(originally written 9/19/13)
I was a beautifully blossoming flower for everyone else except my mother. I was mean to her. Very mean. Even as a nine and ten year old, I was hurting her with my words as deeply as she’d hurt me by having me and by being addicted to drugs since I was one. I wanted her to know I didn’t need her. As a result, I became a beggar. And having been raised in the projects, being a beggar was a familiar hustle.
I became a slick and manipulative beggar by doing everything “right” so that I could get others’ love and attention. I watched women, I mean really studied them to see how they looked at other girls my age. I noticed what made them smile and beam in pride, I noticed what made them frown in disappointment and what made them scoff in disgust. Then and only then did I make my next move. I would consciously do everything to make them proud. I minded my manners, I listened and learned quickly to all their lessons, even when they weren’t directed towards me whether I was in church, in class, in a grocery store, or in a doctor’s office. I was a beggar. For their love and attention. Whatever they wanted me to do or whatever I thought a noble young lady should be doing, I did. I smiled, I made jokes, I was trustworthy, I stayed away from boys and drugs and fowl language…. And if I made a mistake, I would hide the mistake in shame. In fear that they would stop loving me or stop seeing me as wonderful. Not only was I having a hard time getting my mom to see me as wonderful, but remember I am a darker sister, so there were few boys whose eyes I captivated anyway. So, I sought the approval of loving, trusting, nurturing mothers. They might have given to me freely, but I was much too ashamed to say, “I need your love.” Instead, I unbraided my hair so the first lady of my church (affectionately known as Aunt Barbara) would braid it back when she saw me. I would untuck my shirt, so Ms. Straight, my fifth grade teacher, would notice me and say, “Mia tuck that shirt in.” I would ask if I could help another student so my teachers would be proud of my teamwork. This goal was measurable.
I measured it by the number of women who would say to me or someone else, “Wow, your mother must be proud,” “Girl, how I would love to have you as a daughter of mine,” or “She’s such a responsible young lady.” Hearing those statements, even until this day, give me chills. Lord knows I lived for hearing a mother wanting to mother me. Mine didn’t. Not because she didn’t want to, but because her circumstances provided a logical excuse. How could I really faulty her… her or my father. They were stuck. Stuck nurturing a habit, something I could not understand. They invested in it religiously. It was their religion. I expressed my pain by being detached and dismissive in my relationships with them. By running away.
At age fourteen, I ran to McDonalds and sat for hours without contacting them, with no money, and no journal. I just sat. I ran to my friend’s homes while she was at school and her mom at work. And I ran into the arms of older men. Older men who smelled my longing, my voids, my naivety. Some took advantage… Some came close but chose not to. For the latter, I am grateful.
The runaways represented how I ran away from myself, too. From my emotions. I hated feeling anything but “fine.” I didn’t want to feel sad, it seemed to be a pathetic emotion. I didn’t want to feel angry, didn’t like the stereotypes that came with it. I didn’t want to seem like a victim, so most of my childhood, I was fine. Inside of fine was angry, sad, pained, broken, and lonely. But I wouldn’t even tell myself that. How could I be a poster child and be angry? Mother’s don’t like angry children, right?
I excelled in school, earned a Master’s degree, hid behind the mask of humor and strength, worked great jobs, served my community and committed to succeeding.
That story. That title, “#PosterChild,” no longer serves me.
Today I am committed to honoring myself from the inside out. Including emotions. I am no longer committed to numbing myself for the love or approval of others. Not even for success. My life is truly my own and I get to be beautiful and fabulous, and sad and annoyed and anything else I’m feeling. Why? Because my feelings matter!…And so do I.
I get to be my momma’s baby. She is ready to receive me and I am ready to receive her. With love and forgiveness. With care and gentleness. All we have is now. And we get to be with each other in the now. (Can’t believe I’m saying this!!!)
Today I called my mother and said, “For years I’ve been hiding and pretending like I don’t need you. But what I am clear about now, as a result of the coaching from workshop I’m taking, is that I will never stop needing you. And it’s been hard to admit that I need your love. A mother daughter relationship filled with love. I want that. I want you.” Her response was, “Girl what program are you in? I need to take that! They got you really open and seeing things within yourself.”
Today and everyday hereafter, I am choosing to live freely in the wings of Love for love’s sake. I am choosing my mother’s love. I am choosing my own approval and my own love.