The other day I looked in the mirror and lamented my weight. I frowned at the way my stomach rolled when I stood up or sat down or moved or breathed, I cried because my favorite pants didn't fit anymore, and I pinched at the fat under my chin. I hated my reflection, I hated myself. I wondered when I had gotten so large. Why I suddenly took up so much space. And then I remembered being a little girl and watching my mother do the same thing.
I do not admit this often, but my mother influenced my life a lot. After all, I lived with her for 13 years. How could she not? But sometimes, I feel her essence in the way I speak, or the way I look at the world, and more importantly myself. My mother had a hard life. She still has a hard life. I hope some day her life is better. She taught me that sometimes you cannot escape your sad reality. She just lives her life, does she think her life is good? I do not know. But watching her struggle and not work and fall into an endless cycle of depression and drugs taught me one thing. I never wanted to be her. I never wanted to be like her. I would never be content with just existing in my circle of hell. I grew up competitive because I grew up needing to know I was succeeding. Succeeding in ways my mother never would.
My mother constantly changed herself for men. She because skinnier, louder, more quiet, wore more make-up, went without make-up, dyed her hair, did different drugs, ignored her kids, loved her kids, made more kids, it depended on how the guy she was with wanted her. I hated her for it. I never knew the mother I was going to get. So I stopped needing a mother. I taught my brothers not to need a mother. We taught each other how to read, how to tie shoes, ride bikes, cook simple food, do math, write thesis statements, remove lice, wash clothes without a washer or dryer and only a sink. My mother taught me to never want children because I was terrified I would never be able to provide them with love that mothers are supposed to give their children, because how was I supposed to know what that looked like?
I didn't learn to eat fruits and vegetables from my mother, or that you should brush your teeth twice a day, or even how to braid my hair. She taught me that escapism is the solution to a shitty life, parents pick favorites when it comes to children, and men are more important than family. She taught me that fat isn't okay, that to lose weight you should do drugs or diet dangerously, that school isn't important, that children don't deserve fathers, that no one cares about good grades.
We leave marks on peoples lives that we will never know about. I doubt my mother knows she taught me to hate looking out the window or to be afraid of commitment, but she did. I doubt Rose knows that she is the reason I proclaim myself a failure before anyone else can, or that I am a perfectionist to the point that if it isn't perfect, I hate putting my name on it. I cry when I can't learn dances, or songs, or new skills, because I hate feeling like I'm heading down her path. She doesn't know she did this to me, just like I don't know how I have affected someone else's life.
What are we teaching our sons and daughters and mentees? What are we leaving behind?
What songs will they sing about us?