It was always so perplexing as a child. My mother would be mad at us for something and when mom was mad it meant the silent treatment. This silent treatment may last a day, a week, even months. I mean nothing. Just coldness, and hostility, and passive aggressiveness, and silence. And that was our existence between the thin fragile walls of our home. But outside those walls, on the days of silence, it was a different story. Whether via an invisible telephone cord, a knock on the door, or an unexpected acquaintance at the grocery store. Mom’s kindness would return, glimpses, just enough to fool the onlooker or the caller on the other end of the phone. And for a moment, even I was fooled. Maybe she wasn’t mad anymore, maybe I didn’t do anything wrong, maybe she will talk to me now, maybe she will love me. But the door would close and the phone call was over, and the onlooker or acquaintance was fooled, and what remained was silence, and anger and confusion.
It’s my life’s struggle, it’s the pattern I never want to repeat, it’s my greatest fear. Who is the authentic Heather? Do I wear masks based on my audience? Do I treat those I love most differently than the onlooker or the acquaintance? Do I project an image to the outside world and live differently in the walls of my home?
And the answer is Yes, and it’s painful and it’s a pattern I’m unwilling to accept, because it is a pattern that will end with me.
The truth is, unlike my mom, the Tale of Two Heather’s is a much more subtle story. It’s still ugly and painful, but wrapped in a much prettier package. My whole life I have told myself that I do not want to be like my mom. I know that sounds harsh. I love my mom, and I don’t know her full story, and the path that she endured and why she was the way she was. And she provided me with many things that I needed as a child, but unfortunately, she was not the model of a mother or wife that I wanted to emulate. And so I set out to be nothing like her. And truth be told, I am not. I am able to love my husband and children in a way that my mother was never able to love us. I don’t give them the silent treatment, atleast for nearly as long, and I’m able to utter the words I’m sorry, which never came from my mother’s lips. But if I’m being honest, the walls of my home have seen the ugly and the angry and the bitter and the hurt and the parts of me that I am not proud of, and I wish did not exist. And you may say that is normal, and that everyone is different with their family, and it’s ok. But the little child in me, listening to my happy mother treat a stranger on the phone with more love than the child she birthed tells me otherwise.
So, I’m ready! I’m ready to find the authentic Heather. I’m ready to reconcile the public and the private Heather. And it’s not about trying to be more perfect, it’s about accepting my imperfections. It’s really not about trying at all. It’s about being. Being me. It’s about letting go of pain and patterns and expectations. It’s about honesty, and communication and vulnerability. It’s about forgiveness, and grace and hope. And it’s about knowing, and accepting, that I am loved despite my failures and imperfections. Really letting that sink in to the depths of my soul and believing it. And it’s scary, because stripping away the patterns, and habits, and bitterness is painful. Peeling off the layers of a mask that has taken 43 years to perfect takes work, and muscle and strength, and it hurts. But there is freedom on the otherside and I already feel it. Because with each layer that comes off I feel lighter and more free and beautiful and peaceful. I feel the chains loosening, the chains that gripped me as a child, the chains of rejection, and confusion and fear. They are falling off and I am throwing the key into the sea, never to be found again. Because I only have one life, and I have decided that I am enough, and that I am loved enough, and that the people in my life can handle the true me, not just in the good, but in the hard and ugly, and that I don’t have to settle. And the biggest gift I can give to those I love, is being who I really am, because it is the one gift that only I can give them.
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. – C.G. Jung