In a documentary called Leaving Neverland a young man named Jimmy described forgiveness as not a line you cross, but a road you take. When I heard the statement I was immediately struck at how true this was.
Anyone who has known me for a long time knows I have dealt with issues regarding my relationship or lack of relationship with my mother. When I was younger I was bitter over her dependence on me and robbing me of my childhood. I was tasked with cleaning the house and taking care of my brothers. When I was 13 I worked summers on a tobacco farm and my mother informed me I would be required to pay $20 per week board and purchase my own clothes. When I was 16 I started working full time as a nurse’s aide while still attending high school and taking care of my brothers and the house on weekends. I was not only required to continue with payment of $20 per week, but my mother would steal money from me and when something unexpected came up in the house she would look to me for money to take care of whatever the issue would be. I joined the Navy at 18 to get away from my home environment and strike out on my own.
My mother suffers from bi-polar disorder and this resulted in years of bad decisions and constant need from me to clean up any mess she had made with her life. When things would reach a breaking point I would voice my opinion and the relationship would be estranged for years. The stories are too numerous to tell, but I felt my mother only cared for me when I was doing something for her. I held onto a good amount of resentment for a number of years.
When I was 40 I had an issue with depression and sought counseling. It was during counseling when I realized this anger and resentment was bottled inside and I needed to find a way to not only deal with it, but find a way to see my mother differently and what my role should be in her life. I was able to tell her how she hurt me as a child by the birthdays she did not remember and all the responsibility she loaded on me because of her mental illness. She did apologize but I am not sure she really understood.
I continued for about 10 years to have a relationship with her. Always being there for her as the only time she ever called was when she needed something. Never to see how I was doing. This was our dance. She called and I took care of what she needed, each time doing whatever she needed me to do.
When my husband died even then she did not have the capacity to be there for me. She asked me to get her juice when she arrived at my home within an hour of the notification of his death. After the funeral I never received a call from her asking how I was doing or asking if I needed anything.
Through my own journey I have discovered she truly is not a bad person, merely a flawed person with a mental illness she did not ask for. Although, I do not talk to her except at a family function (and this is strained conversation) I am no longer angry or resentful of what she could not give me. What I discovered is not that she won’t give of herself, but she doesn’t have it to give. She is the mother I was meant to have to become the woman I am.
At the end of the day I truly love my life and I like myself. I have learned to truly forgive my mother her shortcomings and I truly wish her well. I just had to make a decision for my own emotional health to not have her in my life. This was my journey to forgiveness and moving forward with my life.