Welcome back – Back to my Authentic Self

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I have been gone for a while. Yes, gone from the blog for a bit, and definitely not as active as I wanted to be when I changed platforms last fall, but gone in general. Gone in life. Checked out. I have been here physically (sometimes, other times my body checks out, too) but the majority of me, who I am, has been hidden from the world. While I have been here, my authentic self has not been. She’s been locked away in a tower.

Unlike Rapunzel, there is no Flynn Ryder to help me get out of it, I am having to figure out how to get out using my own skills, climb down my own hair. But first, I had to come to the realization that I really had locked myself away and that some of the walls that pinned me in were really of my own doing. The only way I could get to that realization though, was deep introspection, thought and time. It just so happens that I have been physically hidden away from the world in my home for weeks now, a true locking myself up in my tower, because the world just hurt too much.

My wonderful, loving, adopted mom, Susan, passed away a month ago tomorrow.  I can’t even describe the level of my grief. I had someone remark that, “well, at least she wasn’t your real mother,” and I could do nothing but give them this look and walk away…

Did you really just say that?!

It was after that conversation that I went into isolation mode. Peopling was just too much.

Aside from the fact that my real mother, my toxic, sad, chemically dependent mother died when I was a teenager, and had bounced in and out of our lives for years before that, Susan was my mom and so much more. She began as my neighbor, and became my employer when I as a high school freshman began babysitting her very young children (who I now consider my younger siblings in every way). She morphed into a trusted family friend, a mentor, an older sister, and then, on the day I cried in her arms over the guilt I felt from the death of my mother, she became my Mom.

“Who will be there to see me graduate? Who will be there when I get married? There will be no one for my kids to call grandma. Who is going to be there when I need a mom?”

“Who has been there this whole time? Who taught you to drive? How to curl your hair? Took you Back to School shopping? Who drove you to softball and was there when you got whacked in the head? Who took you to the hospital?”

“You.”

“And me it will stay. I am your mom. God brought you to me, because he knew we needed each other. I am your mom. Your kids will call me grandma.”

And they did.

The family that made me their own. Mom was our Sun, always the center of our lives.

And now she is gone and I really do not even know. Anything. I don’t know anything.

But I do. I feel something deep in my soul, a stirring. A desire to come out of my tower and get back to living. And I don’t mean the shadow living that I have been doing for the past 6 or so years, I mean back to my authentic self. My true me. Because I know that she would want that for me. She does want that for me.

In one of our last deep conversations, she expressed how she worried about my Lupus, my kidneys, and the weight gain I had over the past few years. She commented that she’d like to see me back to my old self and that she wanted me to be well. She wanted me to stop being in such stress, she worried that I was stressing myself back to cancer. She also knew of my struggle with depression, and how these past years had brought me down.

She was my person and she knew everything. She knew of my life growing up, the struggles I have had over the years and she knew of how our life went to Hell in a hand-basket about 6 1/2 years ago. The mistakes that were made, the struggle in forgiveness and moving on. She was the person who sat me down and had the most serious discussion with me about staying married. About choosing to honor your vows even when you didn’t support the choices your spouse made. The long road to recovery when the rug is pulled out from under you and your world is flipped upside down. She knew. She understood. She had walked her own journey and because I saw that journey as a teen and young adult, her words impacted me. No, she didn’t adore my husband; like any mom not thinking the son-in-law is good enough, but she loved me and my children. She supported me, she held me up, and she was my most trusted confidant.

But she was also one to say what she thought. And she thought it was time to come out of my tower. To quit getting tossed around like a paper bag and letting circumstance (and the decisions of others) take me wherever it blew me. If there is one thing I know for certain about Susan, is that she was a strong, independent woman. She was the true 80s career woman. Running things at the office, running things at home. She was never a paper bag, always the wind. When she was knocked down, she got back up. Stronger. Wiser. She was exactly the type person I needed to help mold me.

I hid because I didn't want to face the truth.
I hid because I didn’t want to face the truth.

I have been that paper bag for a while now. Letting the wind of my husband’s mid-life crisis, blended family issues, financial misery and all the resulting crap that has gone with it toss me around hither and yon. She wants me to be the wind. To quit hiding myself away. To get back to me. To show up in my life again and take the reins instead of just being a passenger. And I want that to.

So I have begun. I have cried a lot. I have worked through some things. I have moved past others. I have forgiven. I have resolved to fix what could be repaired and to let go of the things that are lost forever. I also looked to myself for inspiration, because even though I have been a paper bag, I have been a durable one. I have lasted. I haven’t disintegrated. If I was going to recycle the paper bag me back into someone I liked and recognized, I am going with 2008 me.

2008 Me and my kiddos, when they made me Mother of the Year.

2008 me was completely cancer-free. My Lupus was contained. We had been living in our new home for 2 years and loved our community. The kids were happy and involved. I worked and volunteered and was social. Mr. was in a good place in his company, we had a new church home. I was named the Mother of the Year for our town! 2008 Me was a happy, joyful, blessed-to-be-alive me. The world was my oyster. The way that 2008 Me felt, that on-top-of-the-world, can’t nothing break my stride feeling…that is what I want again. I didn’t lock myself away in 2008, I lived. I lived and breathed and loved almost every moment of life. Yes, life was good, and yes it is easy to be happy when things are going well, but life wasn’t perfect and I still stuck it out. I didn’t build up huge brick walls to hide myself from anything in 2008. My authentic 2008 me faced happiness and hurdles with the same aplomb, and that is what I am out to regain this year.

While I cannot go backwards, I can reflect and remember and use 2008 me as a guideline for where I was, where I went when I locked myself away from life, and my journey back to where I want to be. I think it is most apropos that I find myself here, on this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It is time for me to check back in. To get back to me and my authentic self. To move forward. It is what I want and I know it is definitely what Mom would want.

Here’s to that first step. Let’s get going!

Charlotte Dawn

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  • Michelle Tate Wheeler

    My heart is so torn….to anguish with you or to rejoice. It is at these times I rely heavily on God’s little promise that most of us A. overlook and B. don’t understand. He promises us “Joy”! Not to be confused with happiness. I continue to find the joy in everything even when my (temporary, earthly) happiness is no where to be found. Always remember, you are not alone. You have so many that follow your words, your life and your logic. A smaller selection of “friends” are around. And a much slimmer selection of chosen family are always ready at the helm to show you joy, love and even happiness.

    • Thank you so much for your words, Michelle. You are so right, Joy is not to be confused with happiness and as I walk this path in life right now, I am beginning to see the joy in the journey.It is joy that makes me realize that in order to feel this level of grief, I must have loved and been loved an exorbitant amount, and there is much joy in that. I am so blessed to have you and other friends and chosen family to walk with me. <3