I am participating in Diane DeBella’s #iamsubject project http://www.iamsubject.com/the-iamsubject-project/. Here is my #iamsubject story.
“You live with too many ghosts.”
That’s what he said to me one night after seeing the title of the book, Motherless Daughters. I was reading it in an attempt to begin processing what had been kept hidden inside for over 25 years. So I put the book away, just as I had done with several other attempts to find out exactly who I was.
On the outside, there was the confident, organized college administrator who received glowing evaluations and loved helping anyone she could, especially those who seemed to need that extra push or vote of confidence. Her door was always open, yet, on the rides home, she secretly longed for her own advisor to help make sense of everything and to tell her she was on the right track. There was the “coach’s wife,” who attended every game and stood (literally) on the sidelines, filming her husband’s rise to fame during a winning season. No one ever knew her name or even cared to, for that matter – she was simply “coach’s wife.” And at a showing of the video she had created, his only acknowledgement of her efforts were, “Oh, yeah. This is just a little hobby she has.”
I began to feel a slow grating at the base of my gut each time everything I said or did was interrupted by a better, bigger story or altogether ignored. I was important, and although I had allowed myself to focus on who I was externally – defining myself based on what I did for others – inside, my spirit was withering.
It took something extremely personal, extremely physical, for me to realize that things needed to change. That I was an individual who had a name, a body, and a spirit who deserved to be recognized and appreciated. Most importantly, I needed to learn how to appreciate myself. In 2005, after suffering through years of painful menstrual cycles and noticing (but not addressing) a growing abdomen, I found the courage to face one of my biggest fears and have a hysterectomy. Since Momma died, I had always had this deep terror of hospitals, knowing they were the places “where you went to and never came out of.” I also feared the simple act of going to doctors because they “could always discover some horrible disease that would end up killing you.”
Something was different this time. For once, I didn’t feel like the terrified eleven-year-old. I knew I was taking care of me for the first time. So, in the quiet hours of the first night after surgery, listening to my husband grumble about “having his sleep interrupted by the nurse coming in to check vitals,” I began to heal – on several levels.
He wasn’t there the morning I was released. No, he had decided to spend the remaining time of my hospital stay at home, studying for his teaching boards. Eventually, I decided to leave the marriage.
Jokingly, I comment to my girlfriends that I received a “two-for-one” deal when I went to the hospital – not only did I have my uterus removed, they helped me remove an a**hole as well.
Nine years later, I can’t say that I’ve completely healed from the scars of mother loss or the hysterectomy, nor have I fully discovered who, at 47, I truly am. But I can tell you that I’ve taken some amazing steps in the journey so far.
The man I married three years ago understands that I am on a journey toward self. Although I have the outward challenges of trying to learn how to be a good wife, stepmother, survive menopause, etc., he also respects that I have some “me work” to continue.
Hubs and I met through our love for music. About two years ago, we formed a vintage blues band that (very surprisingly) won a competition that sent us to Beale Street, Memphis. In the past, my voice was stifled by, “No, you can’t join a band. Why would you want to, anyway?” Now, when I sing, I feel alive. Powerful. Sexy. Like a woman who’s beginning to take control of her life.
One day, while having a less-than-powerful moment on the journey, I was searching for another self-help book on “taking chances.” That’s when I came across You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. The author, Jen Sincero, exemplified to me the type of woman I was seeking to become – strong, opinionated, in-charge, creative. I read it like a college textbook, making notes in the margins and highlighting just about every other paragraph. I needed to come out of my protective little shell, admit and face up to my challenges, and “get the hell on with” my life. The author sent out a request for video clips from readers, sharing why they felt they should be selected for her 8-week course. I submitted…and was selected. In fact, I’m finishing up the final week right now. I’ve learned how to maintain focus on what desires and goals I want and to step out of that comfortable little box I’ve lived in for so long. I am close to earning my B.A. in “B-A.” Heh.
That book that I hid away years ago? Well, funny how things happen. One night, Hubs showed me a book that had been recommended by someone. He was trying to understand and support me in my healing over Momma’s death. It was the same book – Motherless Daughters. That loving gesture started a crazy chain of events. I joined the author’s fan page. She sent out a call for stories of mother loss. I took a huge leap of faith and submitted one. A few weeks later, she contacted me for permission to use the story in her 20th Anniversary edition of Letters from Motherless Daughters (by the way, my story is on page 162 under a fictitious name). In March 2014, I attended my first meeting of the Triangle Motherless Daughters Group. For the first time in 36 years, I was among sisters. I was able to express grief, challenges, and successes and be listened to and valued. The book’s author, Hope Edelman, was also there. She signed a copy of the book and gave it to me. On May 10, 2014, I wrote a feature story in the Greensboro News & Record about life as a motherless daughter and shared that I was starting a support group for other motherless daughters in the area. I’ve been contacted by numerous women (and supportive men) who thanked me for helping them and who want to join the group. I hope to hold the first meeting at the end of June. Visit my website http://momlesslife.wordpress.com for more information.
Do I live with ghosts? Of course, I do, and I’m proud of it. They stay by my side constantly, gently coaxing me along the way. They sit quietly by me in the evenings when I feel compelled to write. They give me the “thumbs up” as I click “enter” and submit yet another story for consideration. They see that I am beginning to cut those spectral apron strings and come into my own self. If I listen closely enough, I can hear them say, “Atta girl!”