I've been obsessed with mothers and the concept of mother since I was small.
I remember a neighbor falling down. As the tears fell she cried, “I want my mommy!” My child-self reflected that whenever I hurt myself I just cried, I was in charge of my own comfort.
My parents died when I was two, I don’t have memories of them. My siblings and I were raised by a family member who already had her own children. While she did her best to fill that role, I always knew she wasn't my mom. She treated her own kids, who were close to my age, different than she treated my brother, sister, and me.
Growing up I was keenly aware of what my peers had and I did not. I wanted a female figure to be proud of me, help guide me from adolescence to adulthood. In high school it was the school librarian who gave me safe haven during lunch and encouraged my already bookish sensibilities. My high school English teacher took my daily wardrobe of costumes for creativity and told me to never stop dressing up and expressing myself.
In college and beyond those influences were gone. I was back to comforting myself. I sought mothering energy in the relationships I built: with friends and romantic partners. Instead of seeking a mom I became one to them. I was always available, enmeshed in their lives, wanting them to count on me. I expected those things reciprocated, but never said so and rarely received as much as I gave. They were unrealistic expectations to have and my relationships weren’t genuine. It’s hard to make and keep friends when you’re trying to be their mom.
Several years ago I passed through Boulder, Colorado for a spiritual trip. I told myself that if I came across an esoteric shop that offered readings (tarot or otherwise) I would get one. A woman in the shop used a system involving one’s birth date and playing cards. I didn’t reveal why I was seeking a reading, I was open to receiving a message. She told me I was in search of a mentor or teacher and had been for some time. My eyes filled, but I was a devout “don’t cry in front of other people” person. I admitted I had been looking, but no one seemed to appear. Examining further she said I may not find anyone, especially since I’m so capable a person. I left feeling disappointed.
Recently I’ve been working with the tarot to understand myself and others. My personal teacher card is the Wheel of Fortune. This time I did cry. Envision the water wheel to an old-fashioned mill with someone strapped to it. As water moves the wheel, the person is either on top (lucky) or dunked under (unlucky). It’s a metaphor for life. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Life is my teacher. This whole time I was looking for my personal affirmation and education from someone, anyone. In a sense I’m glad that no one appeared to take me under their wing. I’d be more focused on them than learning about myself. About how I interpret the world, react to it, grow.
This is the year I’ve begun to pry at my underlying belief system about relationships: where I fit into them, how I feel about mothers/mothering. I started attending a Co-dependents Anonymous (CoDA) meeting. I learned that I was co-dependent - that I looked at my love and goodwill as transactional, depending on others to take care of my emotional well-being. I took care of other people because I wanted someone to take care of me.
It finally dawned on me: this entire time I wanted someone to love me unconditionally. The people you expect to be most suited to that are your parents. But what if you didn’t have any? The answer was there all along. I was the best person to love myself, trust in my abilities, cheer myself on. Now that I’m not counting on everyone else to make me happy or feel worthwhile I’m able to be OK being me.
It’s taken me 3+ decades, but I feel really comfortable. Being nurturing to me, mothering myself, allows me to give all those good qualities freely to my friends and family without worrying if I’m going to get it back. The woman I’ve been waiting for finally arrived to guide me. She was actually here all along.