I turn 36 years old soon. I almost forgot about it, but I have kids old enough to remind me these days.
While my dad will celebrate the day with me a little early, my mom won’t be there at all. Not because she’s dead, or ill, or in prison, or somehow incapacitated. Those would be better reasons, I guess. Instead, my mom won’t be there in any shape or form, not even via email, or Facebook, or Skype, because we are “estranged.”
Estranged is a funny word, really. It describes the estrangement itself, but it provides no hint as to the emotions behind that decision. Did I create the estrangement? Did my mother? Why? Those questions require far more words than a simple “estrangement,” and yet I find myself little able to answer them.
Why doesn’t my mother reach out to me? Why doesn’t my mother remind me that she will always be there for me? Why doesn’t my mother love me, just as I am, no matter how many mistakes I have made? I don’t know, really. But, perhaps the hardest question to answer is this: why am I better off without my mother?
Because the truth is that I am. This estrangement has brought me peace, finally, after a lifetime of swirling questions and unmet needs.
Still, I would be lying if I said that peace was never challenged. That I never wondered, yet again, what was so wrong with me that my mother wouldn’t even call or email me on the day of my birth. As a mother myself, I find it incomprehensible. My teenagers can be real assholes sometimes, but I would never kick them out or turn them away or deny them my love. And, as time goes on, it’s hard not to wonder and perhaps even seethe with pain or rage or betrayal or who even knows what at the woman who only wanted me when I met her needs.
There was a time in my life when I knew a terrible truth. I knew that my mother’s love was not freely given, and it was conditional, and it would be revoked if I strayed too far. For years, she accused me of testing people and trying to see how far I could push them before they left me. She was right about that much, but she never saw the why. And neither did I. Because I was too afraid to admit that terrible truth and to give up the pleasant fiction I had created about my mother. But, like all realities, it was true whether I admitted it or not. And, eventually, even I could no longer pretend and my house of cards crumpled to the ground, leaving me alone, naked of all pretense, and cast out by my mother.
I would like to say that I had a great epiphany. I would like to say that healing washed over me. I would like to say many things, but none of them are true. What is true, however, is that the hole in my soul and my heart that was gaping and bleeding for most of my life is simply a scar now. It is there, and sometimes it aches a bit, but it isn’t gushing and hemorrhaging anymore. It is just there, a part of me now, like my brown eyes or pale skin. Through time, I’m sure that even that scar will fade. One day, perhaps, I will barely even notice it.
But, this year, on the anniversary of the day of my birth, it’s still red. It’s still a bit fresh. And, it still hurts, just a little. But that scar has led me to learn to fill my own holes in my life, and even in love. And, it has brought me peace, and freedom from love on someone else’s terms.
I may not know the answers to most of those questions, but I do know this much: even if my mother were to call me, or Facebook me, or Skype me, I wouldn’t answer. I am not crazy enough to trade a scar for an open wound. So, while I do not know the why’s, I do know how I want to live. In peace, in love, and even in estrangement.