I'll teach my daughter / To bang on anything that makes a beat / She'll shake-a-boom, she'll quake a room / She'll ... She'll do all of this. And she'll do none of this. And it's funny how we hide behind these daughters, Hide ahead of our own herstories. Scared of ourselves.
Today is my mom's 15th birthday since her death. It is the last of the 15-year milestones (15 years since her death, Ella's 15th birthday, 15th Christmas, 15th of my birthday). The woman who instilled in me how special I was, how important I am to the world, and who held me to high standards, should be indulging in a tiny slice of turtle cheesecake for her day. Instead a bit of her ashes sit in a tiny urn on my altar. She hovers over my life as a sage and cautionary tale.
Dear reader, you may be shocked at how I can hold anger in my heart over her death. Well, I do. I am mostly angry at all the wonderful things she has missed out on, including resolving our relationship. Before you stop reading, I should tell you that I am far more heartbroken than angry. At the start of my relationship with grief, I thought I needed to pass through phases, that you did not hold each at the same time. Thanks to the Refuge in Grief newsletter and splurging on the 30-Day writing group, I know that it is quite common to feel both. So much of the pain in the first few years of grief was actually pain caused by the world, including some close to me, telling me to "get over it," to push through the anger to heartbreak to acceptance. As if accepting the loss of someone who meant everything to you, who literally made you, would end the grief.
Mom looms large in my life. She was the more vocal of my parents on how I should live my life. She prescribed a lot of my choices, sometimes not always in my best interest. I have reflected on her bad advice with my therapist. How life always seemed to bulldoze her and how that may have impacted how she guided me. She raised me to kick ass, but also to be cautious of deals that sounded too good to be true. I have come to the realization that she was so scared of me getting bulldozed by life that she steered me away from too big of risks least I fell on my face.
I shared the gory details with my daughter on my mom's birthday last year (when I wrote the bulk of this post). Not to disparage her grandmother, but to share with her why I am so determined to support her dreams, no matter how large and out-of-reach they may seem to others. I try to be rational in my support, telling her that is she wants X, she better start doing Y to get there. It is hard not to want to live out my dreams in my daughter. She looks so much like me, she is very much like me. But she is not me. And I am not my mother.
I am not my mother.
That sounds awful to say on her birthday, but it is the truth. My dad and her worked hard so I could be offered opportunities they did not have. Now my daughter has opportunities I dared not to ask for growing up because I knew we could not afford them. I know the world is what it is. It can be cruel, but it can also be loving. Sometimes at the same time. I have had my share of joys and also life kicking me in the gut as I lay on the ground crying. I work hard to not let the challenges life presents instill fear in my daughter or to try to control her life so she easily overcomes them. And it is freaking hard.
One day last year Alix Olson's Daughter came over my earbuds as I was at the climbing gym. I remember the first time I heard it thinking, "Yes! This is how my daughter will be!" Then getting to the end of the piece and thinking, "Shhiiiiit...." With Daughter raging in my ears as I willed myself up a wall, I flashed back to me explaining at Christmas 2017 that we are born with all the eggs we will produce. Meaning that as I floated in my mother's uterus I already had my daughter in me. Three generations together in a tiny moment of time.
Life beat my mom into fearing my dreams. That has left me with the challenge to show my daughter that no matter how hard life punches me, to stand back up and punch back harder. That we will fail, but we don't stop dreaming. That is the fear Alix sings about. That is the fear I fight.
My mom was and still is my everything. I am angry that she died before she could experience the joys of being a grandmother to the most amazing girl ever. I am crushed she missed me hitting my stride as the woman she raised me to be. Her memory is not just a blessing, but what keeps me moving.