With my heart pounding heavily outside of my chest, I pulled up to that old wooden house I swore I'd never see again. I grabbed my purse, thanked the Uber driver, and stepped out onto the driveway. The driveway on which I learned to ride my first bike. The very bike I ran to after school one spring day, never mind the copperhead dangling from the handle bars. I was 5 years old, and I was fearless, grabbing that snake and confidently walking to the lawn and tossing it. Behind me, to her horror, stood my mother in the doorway. She was screaming.
That was the very door I was stumbling toward now. I was really going to do it. I was going to knock on the door of the home that held my nightmares toward the woman who perpetrated them. My mother. I hadn't seen or spoken to my mom in three years. Or was it four? I lost count.
I grew up in what I could politely call an unhappy home, but in reality it felt more like a torture chamber. There was a lot of abuse—mostly psychological—with every single person living there contemplating suicide at one point or another. That's how miserable it was. Your reality was warped, and you were lucky to get out alive. Those were dark times, and they reverberated throughout my entire life up until this point.
I couldn't tell you how I found myself on the doorstep of the house that haunted me. All I can say is I was suffering from a broken heart. Scratch that. My heart was obliterated. My best friend, Ryder, had just been struck by two cars as he walked along the freeway just north of Los Angeles. He died. I was devastated.
Something happens when we experience that kind of loss. The grief either rips us open or shuts us down completely. I was wide, wide open. So open that I woke up one morning while visiting my new boyfriend in Atlanta and decided to jump in a car and visit my estranged mother.
So, there I was, about to knock on the door of the woman I swore I'd stay away from all my life. The woman who destroyed me, robbed me of joy, peace, love, security, my health, and my relationships for years to come. She told me I had a dark soul when I was 10. She ruined me. She ruined all of us. Or so I thought.
She opened the door and screamed. She could not believe her eyes. She pulled me into a hug and I was engulfed by her scent of cigarettes. I wanted to puke. We sat down on the couch where she once told me my father's depression was my fault, the same couch where she laughed at me for wearing too much eyeliner and told me I looked like a whore. We sat down and she asked why I was there.
I told her about my friend who died. She kissed the tattoo that I got in his honor, which felt strange and blasphemous. The tattoo was a fresh wound that signified my sacred friendship, and she poisoned it with her lips. This was never going to work. I was still profoundly angry. I mumbled something about needing to be somewhere and I left.
This went on for another year or so. I would crack open the door, peek my head through, then take off running. It wasn't until I started doing deep soul work that I realized a pattern: I was attracting hostile, abusive women into my life as a way for me to work out my issues with her.
Why go through the pain and upsets of failed friendships with women who push my buttons when I can just go to the OG trigger herself? I knew that forgiving my mother was the biggest step to healing my life. I preached the importance of the power of forgiveness and yet I held onto so much anger myself. I wore it like a badge of honor. I was the girl who was abused by her mother. I overcame a terrible childhood and came out OK on the other side of it. It was my identity.
It occurred to me one night last October that my mother was the way she was not because she wanted to be. She had been miserable for as long as I could remember. If my anger, my pain, and my unhealthy patterns of behavior were a result of my upbringing, then I had to acknowledge that maybe my mother was the product of her own childhood, too. That meant that she was probably a victim of abuse.
So once again I picked up the phone and called her. I told her I needed her to open up to me about her childhood and what she went through. At first she was resistant, but I explained that it was necessary for my healing. I needed to know I wasn't abused because she hated me. I needed to know it wasn't because she didn't love me.
Over the course of about two hours, my mother shared her own story of survival, and I realized that she was so much more than just my mom. She was a human being who was once a neglected and abused child herself. My heart that was once so hardened toward her suddenly softened and filled with love and compassion. I saw my mother as the wounded child that still lives within her. That's who I imagine I'm speaking to now when we see each other or talk. I don't imagine the woman who put me through hell. This has healed our relationship and it has healed me.
There is still a long way to go for my mother and me. We still have pain points to sift through, and it's not often pretty, but what happens on the other side is healing. Not just healing for me and her but for our entire family. The cycle of abuse is broken.
I used to say that if you can walk away from your own mother, you can walk away from anybody. This was my little line I used when I ended friendships and romantic relationships. Now I say that if you can forgive your mother, you can truly forgive anyone.
Without the difficult childhood I endured, I wouldn't be the spiritually hungry, empathetic, strong woman I am today. I have her to thank for that. If she had been a good mother I may have never thought to do the spiritual work I am so committed to doing daily. She was my abuser but also my greatest teacher, and for that my soul is grateful.
I am months away from marrying the man I was visiting in Atlanta that day I knocked on my mother's door. I sense that motherhood is just around the corner for me. I know exactly the kind of mother I'll be: the mother I never had but always deserved and also the mother my mother deserved. The healing will have come full circle. That is my hope and prayer.
I personally believe that we choose our families before our souls incarnate. We select the people who will mirror the lessons we hope to learn this time around. These relationships are karmic, but that doesn't mean they're rooted in darkness. I imagine it must have been painful for my mother's soul to agree to put her children through such a childhood.
When people come into our lives and they abuse us and neglect us, there is always a spiritual lesson to be learned. When we commit to seeing the lessons through, the pain dissolves, even when the memories remain. I don't regret the childhood I had because it made me who I am today. I forgave my mother and it set me free, and that's what we're here to do: liberate ourselves and each other.