This week the year of firsts came to an end; first Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. without my mom. It was a bittersweet day on Wednesday, relief knowing the first year, which I had always thought would be the most difficult, and sadness knowing I had gone a whole year without being able to talk to my mom the way I used to. There was also a sense of pride in knowing I had come through it pretty much intact as well. Yes, I’ve had my moments of being puddled on the floor, but I’ve discovered that those moments pass and that I’m strong enough to go on with my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, and it’s been the most important education of my life. I think the main lesson has been the need to not give into the fear of the unknown. There were so many times during my transcription course when I didn’t think I could go on, it was too hard, and I just doubted myself so much it nearly paralyzed me. But I also knew that my mom would want me to continue and fight through it, so I did, and now I’m working again. That’s been immensely important for my psyche and self-esteem.
When my mom died, I had largely shut myself off from the world because of my stuttering. Part of the reason was that I had been so burnt out taking care of my mom, that I just didn’t have the energy to deal with my speech issues anymore. The other part was my neighbor who had brainwashed me into thinking I was disabled and unable to speak for myself. It was only after he assaulted me, which I now feel was an attempt to convince me that I was helpless to do anything about his advances because I needed his help in order to function, that I realized I had to stand on my own. Stuttering or not, I had to face the world head on and not hide anymore. I’ve had some missteps since then, but now I feel solidly on my own path to where I was meant to be. And even though I know my mom isn’t physically with me anymore, I know that no matter where I go, she is always with me in spirit. I know that even though she is far away, she is still closer than I think.
I have a confession to make. Before my mom went into the hospital, I was tired. Tired of being her caregiver. Tired of not having a life of my own. Tired of feeling like life was passing me by while everyone else got to move along with the traffic of their lives. I was her caregiver full time for twelve years and part-time for eight years before that. Twenty years I spent helping her out while putting my hopes and dreams on hold. While she was in the hospital and her condition was declining I hate to admit that part of me felt like a horse at the starting gate of a race. Chomping at the bit of what was to come. Those feelings made me feel so incredibly guilty but there they were. I was ready to move forward with my life and enthusiastic about what would happen after the inevitable happened.
Then my mom passed and the racing gate burst opened and nothing happened. I couldn’t move. The days just crept by and I didn’t want to move or do anything without my mom. My identity had become so intertwined with hers that I just don’t know who I am now. It’s a strange feeling, to say the least, to be in my mid-40s and have no clue who I am. It is so strange seeing things that were my mom’s leave the house. Last Wednesday her oxygen compressor that whined and wheezed 24/7 was picked up by the company and I had the most dreadful feeling that it couldn’t go because she needed it to breathe. Then the realization hit and the dam cracked, but didn’t completely break, and I cried. I put the tubing that came with the machine, in the trash and I walked back to the house shaking so hard I could hardly take a step. I feel the pull of her still and I need to break away from that. I need to move toward a future without her but I don’t know how to. I try to take steps and feel this gravitational pull backwards to a past that no long exists. I keep listening to a song called “Never Lookin Back” by the husband and wife duo of Pear. There’s a line in the chorus, “….no future in the rearview mirror” that is resonating a great deal with me these days. I can’t keep being pulled back by the past. I need to move forward towards a future of my own. I’m just not sure how to do that at the moment, but taking one baby step at a time I know I can. It’s just going to be the hardest journey I will ever make in my life.