Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On pride and relationships

"Your mom would be proud."

My co-worker's words hung in the air. Thick. Murky. Choking. Choking the words out of me. It was all I could do to merely nod.

◊ ◊ ◊

The conversation started with a ring, a turquoise ring that I had worn during a meeting the previous day. It had caught her eye as department heads gave their daily reports. From my finger, her eyes traveled up my arm to my toned biceps and defined shoulders - the result of diet, exercise and lots of BODYPUMP.

She complimented me and I said what I always say to things like that: "Thank you. I've been working hard."

Quite obviously, she had replied. I had been working at it since she has known me, since she met me eight years ago when I began this job. At my heaviest weight.

"It's like I've seen you grow up," she said. "Your mom would be proud."

I know she meant it sweetly but all I could think was, "Really? I wouldn't be so sure."

The truth is: I'm not certain my mom would be proud.

◊ ◊ ◊

I've often thought about what my mom would think of me now. A me that almost doesn't look like the me she knew. A me who used her downfalls to struggle to climb to the summit and then reach for the sky. A me who did things that she never could.

I most definitely know what my mom thought of me then, and it wasn't all good. The few months before her death were spent in silence or in shouts as we battled over things said, unsaid, perceptions and reality. While we had reconciled a few weeks before her heart stopped, those weeks made it clear that our relationship was forever changed. It seemed she preferred my now sister-in-law to me, couldn't wait for she and my brother to have babies, to share and do things with J. She shared reservations about Mark and his family and seemed to mourn that she had lost me.

And the truth is, she had. Years of fighting over her weight and what I considered a lack of responsibility for her health had caused me to distance myself from her. I thought I had done better, was better, than her and didn't want her shame, the shame I'm sad to say I felt about having her as a mom.

We all know that I wasn't better than her. In fact, in many ways, I was no different. I was eating poorly, not moving and justifying choices. It took huge changes to my diet and general way of life to move forward.

◊ ◊ ◊

The changes I made were unlike any I had made during previous weight loss efforts, which were supported by mother. Then, she understood walking and eating less. She understood the excitement of being in a size 14 and shopping in the misses department. I was healthier but still heavy and not so different from a girl she had been.

I don't think she would understand running more than a few miles, eating lentils and buying a size 2. I can't picture her on the sidelines of a race holding water or a pair of dry socks. I don't see her going to a Weight Watchers meeting with me. I am certain she would tell me that I'm too skinny as so many other members of my family have. I think she would, at least on the surface, disapprove. Be resentful. Distant.

I think. I don't know. It agitates that I can't, deep down, really know how she would feel. Like I never knew her. It's especially frustrating because I'm certain of how my dad would feel. My dad, who died when I was 15 ... I can see him riding his bike alongside me during a long run. I can see him getting excited about a race. I can see him, dare I say, being inspired to pursue his own athletic endeavors. A century, perhaps?

◊ ◊ ◊

"Your mom was proud of you from the very beginning. She loved you both very much. When she was diagnosed with diabetes, it threw her into a 'poor me' mentality."

I asked Grandma what she thought about the conversation with my co-worker and whether she would have any insight. Of all the people in my life, my grandma knew my mom best. Knew my mom and me best.

Grandma talked for a bit, hashing out things I've had to hash out a million times before as I struggle to really understand things. Still. It always comes back to that mentality. It had left her to blame others, to become more depressed, to become more troubled with herself. It caused her to lash out and to spiral. To push people away. Push me away.

 "She would have been jealous," my grandma said. "But, no, she would have been proud."

16 comments:

  1. Tears here. Yet I'm not sure why. There's deeper shit on my end that this touches...

    I'm sorry your relationship with your mom was so complicated. And I'm sorry that you were robbed of the chance to try to fix it.

    Your Grandma is a wise woman. Remember her words. And know that there are a way lot of us who are proud of you...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, I can't even imagine. That's a lot to take in for you, I'm sure. For what it's worth, I also think your Grandma is a very wise woman and got it right!

    And I agree with Bobbi too, there are a lot of us who are proud of you :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. You described how complicated mother-daughter relationships can be perfectly. It's great that your grandmother was able to give you her honest opinion, that you know was not sugar coated just to make you feel better.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The honesty in this post is overwhelming. In a good way. While I'm sorry that the relationship you had with your mom was troubled, it is good to know that your grandma was able to set it straight for you. I'm sure your mother would've been proud, even if she never said it or acted like it. You've built a wonderful thing for yourself and for your family!

    On another note, this post dug into my soul a bit (ok, a whole hell of a lot) because I've frequently, silently asked myself the same question of my dad, who died when I was in high school. He drank way too much, died on the streets, and never saw me run or raise a baby. It's difficult to play the What If game, but we all play it anyway.

    Maybe one day I'll come steal your courage and write about it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your relationship with your mom sounds almost exactly like my relationship with mine. My mom is also diabetic, has had a triple bypass and can barely walk she's in such bad health. As much as she won't admit it, I know she's basically given up. And sadly, I have given up on her in a way because I know that the only way she can help herself is if she really wants to. However, if I were to accomplish what you have (and I hope to once this baby is born!) I know that as jealous as she may be of me, she would definitely be proud. As everyone else has said, your grandmother is a wise wise woman.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can't say, "I know how you feel," but I think it's really cool that you're going after the emotions behind this. You're giving such a gift to Miles - physical health, but also mental and emotional health where you deal with and talk about stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This post is so touching. I couldn't agree more with Bobbi, your Grandma sounds like a wise woman. And she no doubt is very proud of you. You're so strong and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. this was a very powerful and honest post. thanks for sharing. i agree with a lot of comments above- your grandma rocks, you rock, and your commitment to a healthy lifestyle is incredibly inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This post had me all choked up. Parent-child relationships, especially mother-daughter relationships are complicated. I'm glad your grandma is there to support you and show how proud of you she is. I'm sure she's right, your mom may have been jealous on how you've done an amazing job of transforming your life, but she'd be proud too.

    Sometimes pride gets in the way of showing someone how proud you are of them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow. Lots of relationship baggage to work through on that one! Good for you for all you've done for yourself. Speaking as a mother, I can't imagine that yours wouldn't have been proud!

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a wonder and touching story and thank you for sharing. You have come so far, you are inspiring and I know your mom is proud!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've only recently discovered your blog, and I'm really enjoying it. This was a very touching post...thank you so much for sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post. I don't really have anything to add, but I do hope that you are proud of you.

    -Laura is Undeterrable

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow is all I can muster up (a good wow). I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog. This is such a heartfelt and amazing post...thank you for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is amazing - I almost feel honored to have read such deep musing. Also you are a terrific writer, so glad I ended up here and reading this today.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have pared down my blog reading quite a bit, but your blog is one I still read because you continue to inspire. You show so much courage all the time. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete