October 15th, 2021
I wrote this weeks ago, but this has been a difficult one to let go into the world.
As of tomorrow, the 16th, my mom has been gone for one whole orbit around the sun.
In that year, I’ve told a lot of stories about her and how I feel some days and how I deal and sometimes don’t deal with losing one of the most special people I have ever known.
Today isn’t going to be any different. Not really.
The core emotion I’ve felt for nearly every second of the last 365 days is a loneliness that I haven’t ever known before.
Being who I am (and knowing who I can be when I try to hide or run away from things), I’ve thought a lot about why this lonely felt different.
When I first got sober almost four years ago, my mom was really funny when it came to how she would talk to me about it. She would gently ask about how I was doing, or gingerly inquire what I had done the night before. She would be surprised, every time, for a long time, when I told her I still hadn’t drank. Not even one.
From an outsider’s perspective, it would appear that she didn’t have faith that I could do it, for any number of reasons.
But that wasn’t it.
I knew it was because she wanted me to know that she was going to love me no matter if or when I failed.
And that’s when I figured it out.
My mom is the only human connection on this planet that I had that was not conditional. What I mean by that is: every other relationship I have depends on what I do or say or don’t do or don’t say.
And it is exhausting. I am so tired some days from being the person that I think people need me to be, because I live in constant fear of being abandoned.
We say we love people unconditionally but that is mostly untrue. For example: how often do we tell others to cut people out of their life who do not serve them, who do not add anything positive to their daily existence?
“But, Dennis,” you say, “we set boundaries and remove people from our lives to protect ourselves and for our mental and emotional health.”
Yeah. I know. And by doing that, you make every relationship you have conditional, on the grounds that the people in your life have to add value to it.
My mom did not have those rules in place for me. We existed outside of normal time and space. It wasn’t that she wasn’t proud of me. She was the proudest mom ever and I know because I have rarely felt like I have accomplished much, while she reminded me how much I had done. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in me. I wouldn’t even know how to pretend to be as confident in myself and my abilities if she hadn’t done it first.
No, she wanted me to know that, regardless of who I was or am or will be, no matter what I’ve said or done, she unconditionally loved me, but more poignantly, she loved the monster that lives inside of me.
Now that she’s gone, I find myself working overtime to make sure all my conditional relationships get their needs met, regardless of my requirements, sometimes to my detriment. Because I lost the one relationship I could never lose, and every other seems to have its heels on the edge.
But while it sounds abysmal, it’s not.
I feel like this because I received proof that unconditional love is real. I know it, because I lost it. And because it’s real, and because I know what it feels like, it means it can be real and be felt again.
Just maybe not today.
I won’t tell you to hug your mom today, because those kinds of sentiments are meaningless unless you come up with them yourselves. But if you feel inspired to tell somebody you love them, no matter what, and you’re on the fence about actually doing it: this is your sign. Do it.
Do it with abandon, because you care, because the relationships in your life that you will never get over are the ones that have no conditions and need no boundaries.
It was another year around the sun. This time, without the sun.