Today is my Mother’s birthday. I won’t be calling her.
I don’t even have her number, and she doesn’t have mine.
We haven’t spoken in many years. The last time we did, was one-sided hurling of verbal abuse of words and things that no mother should ever say to a daughter. She was black-out drunk.
Whatever she is doing today I hope she knows that she is loved and many of us are ready and willing to make amends, when it is safe for us to do so.
Until she is willing to heal, remove substances from her life for good, then we will all be waiting at a safe distance.
The sad truth is that it’s not safe for most of her immediate family to have any sort of contact with her. This is what having a parent with MISA (Mental Illness and Substance Abuse) looks like. It’s painful and lonely.
The relationship I (don’t) have with my birth parents is something I carry with me everywhere.
A younger me used to be angry when I saw privilege, or safety nets, or blatant ignorance to the plight of others.
Now, I feel grateful I have had an experience that makes me a more compassionate and loving person to strangers. It gave me the self-belief that I can do anything… including starting my own consulting business to help others.
It goes without saying that we are all silently fighting battles. Yet some of us are doing it while trying to show up to our lives with a smile on our face, and make the world better than we found it.
So when you see a do-gooder out there — before you wonder what their angle is or why they are doing what they do... Know that sometimes it’s because we can’t help our own situations, so we try to help others.
It’s part of the healing process. Yet, the helpers need help. We all do.
Sometimes they need to get things off their chest.
This is today for me.
I don’t call my mom on her birthday and it kills me a little inside every year. This year is no different.
Having parents with MISA led me to years in therapy in university. Thank God for the student health plan, it literally saved me. Thank God for any health plan I had with any employer I had over the past 10 years— they allowed me to seek healing and help. I still do when I need it. I encourage others to do the same. Healing is perpetual.
But still, these experiences also brought new and wonderful people and additional “adoptive” families into my life. It allowed me to be a free spirit, to find a home inside of myself and not in a physical place where my parents resided. Crafting my own form of stability and a foundation of values that have set my life in the course I want. Would I be like this if I hadn’t suffered in my younger years? Who knows.
Being let down by those who are supposed to love and protect me the most, gave me the sight to leave the wrong romantic relationships for the right reasons later in life.
Being silenced at home gave me a voice to stand up for others who don’t have one in board rooms, in meetings, in public.
But it also left scars in my heart that still affect me in ways I am continuing to discover as I grow older. I welcome these gifts now. I step into the pain and ask myself “why am I doing this?” and “why am I this way?” or “is this the response I want to put into the world, or is there a better way?”
Asking our inner self the bigger questions can lead us to miraculous discoveries.
Some of mine are:
I care because I want to be cared for.
I worry because I want to be worried about.
I am giving and loving because I want these behaviours in return.
Yet, I wouldn’t change anything, because through the childhood trauma to the teenager rebellions (of being a good girl and running away to university, funnily enough) to the young-at-heart-attitude I have today… I have built a life I love and am proud of… from nothing. Without help from them.
Without phone calls from her.
I know the soulful and loving person she is behind her illness would be proud of the person I am today, and I hope to meet that person again one day.
But on days like these, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries — I often wonder what it would be like to be able to call her and hear her voice. To have a mundane conversation that many of my friends eye-roll over when their parents can’t stop talking.
Listening to the intricate details about the recipe last week, or the new trick the dog learned — or the new Netflix show they are enjoying. I miss those calls because I never really had them. My calls were rife with insults and anger, usually ending up in shaming and blaming me for leaving town and starting my own life. Abandoning them. Words meant to cut deep, and deep they did cut me for years. Now, I don’t hear those words so it’s easy to dream about kind ones and soft ones instead.
So for every dry phone conversation you have with a relative that loves you, know that someplace somewhere there are thousands of people like me hoping those calls will finally come in. Asking about the weather is something some of us never have the chance to do.