Everybody is damaged, on a different level. And everybody has holes in their heart. Most of the damage or pain was from our parents when we were little, intentionally, or non-intentionally. The results are the same, we are often feeling insecure, or not feeling good enough.
As long as I have had memories, I remember my mom being the one who made me suffer the most. Now when I look back, all the physical punishments were not that powerful. I do remember I was very scared of her. But her words, or the attitude of disliking me, hold a longer impact on me. She and her siblings would often laugh at my looks, especially my big nose. She would say, and this is a direct quote, “It is so ugly. Just like her dad and his family.” My older brother has the exact nose but somehow, in her eyes, he is so cute and lovable. So, he got everything and I got his leftovers or hand-me-downs. My older brother used to like singing, so he was the star. I once tried humming along, and my mom said, “Your voice is like a man. No one wants to listen.” Her constant criticism and putting me down made me feel terrible about myself. It made me double my efforts to please her. But, her look of approval was never given to me. All her love went to my older brother.
After my man passed away, I decided to end my suffering. None of my family has ever visited me from China. No one was at my wedding or by my side when my husband passed away. Ten years of living in America and my mom had never called me once. It’s always been me calling her. This past February, I decided to give it a last try at solving our relationship. So, I went back to China to spend some time with her. It wasn’t easy at first, because I didn’t feel comfortable with my mother. We’ve never been close, and I ran away from her right after I graduated from middle school. I lived in a dorm for my entire high school and college years. After college, I moved out completely. So, I don’t know her that much. All the memories that I have are of how terrible she was when I was young.
A friend of mine has a very similar mom. At some points, her mother was even worse than my mother. We use to tell each other how horrible our mothers were, and we would cry together when we were young. I was very surprised to hear her say, “I am very grateful for everything, even my mom.” I asked why and how she could feel that way. She looked at me and said, very peacefully, “I understand her better now. She didn’t know the best way to love me. But, she tried her best.” That’s the moment I started to wonder if I’ve been too stubborn to see another side of the truth. Which is: I know I need to forgive my mom because that’s the only way I’ll set myself free. But, I didn’t know how to not feel angry with all she has done to me.
My mom finally said sorry after many conversations this February. I’m not entirely clear if she meant it. But, the time when I was with her, I was the center of her day. This treatment was very strange to me, yet I loved it. That’s when I began to realize that I didn’t know her since running away. She softened so much, compared to when she was younger. She constantly wanted my attention and my love. I was quite confused.
After I went back to America, she bought a smartphone and learned how to use video calling. She even learned how to type so she could leave a comment on my post on WeChat (the Chinese version of social media). We talk once or twice a month for about one hour. Our recent conversation got me thinking. It finally brought me the peace I’ve longed for years.
When I picked up her video call, I saw her face with a huge smile. She was super happy to see me. I felt the happiness through the screen. She told me some stories of the early years of her life, and I had to hold my tears back from feeling so sad for her. I thought I had to fight so hard to get my life today, but I forgot she had to fight ten times harder than me to simply survive. Then she mentioned that my older brother never had a toy when he was a kid. Something became clear in my head. I’ve held a grudge for years, but I forgot that I wasn’t the only one suffering being poor. I often told others that I never had a toy, but my older brother never had one either. I never heard him complaining at all. At end of our conversation, I asked my mom if she remembers the things she had done to me. She was thinking very hard and she said, “Not really.” I could read her face, and I know she wasn’t lying.
Clearly, we didn’t have the same memory. She thought she tried her best, and I was hurting so badly for my whole life because of her. I don’t have a time machine to fly back and see what exactly happened. I’ll never know if she was that evil mom, or if I only saw what I chose to see. Now, I only know how she has changed a lot and become a pretty good mom. I decided to set a peace treaty with my childhood abuse. I can’t change the past, but I love to enjoy the present moment with her. I also can’t wait to create more happy memories with her in the future.
Photo credit: Grace Liang/@anstam
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