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Keeping Hope Alive

Over the years I haven’t talked about my mom much. And when I did, it wasn’t always kind. In fact, I don’t think she was always kind to me so there was a sense of “back at you” that I gave to her, and to the world, when they asked about her. And at the time, I was conflicted. Each time I was unkind, I was conflicted. But I leaned more on my defenses than my hope.

She gave me hope. I mentioned it in the most recent Glamour magazine feature. Of all the things she’s given to me, hope is the one that stands out the most.

I sent the magazine article to her, thinking she would be proud that Glamour magazine interviewed me and labeled me as one of the 21 smartest women they know…and I mentioned the hope that she gave me and the discipline that I got from my dad. But her response to the article was shocking. Instead of being proud, she eloquently expressed that it’s time for me to expand the narrative of who she is and who she was. Indeed, she was all the things I’ve listed when asked about her…but she was more than that too.

While raising me, she went back to school and got her GED and several certificates in computer science. She secured work and endured a lot of BS. She walked all the time, to lose weight and clear her mind. She went to church and made connections with people, mostly the church mothers because she missed her own and wanted to be loved by an older woman. She set some clear boundaries (some I didn’t understand at the time but certainly get now). And, as I moved with my dad and processed all my hurts and pain, she took her own hurt and catalyzed it into her degrees, first her associates and then her bachelors. She’s an educated and stable woman who loves plants, keeps home alive for me and her to grow closer, and she is still doing her best.

Oftentimes, I compared her to other moms. And in those comparisons, she fell short. But not because of her own doing…mostly because I would take pieces of this mom…and pieces of that mom… and pieces of a fantasy mom, and I’d create an image of what she should be or should have been to me. And nobody can stand against that. I mean, it’s fictional and fantasy and she is real… and very much here. So I did a disservice to her. For years.

I mean, she was far from perfect and she still says and does things that make me roll my eyes… but what mom doesn’t?

I was talking with my bestie, Dr. Ayana K. Malone, a couple weeks ago. Her and her mom are super close. They vacation together, have inside jokes, and shop and cook together. Her mom is a Taurus too, like my mom. So at times, Ayana and I tease about their inflexibility or general stubbornness. But watching them makes me happy and sad. Happy for her…for them. And sad for me…Bc I don’t have that relationship with my mom and was never really successful at having it with any older woman…bc nobody can actually replace your mom. There will be some good runner-ups but nothing like the real deal.

Nonetheless, in this convo with Ayana, I said, “I think it’s time to try again with my mom.” Whoa, the risks that are there because the need and want is SO great, but I’m not sure if the capacity or skill set from her…can match it. But as I continued to talk with Ayana, I also noted that all moms are a bit wild and annoy their kids from time to time. Show me a daughter who is never annoyed by her mom or sensitive to what her mom had to say. Show me…I’ll wait. Ha! It doesn’t happen.

But what does happen is that they learn from each other. They start to see each other in new ways. Woman to woman, while also being a mother to a daughter and vice versa. They start to lean in on each other with love and vulnerability and care and ease.

I’m tired of being afraid that my mom will hurt me again. That my disappointment will be so grand and so deep that it’ll be better to avoid than to take the risk. I’m ready to show my love and receive hers.

I suspect there will be some bumps along the way. But nothing beats a failure but a try.

So mom, if you’re reading this, please know I get it. You did your best. You tried hard. You loved hard. You kept hope alive for all these years and I’m prayerful we can finally try to build that relationship that both of us wanted.

Lord, let’s try again. I love you. Pooh bear.

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