection, I felt as if I could finally reclaim that part of me that was worth praise and love. And oddly, I found it in the same place where the woman who lavished me with all the criticism came to die. After I had a few days to process the events, I felt lighter like an invisible weight had lifted. What is strange is I thought I’d worked through so much already, and had come to a place of peace. Obviously, not.
So much healing took place on this trip. The bonus being I was within arm’s reach of so many wonderful and supportive people. I cannot tell you how many tears I shed and how many meaningful hugs I received, but it was enough to wash away the sins of the mother who had inflicted a tremendous amount of torment on her daughter. And for that, I’m grateful for the torrent of tears and the love of my friends. My past will no longer own me.