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I am not my own.   —   Family

When I moved away from Michigan twelve years ago I didn't give much thought to how often I would return or even where I would be living given the passing of the years. And being young and newly parent-free I certainly didn't give any thought to how often I would see my parents. At that point in time I felt saturated with them, too familiar, and I was thinking more of distance and never anticipated the deep yearning I would have for them in later years.

Given the expense of travel (and the fact that they don't even live near each other anymore), I don't see either of them very often. And while I speak with one or both of them weekly, I still feel the void of their presence, their scent, their weight, their movement. Of course once every few years one of us will make the trip to the other, sometimes it's for a holiday but most times it's just for the hell of it, but the time always flies and before I know it we're apart again.

It's always a bit of an adjustment upon our initial reunion. I've lived most of my adult life on my own, out from under their wing and watchful eye, so when we're suddenly together again I struggle with the conflict of automatically feeling like a child while forcing myself to feel like an adult. Sometimes I feel like they don't even know this version of me, and sometimes I feel like this version of me doesn't even exist when they're around. And of course, everyone looks older. It's quite a shock when you don't watch someone gradually age and instead they seem to magically get older and older every time you see their face in person. It makes time feel like the enemy, taking away what's rightfully yours and tampering with the snapshot of them you have in your head. Steve Miller had it right, time does keep on slipping into the future.

This is all a preface of course, in telling you that my mother is coming for an 8 day visit on Wednesday. I last saw her in December of 2007 and one could say I wasn't on my best behavior. I suppose one could go so far as saying when it comes to being around my mother, I'm rarely on my best behavior. I have this thing called anger, it's a mindless beast motored by hormones and conflicting emotions, or more accurately as Adam has stated recently, it's a frustration. I think my mother is an amazing person. I love her and idolize her in so many ways. But I don't like to be coddled or mothered. I feel like it strips me of my power as an individual and makes me feel ... well, frustrated. And yet there are times when I still want to be taken care of, it allows this rush of freedom from accountability and responsibility, it gives me back that feeling of absolute dependence, that unconditional no strings attached love. And at the same time I want to be left alone. What this all translates into is mood swings. After a few days my good nature and tolerance wears down and I withdraw. I rarely lash out but my silence and indifference I think is often worse. My mother is well versed in all of the levels and colors of Heather. Never do I have to explain myself but often do I have to apologize. Because she never complains. She never takes issue with me or gets mad. She simply allows me my brooding, gives me some space, and waits for me to get over it. It's perhaps a complexity that most always takes place when she visits me in my home, in my city, perhaps my feeling of independence and sense of self is stronger when I'm on my own turf because rarely does this charade occur when I'm visiting her.

But this time, this visit I vow for a change. I'm in a good place these days, mentally, physically, emotionally, I feel sharp and together. I am finally doing some things in my life that I've always wanted to do and I feel like I have some accomplishments to show for those achievements, no matter how small they may be. I think I may be able to ride on the pride I currently feel in myself and perhaps more successfully navigate my way through the strange world of a mother-daughter relationship.

As an addendum to the selfish portrait I've painted for myself I feel compelled to tell you that I absolutely, without a doubt, cherish the ground my mother walks upon. She is, in my mind's eye, a goddess. She is funny and odd and full of an energy for life that is impressive and admirable. When she is feeling strong and empowered she emits a light from within that seems to sing a melodious tune. A tune that is as beautiful and hopeful as it is haunting and sad.

I think a lot of people struggle with some of the things I've mentioned in this post. And to be honest with you it's probably one of the only problems in my relationship with my folks. Otherwise I feel like we have a pretty sweet deal. There's no bad blood, no neglect or regret, they are my friends and they are forever supportive and available. They are, aside from my husband, my favorite people in this world and the people I most try to emulate. So I will try to improve myself, to treat those I love most in this life with the respect and honor they deserve. Because without those qualities in a relationship, we're just selfish hungry wolves.

Posted 7.24.2009 5:33:37 PM

Eight days of summer.
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