All my life, I have wanted to be 30 years old. Growing up, 30 years old was the pinnacle of self assuredness to my developing brain. It was the point in life where I thought people had their lives sorted, and I lived my life in anticipation that when I was 30 I would be grown up, self assured and have my life sorted. I blame this fabrication entirely on my mother. When she was 30, she had two growing girls in tow, was running a fairly successful business with her husband, and as far as my ten year old mind could see, she was a confident, self assured, beautiful woman. And that was exactly what I wanted to be.
I am now 31. I have days of self assuredness, but it’s definitely more of a journey than a destination. I so do not have my life sorted! I am married to a wonderful Blondie but even that is a masterpiece in progress. I have wonderful friends all over the world and to be honest, with all of them having kids, buying houses, making sound investments and all the grown-up things that I still shy from, I don’t feel like I’m in my thirties! I still miss my Mama and my kid sister like freaking crazy (and I still cry about it every now and then). I still pout and huff like a five year old.
And yet I look back on my life and I realise that there are many things that I know, that I think are ‘normal’, things that I tend to take for granted that other’s don’t know. Or that others seem to regard as wisdom and new practices to implement in their lives. To be fair, I blame my mother for most of these as well. As a child, my mother encouraged me to follow my instinct. She recognised the strong tendency that I naturally displayed to go with my gut feeling, even when it overruled common logic or reasoning. She pushed me to complement this impulse with being able to research and gain deeper understandings about situations, circumstances and people. She taught me how to look closely at a situation and see details that others don’t naturally see, how to take into consideration these details and use them in conjunction with my gut instinct. She taught me to be confident in my convictions, even when my convictions took me against the flow of all those around me, which it often does! She taught me to take pride in being innovative, different and weird, whilst also making it clear that commitment and dedication to the decision or direction I chose was just as important as the decision or direction itself.
Even early on, she was full of cheesy mantra’s that used to make me roll my eyes. Her favourite one when I was a kid was, “Failure isn’t falling down. Failure is when you don’t get back up.” I learned as a young child that mistakes were simply hard to swallow lessons, necessary for anyone who actually wanted to grow, learn and get somewhere in life.
One thing I am very grateful to my mother for is that she maintained her ability to feel, to hurt, to break. She soldiered on through everything that life threw at her, but she never hid her pain from us kids. She somehow managed to balance showing us her pain with making sure that we never had to carry her pain. Her instinctual ability to be honest AND self sufficient has always amazed me. I am not afraid to cry when my body and soul requires it because of her. I am not ashamed of my anger, my sadness or my grief because of her. And because of my Mama, I know that I need to take care of my own emotional wellbeing first if I want to take care of those I love.
When I was 17, my Koro died. My mothers father. Our grumpy old rock. My Grumble Belly. I lost my mythical brown, warm, strong Koro and she lost her imperfect, hot-tempered, flawed and beloved father. We had nursed him through cancer right up until the end, and she bore the brunt of the harsh realities of his sickness and medical care. She was tireless during his convalescence, making sure she was around for all of his doctors appointments and operations. She fought with the family for what he wanted, she made arrangements so that he and Nanny had whatever they needed. She opened our home to not just our family and friends, but to Nanny’s loved ones as well. She kept working, dragging herself out the door a 3am to do her thing as a Customs Officer at the local international airport. And then instead of sleeping, she researched and researched and researched. She contacted clinics who were trialling new drugs, she found out everything she possibly could about brain tumours and the available treatments. When Nanny didn’t want to broach the subject of new fangled treatments, she bore the pain of that internally and kept going with everything else that everyone else needed. I was only 17 and at the time I had no idea the complexities of what she was dealing with. All I knew was that after Koro died, after the funeral was over and everyone had gone back to their lives, she broke. She broke in the same epic proportions that she had been managing everything single handedly. For the first time in my life, I realised that my mother wasn’t invincible. My beautiful, strong, confident mother crumbled and quaked before me. She didn’t want to touch me. She would physically push me away and shake her head when I would even sit too close. She couldn’t handle hugs, hand holding or any kind of tactile contact from anyone besides Dad and my little sister. And coming from a VERY tactile up-bringing, that was a very difficult pill for me to swallow. But she knew that she had taught me well enough that I could handle her withdrawing from me. She knew that I knew that sometimes the best way to honour someones pain is to allow it and to take a step back so that they have the space that they need to grieve and expand into the discomfort. This was one of the most valuable and most painful lessons that I have learned from my mother. That saving the day is way overrated and that silent understanding is way underrated. As humans, we naturally move straight in to fix the situation. We love to be the hero, to save the day and I am no different! But this situation needed so much more. It needed me to go against my instinct and be the person that she needed me to be. My concern and consideration for my mother completely outweighed the pain I felt at the distance she put between us, and I knew that the best way to love her through her pain was to show her that I was ok and that I could manage whatever she needed me to.
My mother doesn’t just preach pretty words. Everything that she taught us as kids, she put into practise herself. She learned alongside us and she was always sharing with us what she was learning. Her self-development was never-ending, a trait that she has passed onto both my sister and I. One thing she struggles with to this day is body image and right from the get go, she was determined that my sister and I would not be afflicted with the same inadequacies that she struggled with her entire life. And she failed at this, in part. Because she didn’t realise that in order to get us to love our bodies, she had to pave the way and love her body first. She taught us to be strong and confident buy BEING strong and confident. She taught us to follow through by following through. But she didn’t love her body, so how could we learn to love ours?! As a young adult I struggled with body image and I know my sister struggled too. We hated our wide hips and thunder thighs, I developed a huge bum that it took me years to appreciate and my little sister dreamed of getting a boob job one day. I had a complex about being big WAAAAAAAAAY before I was actually big. I was at war with my body from a very early age because I learned to be from my Mum. She has struggled with her body ever since I can remember, and I have thought she was beautiful ever since I can remember. But she never seemed to believe she was. Until recently. The amazing thing about my Mum is that she never stops learning, she is always improving herself and she is always open to changing her attitudes, even when these attitudes may have been drilled into her subconscious for years and years and years. She is starting to believe she is beautiful. She is beginning to believe that her thunder thighs, jiggly tummy and not so big boobs do not automatically count her as being ugly and gross to look at. And she has learned that from us, her daughters. I think that it is incredible that, after a lifetime of being at odds with her body, she is changing her attitude towards herself because of us. That makes me feel pretty powerful. If I can teach my mother to love her body, slowly, then I have the power to teach anyone that their body is a beautiful, powerful, perfect body just the way it is! My mother gave me that power. My mother taught me that I really can do anything.