I was brave…

I had one of those “ah-ha!” moments when I was walking home last night, the last leg of my journey on a blissful day of little moments that added up to great joy. I was thinking about the blog post I had just finished writing and trying to think back to where this deep seated guilt over my relationship with my brother came from… then I remembered.
The letter.

On my 16th birthday, two months after my mother passed away, I received a letter from her that she had written before she died. I’ve read it many times over the years, but I read it again last night with different eyes. Funny how you can be so blind to something so oppressive until you’ve freed yourself.

The text:

I have often seen myself writing this letter to you.

First of all I want you to know it’s been a joy to have had 15 yrs with you. I don’t think I’m going to make it to your “Sweet Sixteen” as much as I’m fighting, this thing is too much for me.

I wanted to get you a pinky ring with a diamond chip for your birthday but I just didn’t get out to get it. Maybe you’ll take my dove as a consolation. Also the gold bracelet that Aunt Dee Dee gave me. I’m sure you’ll like your other presents too.

And just remember, Jason’s birthday this year is his 1st teenage birthday, make it special please.

I love you very much even though at times we fight so much you’d never know it.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you if it was in my power.

Please be patient with Jason, he will be feeling this even more than you. First being adopted, then losing his mother. Even if he doesn’t realize it, it will be in the back of his mind. Don’t mention it to him though as he will dwell on it.

It looks like you’ll have to be the one to go through all the Guide and Ranger stuff and see that it gets to the right people. Don’t  put it off!!

Daddy is going to need all your love and support, and no fighting between you and Jason.

Please keep the house clean. Don’t leave it for Daddy to do when he gets home.

Make sure Jason has regular showers and has clean clothes to wear. Don’t be too strict with him but do keep a firm hand and a good eye on him.

He should grow up to be a brother you can be proud of because he sure has the potential.

I don’t know what more I can say except I’m sorry I won’t be here to see you graduate, get married, have kids and all the other great stuff you still have to do with your life.

I may have yelled a lot, but I hope you have learned something from your life…

I do love you… Mom

Not exactly warm and fuzzy is it? In fact it’s down right cold.
This letter is a 2 page laundry list of “to-do’s” and guilt, and slightly veiled insults about my character, disguised as a goodbye/birthday note.
I used to cry when I read it.
Maybe subconsciously I saw it for what it really was but didn’t realize it.
Today I feel nothing but a slight tinge of anger.

I read this over now and I clearly see a “Sorry I didn’t live up to your superficial expectations you lazy, combative child. Time for you to step up and take over, lest your procrastination ruin your father’s/brother’s life” guilt trip.

Hell, how passive aggressive is it to tell me not to state the obvious to my brother lest he dwell on the pain of losing his mother (which apparently would be more traumatic for him than her first and only born of her loins child) and then rhyme off a list of monumental moments to come in my life so that I can painfully dwell on them starting right then and there?!

And where the fuck were the glowing words about MY potential?!

I don’t know what more I can say…

How about “despite our supercharged relationship, I think you’re a good kid, I think you’re talented, I think you have nice hair” ?! Anything remotely complimentary would have sufficed.

I may have yelled a lot, but I hope you have learned something from your life…

Yes, I learned that while I had abundantly different memories of my life to that point, my mother apparently spent 15 aggravating years yelling at her daughter, and felt the need to remind her of that, several times, in her final goodbye.

No wonder I always thought it was better that I never had children of my own (even though I am amazing with them and have the strongest and most natural maternal instinct of anyone I know) I’ve always had it in my head that my expectations of them would be too high/tough. *lightbulb goes off*
Talk about imprinting.

My memories of my mother are pretty much non-existent now, but many things stand out.
She wasn’t a happy woman. I remember her crying a lot. In fact a lot of times she was angry/frustrated. Mostly directed towards my father and myself.
I think she resented the relationship I had with my father.
He built me up, she tore me down. I built him up, she tore him down.

I don’t think she lived the life she really wanted.
I don’t think she truly enjoyed being a wife or a mother.
The only time I remember her being really happy was when she went back to high school and had a life of her own, outside the house.

30 yrs later, this suddenly all makes sense.

You know what mom? I’m sorry.
I’m sorry your life didn’t pan out the way you wanted.
I’m sorry that perhaps I wasn’t the child you wanted/expected.
But I’m no longer sorry for not carrying out your manifesto or being able to control the outcome of Jason’s life.
I’m no longer going to live with the guilt of fleeing a toxic situation for my own survival.
I made a choice. I made many choices. Good and bad. So did Jason. We dealt with and lived with the consequences of our actions, and that’s OK. We’re OK.

I chose to leave home when my step-mother started to abuse me.
That was brave.
I chose to pursue a career in the field I loved, not the field that was expected, despite being disowned and cut off financially.
That was brave.
And when that no longer fulfilled me, I pursued a different one.
That was brave.
I chose to leave a marriage that wasn’t working, despite the pressure to conform.
That was brave.

All of these years, though you set me up to be one, I wasn’t a failure.
I know that now.
The shortcomings you tried to lay at my feet weren’t mine. They were yours.
But I forgive you. More importantly I forgive myself.
I’m sorry you were never brave enough to make the tough choices you should have for your own happiness. Maybe you would have eventually, but we’ll never know.

But I do know this: I’m no longer sorry for the life I’ve lead and the way I’ve chosen to live it.
I chose.
That was brave.
I was brave.
I am brave.
I am happy.

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