Last year at my virtual birthday party my mom raised a glass and said “There is absolutely nothing I could wish my daughter on her birthday, because her life is already perfect.”
What? Does she even know me?
Right around that time I started talking to my now ex about moving out. The world was starting to panic about COVID. All four of us were home twenty four-seven having meetings at the same time, including the kindergartner. My mood fluctuated between wanting to escape, break things, and hide under the blanket and wait it all out. To make matters worse, I couldn’t see my other partner as much as I wanted to because of the pandemic. I was rather miserable most of the time.
My life wasn’t perfect. In fact, mom had no idea how un-perfect my life was. She didn’t know how I really felt about my marriage, didn’t know I’ve been in an open relationship for years, didn’t know how I felt about my dad leaving us when I was a kid, and she didn’t know about the amount of therapy it took for me to learn to love and accept myself. She didn’t know any of it because I haven’t told her. By hiding the more “uncomfortable” parts of my life from her, I was trying to protect her feelings. I assumed that if I shared any of it with her, she would get too upset. And who wants to upset someone they love? Not me! So I tried not to. Not until I heard that birthday wish.
I started having dreams about introducing my mom to my boyfriend and telling her about my open marriage. Those were recurring dreams, accompanied by the feeling of relief. I would wake up and think “Darn! It was only a dream…” My desire to have a heart-to-heart conversation with mom about my life grew stronger and stronger each day. Finally it became so urgent that I couldn’t not talk to her.
It’s a lot easier for me to express my thoughts in writing, so naturally I decided to write my mother a confession letter.
I started typing.
I have decided that it’s very important for me to tell you everything about my life…”
It was one of the longest letters I’ve ever written. When I finished it felt too intense to send over email. I wanted to give her a chance to respond in real time, I wanted to see her face when I told her everything. I called her and said that I’d be coming over for a visit the next day.
I barely slept that night. I was extremely nervous. I played out the worst case scenarios of how she could react. She could disown me as her daughter. She could stop talking to me. She could have a heart attack and die… There was also a tiny chance she would accept me with all of my anxiety, troubled marriage, bad habits and tattoos, but it was highly unlikely, I thought.
The next morning I drove over to mom’s.
She was happy to see me, as usual. I said “Mom, can we talk? In private?”
“Sure,” she said, giving me a puzzled look.
We went to her room, sat down on her bed, and I said “Mom, I wrote you a long letter, but I haven’t sent it to you. Can I read it to you instead?”
She looked nervous, but again said “Sure”.
I started reading.
First I told her about how I really felt about their divorce with dad.
I told her how I assumed responsibility for her emotional well being the day he left.
How I decided to never upset her ever and be a good girl.
How as a kid every night before falling asleep I was afraid I would die and how I couldn’t tell her about that because I didn’t want to scare her too.
How I started rebelling against being good around the age of fifteen when I smoked my first cigarette.
How I met my husband and how I decided he was good enough for the role of the designated father of my children in my plan.
How later I realized something was missing and how we opened up our marriage. And how after that everything was going great until I met my current boyfriend.
How I felt loved and accepted in the new relationship and how I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not.
Basically, I told her everything about my life that I thought she couldn’t handle.
I finished reading the letter and looked at her. She was smiling.
“Mom, will you be able to sleep at night after hearing all of this?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?” she said, “I am not worried about you — you’ll figure out your life, you always do.”
“I do? She still thinks so even though I told her everything?” I thought.
That sure was a surprising reaction. Nothing like any of the worst case scenarios I was imagining the night before…
Then mom told me how she wanted to protect my feelings too. She wanted to shield me from seeing my dad in a negative light so she never told what actually happened between them.
She told me about the crushes she had on other men throughout her marriages.
She told me she was proud of me for figuring out how to get my needs met, even if in a non-traditional way.
She told me many other things she wanted to tell me most of her life but didn’t, because she wanted to protect me.
We talked for a few hours. Afterwards I felt so light and happy. I felt loved and accepted. As is. With all of my anxiety, troubled marriage, bad habits and tattoos.