There are articles all over the internet about allowing yourself to cut toxic people out of your life. If I’m being honest, my personality requires it. If I find someone toxic, I cut them out like a tumor. Plain and simple. I’ve always been that way. Sorry, but if you hurt more than you help, you gotta go.
I was especially that way with my mom. You see, my mom and I were very different people. She didn’t see things the same way I do.
My whole life we were somehow at odds with one another. We never had the mother and daughter relationship I read about.
The one where you get pedicures together and share your deepest secrets.
We didn’t bake together and go to yard sales on Saturday mornings. She didn’t coach my softball team, and actually, come to think of it, I don’t have clear memories of her playing outside with me at all. I also never played softball, but you get the idea. She didn’t come over my house and cook dinner with me and enjoy a bottle of wine. My mom didn’t pick my kids up from school and take them to chic fil a.
My mom and I had a relationship that people close to me would describe as toxic. My mom was an alcoholic while I was growing up. She also had MS. She also had a really traumatic upbringing. She also had depression. Talk about a concoction. She wasn’t dealt the easiest hand, and I think looking back now, I’m beginning to understand her more.
Despite all of this, she always did what she needed to do. I always had dinner on the stove. I always knew I could call her. I always knew she would have my back if I needed it. I always knew she did love me.
The thing with toxic relationships is that they hurt and then once you identify that, you build walls to protect yourself. I had such a small tolerance for my mom. My patience with her was basically nonexistent. I felt like she didn’t do her part to show up for me. I felt like I could never connect with her or relate to her. I felt like she never made the effort I wished she would. My ability to show her affection lessened each year as we grew apart. I had an unwillingness to accept our relationship for what it was. I felt like she was never open to meeting me half way, in the middle of two completely different worlds.
My whole life, I have kept a comfortable distance from my mom. I removed myself from the toxicity because I always felt that I had to tiptoe around what I said to avoid offending her or to dodge a potential argument. But, within the last year, I got better at handling her. Maybe I got more mature or maybe she got easier. I’ll never really know.
It got to the point where we were okay in small doses. She would come to my son’s soccer game or my parents would come over for dinner.
We spent my entire life going through ebbs and flows. When we were on good terms, it was SO great. It felt like we were getting somewhere. Then time and time again our relationship would come toppling back to square one. It seemed I was always one opinion or comment or action from sending us spiraling out of control. Maybe she felt the same.
The last time I ever saw her, we were going to swim at the pool where my parents lived. Usually when we went, only my dad would come. When I called, my dad wasn’t home, so he said my mom was there and to call her. To my surprise, she said she would come down and hang out with us- and she did. We were only there maybe an hour. It was so nice. We talked and she spent time with the kids. I remember thinking, “I wish it could be like this all the time.”
It was like the scene from Frozen where Ana and Elsa are beside each other. Ana wants so badly to have a relationship with her sister, but Elsa is fighting battles that are deep and complicated. The audience knows that, but Ana doesn’t.
That’s kind of how life works- sometimes you don’t have all of the information, or if you do, you don’t know what to do with it.
Anyway, we had our pool date and a week later, my mom died.
My toxic mom died.
Every single memory has played through my head day after day. All of the bad and all of the good. I don’t know that I would do things differently, because I did what I thought was right with what I knew at the time.
But do you know what’s important to share?
My mom and I had some BAD times. Low. The kind of moments that are the reason we “let go” of toxic people.
And do you know what I can’t get out of my head?
When I’m laying in bed at night, when I’m shampooing my hair in the shower, when I’m driving home from dropping my son off at school, when I’m literally doing anything when I have a free second to hear myself think?
I can’t stop thinking about the sound of her laugh.
It’s LOUD. It is filled with so much joy that it creates hurt.
I’ll never hear her laugh again.
I always record when we sing “Happy Birthday,” and I find myself rewinding over and over just to hear her voice.
Also, there is an image that sticks with me. This is so strange. But, do you know if you are watching someone hold a baby and they are face to face with the baby, you can see their hands on both sides of the baby’s back. You can’t see their thumbs, but you can see their 4 fingers on both sides of that baby, surrounded by squish.
For some reason, I picture her hands.
Why is that what I picture?
I don’t have the answers. I’m not an expert. I’m just sharing the fact that I have 28 years worth of toxic ammunition, and if you want the god’s honest truth, when it was really time to let go of the toxic person in my life- I wasn’t ready.
You guys can do with this information what you want.
But I literally hear her laugh and I see her hands holding my kids.
Even when I don’t think she liked me, my mom was always so proud of me and proud of my writing. But more than anything, she loved me for who I am as a mom. I can only hope she is proud now of who I was as her daughter, despite the lifelong distances between us.