Would You Live Differently If You Knew Your Fate?
I don’t know what she was like as a little girl. Was she playful? Silly? Wild like me?
I have no idea who she was as a young woman, or what her wildest hopes and dreams were.
Did she want to work at the bank? Or did she have bigger things in store for her life?
Did she ever dream of things that felt impossible? And if she’d had the chance, would she have taken the chance on those dreams?
I don’t know if she was a good cook. A good wife. A good daughter.
Did she like to travel like I do? Did she ever have the urge to leave the country on a whim, to pick up and hit the road, to see what else was out there for her in this world? What would she have done with her life, if she’d known her story ahead of time?
I’ll never know how she felt when she found out she was pregnant with me, her first child, at 24!! Or how it changed her life when she saw my face for the first time. Was she excited? Was she scared?
She never taught me how to cook. Or clean. Or how I was supposed to braid my hair, or deal with heartbreak. And we never went for tea and talked about life, relationships, or chatted into the wee hours of the night about what it really meant to be a woman, to be a human, to be alive.
We never talked about the idea of getting married. Whether she thought it was a good decision she’d made at the young age of 23. Did she believe in forever love? In the idea of “the one”? Did she know that I didn’t? Did she even think about these things?
I have no idea how she felt about all the demons from her childhood. The ones I never learned about until way too late in life.
And I have absolutely no idea how she felt when she went to see her first therapist for simple “anxiety”. Did she know it was the beginning of the end?
And when she and dad divorced, and she took me to therapy every week to talk about who I wanted to live with, did she know that this was too much for a child to take on? Could she tell that I knew, deep down, that she couldn’t take care of me? Did she know that I never once said this out loud, no matter how much the therapist tried to lead me there? She was my mother, for fuck’s sake.
I’m not even really sure when her illness started. Sure, I remember my grade 3 teacher asking me how she was doing when she had been in the hospital already for weeks, maybe months. But when did it REALLY start for her? As a teenager, when her brother abused her? As a new mother, when it all became too much to hold?
I often wonder whether she was as aware as I was, that the fact that she never ate anything couldn’t be good for her. Watching her be fed through tubes on the psychiatric ward – the most aggressive treatment for anorexia at the time, her doctor told me years later. Why didn’t she just eat normal food, like everybody else?
And why did I have to go visit my mom in a hospital anyway? Surely this wasn’t how most kids spent their Saturday afternoons. My 7-year old self didn’t know what to do with it all, except shut it out.
But then, how could any child be expected to understand the complexities of mental illness.
And when it got to the point when she actually lived in the hospital full time, did she realize how sad it made me to not have a mother?
I’ll never know if she ever had the urge to talk about her illness with me. Maybe she didn’t want to bother me with it. Or maybe she just didn’t even recognize she was ill. Maybe her anorexia distorted any kind of self-perception that she had. Isn’t that what happens? I don’t know.
Maybe she had no idea who she was anymore.
And when it got really bad, when all the other shit started to get worse – I wonder how she felt about being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD? Was she told that these were now the labels she was to live with? Did she notice how the meds made her act? Did she feel the stigma of these terms the way that I did as her daughter?
And when I was away and travelling and doing anything I could to NOT have to deal with my “crazy” mother, did she miss me? Did she blame me? Did she still love me?
I wonder if she ever wanted to reach out. To ask for help. To have a heart-to-heart, as I’ve heard mothers and daughters sometimes do.
And I wonder if she had, if I’d have had the courage to say yes.
I’ll never know.
Those many years I lived away, in Australia, in Korea, in Thailand, in Vancouver – if I’d known they’d mean not seeing my mom again, would I still have stayed away? And all the time I spent worrying about what my friends would think if they met her, about being embarrassed about her if I ever had a wedding, about any public event that she nigh try to attend with me – would I have changed the way I felt if it meant I could bring her back?
I actually don’t know. Which makes me sad.
I wonder if that last phone call I made to her house, a whim I had out of the blue on a Friday night in my 20s before heading out to drink myself into numbness, was my intuition telling me that I better call my mom. It’s really too bad she didn’t pick up.
I’d find out later she was busy dying, the exact moment I called.
Dropping dead to the floor in the bathroom at a friend’s house while watching the Olympics.
I wonder who was winning?
And when she moved out of her apartment just a month before, packed up all her boxes, stored everything away, and moved onto my uncle’s couch, en route to a local women’s shelter, I wonder if she knew she was packing up her life for good. If it was her way of cleaning up years of clutter and hoarding. Years of reminders of a life unfulfilled. Her way of helping make the whole thing just a little bit easier on us.
Hell – I sometimes wonder how she really died. Sure, the coroner explained that her heart just stopped – one of the not so pleasant side-effects of many years of not feeding her body, combined with a combination of cigarettes, wine, and god knows how many prescription pills.
But I mean – how did she really die? Was she in pain? Did she know she was dying? Did she want to go? Was she as ready as I think she was? And what would she have thought about the guilt and the shame and the utter relief I felt, when I got the call the next morning, telling me she was gone.
And when we could only afford to get her the most basic of boxes, the one that’s pretty much only meant for the eyes of close family before they burn you in it, did she know that we had always wanted better for her? That we simply didn’t know how to help her.
And today, on what would have been her birthday (50 years old + however many years dead it’ll be when you are reading this), does she have any idea how much I wished her life, our life, had been different? Does she know that all those times I was harsh to her, that I got frustrated with her, that I hurried through our visits and rushed off to hang out with my friends, does she know that it was simply because I didn’t know what else to do?
And my god… Does she know how much she changed my life? Not in the regular motherly-love kind of way. No, not like that. We didn’t get that. More in the way of forcing me to grow up fast, to learn to make decisions for myself, to be independent, strong-willed, take-charge. As my therapist now tells me, when you don’t have a parental figure to go to for your dependency needs, you figure out how to get what you need on your own. And boy, I sure did.
My mother is responsible for my entire life. My entire business. (And unfortunately my entire current therapy bills)
I wrote this post because it lights a fire inside me to know I can choose what happens next in my life. To know I have the privilege of a healthy body and mind, that I live in a world where I have the luxury of choice.
My mom? She didn’t have that choice. Her illness was beyond choice.
Use the choices you’ve got, while you’ve still got them. Because you really never know what will happen. I doubt my mom knew when she was 20 what was going to happen to her.
And I wonder how she would have lived differently if she had known.
Wow lady. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I felt my heart expanding as I was reading it, not only because I too have a parent who up and died, but because the complexities of life make me FEEL.
I love the questions you posed. How vulnerable and open you were. How much you shared. I don’t know if you’re crying right now, or when you wrote it, but I imagine maybe. Because I’m having some shared tears.
You’re an incredible human.
Thanks Sally. You know, I don’t know whether I knew or not that you had lost a parent. It seems like a lot of us free spirits tend to have all had similar experiences with childhood/parent death. Love to you Sally!
Thank you for sharing your Mom’s 55th birthday with us. The fire in my belly (that I often stifle) is there for the ones I’ve lost also. I too want to live the life they weren’t able to fully express, in the lives that ended far too soon.
Loralee – I feel that’s the greatest gift we can them – to live out the lives they didn’t get the chance to. xo
Oh my gosh, you made me cry! What a touching, beautiful story. You’re living an incredible life to be proud of. Speechless.
Thanks Lis. It is a beautiful story. I sometimes forget that I don’t tell it often 🙂
Thanks for sharing becca. These a strong words that will resonate with me for a long while. i think about turning it around often. i will. Thanks again for having the courage and strength to share this with us.
Thanks Mig. I imagine this hits home for you in a lot of ways. I think of you often and I know that you are living now in service of your brother xo
And now I’m crying at work.
Maybe she didn’t know where her life would go. Most of us don’t. But I know this- even if she couldn’t tell you, and even if she didn’t show you how much she loved you in the same ways everyone else’s moms did, I know she loved you. And she would be so incredibly proud of you and of what you’ve accomplished.
Sorry for making you cry at work Kayla! She did love me. She was a kind woman and even in her circumstances she did what she could to support me and my bro. Thanks for the love girl xo
This is so touching, Becca. I’m so glad you decided to share this very intimate story with us. Thank you and well done for getting up on your feet with this biz!
wow…. I am feeling absolute admiration for your honesty & courage. Much love x
Thanks Linzi. Sometimes I forgot that it IS courageous to share this. It’s such a deep part of my story that I forget that not everyone knows it already!
Rebecca – I share a similar past – but with a happier ending. My mom was (finally) able to heal – at least to be on the journey to whole – and therefore, I am able to ask her all the questions you had to leave unanswered. I have not liked what she told me in some of her answers, but I am ever thankful to have been able to ask them. Her resilience and her reinvention has given me the capacity for my own. I’m going to go call her now… just because I can.
Thanks for the reminder. XO
Wow – that is SUCH an amazing story. I’m so glad she healed and that you have been able to develop a relationship with her.
This is beautiful, Becca! Thanks so much for sharing your story and your mother’s.
What a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing that with us!
ps: for sure she would be so incredibly proud of you!
Thanks 🙂 I know she is. I kind of make up that we have a better relationship now that she’s dead. I really do feel that way. Weird… but true.
Just wow, Becca. I’m crying along with everyone else.. tears of admiration for you, sympathy/empathy for your mom and your whole family, and being able to relate to losing a close family members way before their time. Your comment about having a better relationship now.. not weird at all.. very poignant actually. I tell people this all the time, and believe with my whole heart that it’s true: “Death does not end a relationship.” It doesn’t. It can’t. Our thoughts, our feelings, our bonds continue. We can still have conversations (though silent ones). We can still share our life and experiences. We can still love. As you did so beautifully.. in this post.. in this love letter to your mom.
Thanks for sharing, your mom would be so proud of the courageous young woman you are and full of life. Now I know you would of understood when I walked out of that room at the coaching course:) Maybe I will see you at synergy next week.
Wow, crying now. Trying to type what I’m thinking and it sounds so trite compared to the powerhouse of truth you just shared. Will take this to heart to meet a writing deadline tonight. Big hugs to you and peace to your Mom’s Soul.
Sorry to make you cry 🙂 Thanks Julie
Thank you Rebecca, this was a beautiful (and tear filled) read. You touched my heart because you asked the questions I have always wondered about my Mom, who left at three and then tried to take her life when I met her at 18. I am now 40 and we have connected now, for the first time in our lives. It’s the first time where it might be possible to have some peace in our hearts. Likely, I’ll never have the questions and longings answered but I’ll take these few years we might to communicate (she lives across the world) as a gift. Like you, everything I do now, was because of the lessons I had to learn in her absence. I’m touched by you. And I love what you have created here. xxx
Thanks Monica. It’s pretty amazing that after all these years you have been able to connect with her. It IS a gift, and it will never make up for the years you didn’t have her… but then again, you woudn’t be who you are now if she had been around.. so it’s all a gift, really, right?
Powerful, Rebecca…your story, but more importantly, the FIRE that was lit under you because of it. I love your vulnerability and your willingness to share it with the world.
Thank you Sabrina! Everyone has a story, and it takes courage to share it. Hoping to play a part in cultivating that courage in others.
Thanks for sharing Becca!
Wow this is amazing, thanks for sharing Becca.
Thank you so much for sharing that Becca. In my own tenuous relationship with my mom, I find myself asking a lot of questions too. Nice to be reassured I’m not the only one living life as a result of those circumstances, but defined by them.
Sometimes I feel like I got off easy because she died, when I hear people talk about their tenuous relationships with their parents. There was something really freeing about not having to put my energy towards worrying about her anymore. Thanks for sharing Jason.
Ack, that should say *not* defined by those circumstances.
I’ve been meaning to write and comment on this post. The timing of when it hit my inbox could not have been more on point.
3 weeks ago (January 20th), my own mother committed suicide. It’s been a really rough couple of weeks since my whole world has been flipped upside down. Like your mother, my own mother had demons and scary s*** in her head that ultimately got the better of her. And like you, in these last few years I simply did not know how to relate to my mom, so while I called her and visited her, I didn’t share much about my life. I let the distance grow to the point where I didn’t even know how to talk to her.
Too late now.
And my own mother has also had a significant impact on my life…in the “I don’t want my life to turn out like yours” kind of way. It has fueled my own personal ambition to start my own business and live life on my own terms. I’m currently working on that, while trying to be present for my dad who’s battling stage IV cancer (I’m an only child so it all falls on me). I know that eventually I will have the life and business that I have always dreamed of, but that I do need to take care of things now.
Thank you again Rebecca for posting this. It moved me and brought tears to my eyes when I realized I wasn’t the only person going through my own mom issues. I’m still dealing with feelings of guilt, anger, forgiveness (trying), and just disbelief, but I know these things take time.
Thank you again for sharing and inspiring me and so many others!
I really appreciate you sharing this Nancy. I totally understand the guilt you feel. TRUST that you did the best you could. Because you did. I also really believe there is some pretty deep healing that comes with knowing that you did all you knew how to do. And being able to let go of the guilt, forgive yourself, and know that your relationship with your mother will likely be stronger in her death than it was when she was alive. BIG hugs to you xoxox
This article is my introduction to your site.. I signed up before I even read it..the title drew me in, your energy and style resonate well.
My mom left when I was little. I didn’t know what it was like to have a mom. I certainly didn’t know what it would be like *to be* a mom. My moms absence moved me in ways that her presence might not have; I have moxie and spunk and curiosity and I probably began to take my earliest risks because I “had nothing to lose” and now I take them because I love to! I wanted my children to live with possibility, so I learned presence and energy movement, which evolved into all that I currently share now. I think your title means (to me) you aren’t a mistake, you can’t be a mistake, and your presence matters even if there is distance…so you might as well see what it’s like to vest presence, to connections and creations…and it speaks to me of whole being nourishment and how love seems to be the essential nutrient.
Thank you for the wonderful gift of your writing…and the inspiration!
Joy, I love this ->
I have moxie and spunk and curiosity and I probably began to take my earliest risks because I “had nothing to lose” and now I take them because I love to!
It’s so true, and I have noticed this is a common trend among us women with “mom-issues”. We tend to grow up in a way that is fiercely independent, adventurous, and curious about the world.
You’re giving your kids a great gift, one that you likely wouldn’t have been able to create in quite the same way if your mom HAD been around.
Oh goodness, I was not expecting to read THIS tonight. You have moved me to tears. Our mothers, and our experiences with them, sound very similar in a weirdly coincidental number of ways. My mum is still alive but she kind of hasn’t been alive for many, many years. There is so much I would like to say, but I’ll just say that I think I get you having read this post and taken a good long look around your site. I get what you’re about and I get why you do what you do. I’d like to thank your mum for all that she gave you, and all that she didn’t give. And I’d like to thank YOU, because you are the one who has chosen what to make of your life experiences, and my goodness you have created something amazing here.
What a beautifully written blog Becca. You are the person you are because of a culmination of experiences, both good and bad. You were able to turn all of that into something positive. You are an inspiration to many , including myself. Your mom was not able to turn her experiences into making her stronger. I know she is very proud of what an incredible young woman you have become, as are we. Your tenacity and” joie de vive”is contagious. You make a difference in people’s lives, how incredible is that? Love you, Aunt Erin
Erinbelzile Thanks Aunt Erin! I kinda wish you were my mom though – you and JG would have been the best parents ever to grow up with!
The prevailing wisdom is that you will receive what you need when you need it. You will find that person, that situation, that STORY that will resonate with you and speak to the situation you are going through. This is one of those times my breath is taken away by how that really does work. I am so happy to have found this story on this day – and I want to thank you for having the strength to share something this personal and this powerful. It has certainly spoken to me!
monapea Thanks for reading 🙂
You’ve got me balling over here Becca. You were my idol at 5 years old and I had no idea what you were going through. I am lucky enough to have the parents I do but can appreciate how hard times carve your character. Im proud of you and anyone who has dealt with childhood traumas yet choose to grow instead of give up. All my love from Victoria.
Just beautiful. I love how leaning into the discomfort helped you to understand how your gift in this world–to help others live more fully–is directly related to your mother’s story. There’s a lot of power in that.
LizColella Thanks LIz 🙂
BriannaBelzile Your parents are the BEST! I dont have much family around and I’m so grateful they stuck around through all the craziness!
Becca, I really appreciate your transparency in talking about what you grew up with. And i acknowledge you for what you have done with your life given the lack of parental encouragement, love and support. I grew up in a dysfunctional family with 3 siblings. No drugs or alcohol, but no emotional connection with our parents. No expressed love; no encouragement or support. My sister has never got beyond it. She still has regular emotional outbursts about our f#*%ing (dead) mother! Fortunately I moved beyond that. I forwarded her this post. Thank you.
[…] I was no princess, and from an early age I learned to be independent (here’s why). […]
That photo is really lovely. And this post was wonderfully written. Thank you. I will do those things, I promise xx
This story has just left me speechless, Becca. Thank you for your transparency, for everything you’ve shared with us. I’ve always seen you be so driven and, well, now I understand a little bit more of the why behind it. All I can say is, you are a beautiful person. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing such an intimate story and for shining light on what drives you to do what you do. You are an inspiration. xoxo
Wow. I can relate to this on a number of levels, including losing my mom before really losing her, etc. And my feelings about not having enough time, not wanting to spend what I am always aware could be a really short life in a cubicle, etc, etc. Thus, entrepreneurship, but also some driven-ness that can be a bit much! This is really beautiful and courageous…thanks so much for writing it.
DevorahHeitner Thanks so much for reading, and for sharing a bit of your own story Devorah!
rachelmcgarry Thank you Rachel!!! We should meet up for tea/Toronto adventure soon! xo
lauragjones Lauraaaa, thank you, your words mean so much!
Marsha from YesYesMarsha you’d better or I’m coming after you Marsha! I’ll ambush you at the next storytelling night! xo
Coastrbc Thanks for sharing a bit of your own story! And sorry for the late reply, seems wordpress hid comments from me for a while!
Rebecca Tracey rachelmcgarry Would love to meet up! xo
Speechless, but inspired.
Powerful on so many levels.
Thank you x
I can relate 100% to what you wrote. My mum passed away 2 years ago after a serious yet short illness. She was diagnosed with depression when I was 10, and I can only start to understand the complexity of it now, at the age of 30. I just keep wondering at what point she lost the willingness, the energy, the grit, and if there’s anything I -or anybody- could have done to make her regain control of her life.
Really beautiful to put these words out into the world Rebecca. Sometimes I think we have such a little understanding of how far our words reach, but it’s pretty clear that you’re touching hearts with your vulnerability. Thank you for sharing. You’ve inspired me today.
I knew your mum (met you a couple of times, too) back in the first days of the separation, divorce and custody battle. She didn’t talk about her illness for two reasons: she was intellectually aware of it, but emotionally in denial, and she was told that she would lose visitation privileges for discussing such an ‘inappropriate’ topic with you. She was afraid of that, and that knowing too much of what she was going through would be terribly damaging to you. I can tell you this: for her, the sun rose and set on you and your brother. You and your well-being were always uppermost in her mind and her conversation. She would be tremendously proud of the woman you have grown to be.
Oh goodness, I was not expecting to read THIS tonight. You have moved me to tears. Our mothers, and our experiences with them, sound very similar in a weirdly coincidental number of ways. My mum is still alive but she kind of hasn’t been alive for many, many years.