Am I Bitter?

Last night, before I tucked myself into bed after a really lovely night of excellent food and bluegrass, I read Anne Lamott's article Why I Hate Mother's Day. I appreciated these words so much that I tweeted them. My tweets end up on my Facebook page which means that my grandmother read the article. Her comment was that Lamott seems "really bitter" and hopes that I'm not turning into a bitter woman too.


I realize that these words might come out of the same hurt place that so many others feel when I scorn at Mother's Day. I'm fully aware that my rejection of the holiday seems like I'm rejecting the whole idea. I'm not. I've been blessed with two amazing women that I've affectionately and lovingly called "Mom." One of them was the woman that gave me life. She was the woman that taught me about God and reoriented my life forever with her death. The other "Mom" in my life was the woman that my father married only two years after my first "Mom" died. I was so thrilled to have a mother in my life that my eight year old self gave this wonderful woman a "New Mom" ribbon. My stepmother has healed more wounds than she knows. She allowed me to write late night emails to her in college to process all of the hurt that I didn't understand. She didn't reject me. She wrote long, thoughtful emails back. In every sense, she's been my mother -- and I'm so lucky to have her in my life.

I don't intend on removing that honor on this day to either of these women -- nor do I seek to devalue the fabulous mothering relationships I've found in grandparents, cousins, great aunts that stare at the ocean with me, friends that are like family and too many others that have formed me to be the person I am today. All of these people deserve my love and respect each and every day. Instead, I struggle with this one day. It's complicated. I want to insist that I honor all of these loved ones every day. I want to believe that I tell my stepmother I love her and appreciate her on other days than this one -- but it's not really true. I fall short. Still, I hope she knows that she means the world to me. I hope she knows it as much as my great aunt, my best friend who I talked to for an hour on the phone today when we could have just gone for a walk and my little sister. I probably don't say it enough -- but I hope they know. Of course, on this day, it's more complicated than that. It's not just about all of those wonderfully affirming relationships that are present in my life. It's also about the one that's missing.

I suppose this is what makes me sound bitter. I prefer the language of today's Gospel Lesson. I'd rather identify with those that are blind, lame and paralyzed by the pool under five porticos -- because I can really relate to that man who Jesus asks, "Do you want to be made well?" Yes. Obviously. What a stupid question, but don't we always ask stupid questions about things that we don't understand? That's what today is like for me. I listen to all of the wonderful demonstrations of love among my church members. I'm happy for them. I don't want to take that away from them, but still my stomach turns. I don't really know how to explain it, except to point to all of those moments where you really want to call your mom. That never goes away.

There are certain moments in life that you'll always want to pick up the phone and call your mom. There are big moments like graduations and when you realize you're falling in love, but then there are smaller moments. There are the silly trivial things that you just want to tell her that you kicked ass in that interview or that he broke your heart. (My stepmother fielded both of those calls.) There's the moment where you just start thinking about her and you wonder how she is so you grab your phone from your purse and start dialing. That never goes away -- even if she's been dead for over 20 years.

That's what I feel today. I want to call my mom and make her breakfast and thank her for giving me life, but I can't. That might mean I'm bitter. It might but I tend to think that this is the reality of my grief. It's the part of me that's blind, lame and paralyzed to Mother's Day. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry if my grief ruins your day but it's not really cheering me up either. I'm trying as hard as I can to pick up my mat and walk, but I need your help just as much as you need mine. I might be blind to what this day means to you. I may be so paralyzed in my own grief that I can't see through it. I may be lame right now. Ok, I'm definitely lame right now but I'll try again tomorrow. So will you. But, right now, I'm just trying so hard to be made well. I wish that for you too.


Teri said...

I don't think it's bitterness, but if it is we can be bitter together.
I am grateful for your friendship and the so many ways you have nurtured and enhanced my life! :-)

Magdalene6127 said...

I really appreciate this thoughtful piece.

Forgive me in advance if I say anything that is just. not. helpful. I say all this with love.

I don't think I would call what you express bitterness.

That question, "Do you want to be made well?" is a really fascinating way into the rabbit hole for me.

I'll talk about it in terms of my divorce. Do I want to be made well? Absolutely! I want to be "over it". I want to move on (and I have in so many ways... I'm so very happy in my relationship with Beloved, it's been like coming home).

But do I want to be "made well"? As in, forgive and forget? Here is where I sigh. And the honest answer is "yes, but..."

... I invested so much in that relationship, it's hard to let it go, even now.

... I value an understanding of myself as someone who loves forever, period.

... I don't really want him to have a happy ending, at the same time I want him to have life abundant because I love him. I truly do. Nothing will ever change that.

There are no exact parallels here to losing a mother at a very tender young age, as you did. But... perhaps this one... not wanting to forget, because you loved her so and that love still has value to you...

while, at the same time, wishing it were less painful... which seems to come only at the cost of some kind of forgetfulness, which is unacceptable.

Does that make any sense?

Be gentle with yourself. You do not have to love or even like this day. Your hating this day does not equate to your not loving either of your Mom's. You get to have your feelings about this day.

Love to you.

Anonymous said...

again, thank you for helping my own bitterness and insanity come to the surface. as i struggled with this
day's rapid approach and feeling the mounting stress of having to preach, much less hold it together on this day, i hadn't really let myself verbalize it in real ways. the way we're experiencing our invalid-ity with this issue is different, but there is definitely a similar core...struggle with idealizing the feminine, prioritizing certain attributes to legitimize womanhood, what is motherhood, etc. i do want to be made whole, but i don't think i can until i fully let myself realize my anguish because all of it is in need of healing and saving...

mihee said...

oop i didn't want to post the last comment as anonymous! sorry!