Here’s the truth. I love my parents, but I don’t think I’ll ever like them.
It’s been a year now since my mum passed, and it wasn’t till her memorial service that I realised the full range of emotions that I’ve been feeling.
As I walked through the church, for the first time in almost a year – saying hello and thank you to the people who loved my mother and took out the time to show up for her memorial service on a Tuesday afternoon; I’m greeted with love-sadness, “you look so beautiful” “you’re glowing” “your cheeks are puffing out o”
And with a wave of guilt, I think to myself – it’s because she’s not here to pick me apart anymore
How could I even dare think that?
But then again, I had every right to.
My father basically told me he didn’t like the way I looked before we set out for the church.
Hearing all these compliments from the people in our lives reminded me of what it was really like growing up.
A snide comment here and there
Walking on eggshells,
Learning to read to room lest I upset the balance of things,
Being perfect to keep everyone happy.
These people sacrificed so much to give me the privilege I have.
In return, I spent the first half of my life as an anxious, insecure, people-pleasing doe.
A year after the person who arguably loved me the most passed, there I was.
A self assured, bubbly, go with the flow sometimes, less anxious (trust me, very less anxious) woman.
Deep down, it’s because I know I’m free, untethered.
When my mum first died, aunties and friends would express sadness and regret about how they would’ve loved to see her at my wedding.
And for a while, I felt that sadness too.
Want to know the truth?
I never pictured my mum at my wedding. In fact, I constantly pictured running away from her – eloping
I knew how it would play out, as many of my special occasions did.
Her picking apart the way I looked, my dress showing too much skin, “what type of hairstyle is this?”, just failing to hide her displeasure with my “unorthodox” style’
Gosh, she would even pick apart the person – how he chose to wear his hair, his job, probably the tattoos and piercings (let’s face it, we’ve seen the guys I give my heart to).
The thought of getting hitched just stressed me out.
And I hadn’t even told her I don’t want kids yet.
Now that she’s gone, I can execute my wedding Pinterest board (not ashamed to say I have one) with no judgment.
I can fall in love with whomever I want (yes, even a woman) without worrying about approval.
I should feel bad, but I don’t.
Fast forward to the service, I’m standing with my friends outside the church, and one of them makes a comment about how I’m standing. The old Love again; arms around herself, self-conscious, feeling out of place. Fuck.
Five days with my father planning the memorial, and I find myself reverting to the insecure, timid little girl. Fuck, that.
But this was always life with them. Snarky, self-shattering remarks disguised as love and concern, moving on five minutes later like nothing happened.
While my peers bonded with their mothers over the small stuff; I was learning how to wear a mask, pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
Anything to keep the peace, anything to make her happy.
“You’re going out like that?”
“Who’s going to marry you looking like that?”
“I don’t understand why you can’t just dress like me” (a school teacher in her 50s, who happened to be in the church choir).
And the guilting. Oh, the guilting.
When I rebelled in small ways and did things they didn’t approve of.
When I tried to keep my distance for my own sanity.
Thinking back to the service, and even her funeral – I remember people talking about how easy she was to talk to, how she was their confidant.
I can’t help but be just a tad bit bitter, yet aloof because that was not my experience of her.
The casual dismissal, the spacing out (this I forgave, I told myself she was tired), the switching the blame to me “maybe they disrespect you because of something you did”
I think back to all the holidays I spent alone in my creepy college apartments and cold hotel rooms just to get away from them and their arrow-like words. Just to get some peace
I realize why being around them physically and mentally drained me.
That Monday morning when I first found out she was gone, the first thing I felt was guilt.
Guilt for not trying harder to fix our relationship, guilt for all the times I didn’t just make her happy instead of doing my own thing, guilt for being away being a 20 something year old that morning when she first got sick.
Then came relief.
My life was mine now. It was bittersweet
Now, I can take my mask off forever, I can be me.
So yea, what Jennette McCurdy said.
Accepting that my grief can coexist with my relief.
I loved her, and nobody will ever love me and care for me as she did. Her hugs, her warm meals on bad days. Running to her for practical real word advice.
But now I’m free to love other people, whoever I want, and I can actually live in the world she spent her life preparing for instead of being chained to her bosom.
A life that is my own, I can go wherever, do whatever without someone calling me to complain about how I’ve abandoned them because I’m enjoying a night out. Gosh, I can move to Australia. I’m not moving to Australia, but knowing I could is fun.
Cherishing the good stuff and letting go of the anger. Let’s face it, we tend to over romanticise people when they’re gone. She was a wonderful mother, but she broke the fuck out of me sometimes.
All her snide comments about “dressing how you want to be addressed” and “wayward women” struck an awful nerve.
Not that it matters, but when the men who hurt me did, all I owned were baggy, badly fitting clothes. None of that protected me.
Was she saying women who dressed a certain way deserved to get hurt? Would she have blamed me if I said anything to her?
I’d honestly rather not know.
So yes, I’ll always love her – but every now and then, you may catch me speaking ill of the dead.
Leaning into my friendships. I haven’t always had the best friendships, because love was modeled as something that had to be earned, something that was conditional. If I misbehaved, I deserved silence, to be treated badly.
Now I’m learning how to let people care for me, and do things for me without feeling indebted, I’m learning how to disagree without feelings of doomsday. Who knew?
Maybe I’ll even learn to accept compliments.
More thigh high slits, and other indecent things.
Sorry dad, I look fantastic!