The tunes of anxiety in her head.
“Make it sing,” mom said.
“Read it the way you practiced. Can you do this? Are you sure you can do this? I can try if you need me,” she jabbered.
I nodded with stoic displeasure.
As my thoughts whirled my legs hurled my body into autopilot. Suddenly, I was a weed among blades of grass and everyone’s eyes flew like bees. My feet cemented into the ground, so I pried and pulled. I stood at the lectern. Spite my quivering heart, my voice bounded and resided in golden brown pews as if the words had excused themselves and sat in each hollow space. I knew then that it was grace.
Grace did the hurling and the bounding. Grace etched the picture my mom entwined with her writing as I spoke them. Grace carried my mother and I through her father’s death and strung invisible floss to connect our fingertips.
You see, my mother and I, we are like the sea and the land. We never understood each other’s properties, but we lived spite the high tides and hurricanes. We existed because of the other, but we never knew how we did it. So, Grace, we owe you one sister.
My mom has always been worried. She is hardwired that way. She was diagnosed with clinical anxiety in the early 1990s. It grew worse from the steroids recommended when she was misdiagnosed with adrenal dysplasia. When she married my father and had me, external stressors increased. When my father’s heart halted, she couldn’t stop it. She was it, a single mother raising a daughter on a writer’s budget.
The cause of my mother’s anxiety is a modge-podge of nature and nurture, neurons and sticks and stones. Their words hurt her; their judgments saddened her heart. Understand that my mother sought help and continues to seek help, but she still burns her feet on ruby coals every time she goes out. Those she knows, and those she doesn’t, never have understood. When panic strikes, they stare. When her speech spins in circles, they shake their heads. When her questions are incessant, they roll their eyes. They think she’s strange, stupid, rude, crazy. So, she tries harder. Like her; love her, please.
And I thought, “forget it.” In this push and pull relationship my mother and I had, I continually pictured myself the land. I knew better. I felt better. I was a rock. The sea climbed in high tides and harsh words and eroded bits and pieces of me. It created a completely irregular normalcy. I grew bare and bitter. I was heartless. I was silent.
No single moment led my mom and me to a healthier relationship. There is no “magic cure.” As I said before, grace carried us through it. I owe it all to my girl. But as I grew older and reflected, time let me connect it. I connected all the dots, the lines, the dashes of a big messy maze to the end, circled red ten times, entrapping the word, ANXIETY, in big, bold print.
It is true. I am the rock, but my mom is too. It wasn’t her heart that was tearing us apart, but the disease that riddled every neuron that crashed and caved and brought hurricanes to our shore. My mom’s heart is pure and kind. She constantly put others first in spare time. She cut the crust from my sandwiches and made a fuss when my school papers were stamped A+. All of that was muddied when anxiety said “Hush.”
I still reek of regret. I worry that my mom and I have lost too much precious time to reconnect. Then I realize the strong creative thread that is woven through her genes and into mine.
We make words sing.
Mom, here’s to you. Here’s to those times I’ve missed and here’s how we’ve grown and loved in our new way too.
Time was not on my side writing this. You know, I have a terrible time when I try too hard. So, I’m hoping Grace yanks words through my fingertips. She’s our girl. She united us as a team when times got tough, but I think we can courage on with our words and guts.
I recall many moments that didn’t go as planned, and some that had gone splendidly. Those moments have undoubtedly shaped me, and I am so thankful. I wouldn’t change one ink dot in our story. I would, however, love to share how we’ve grown in grit over our years. As avid story- tellers, we both weave words in wishful hearts that pour passion into our own.
So here it goes. Here are five things I’ve figured out about us:
•Frustration fraud. I failed. I didn’t let you know when I was feeling too much. I was a sounding board. I didn’t make a peep when feelings perpetuated. I seeped silent in frustration and kept quiet. When you asked, “What’s wrong?” I didn’t share my worry and care. I tucked it all in a little bag and let it pick and proud its way out until I exploded, and words began eroding our edges, not mending or boundaries. With time and Grace, I pulled myself away. I realized I harbored the heavy weights and freed them when I didn’t pretend to play. I showed you my pain. I told you. I stayed.
•We were always on the same team. I’ve been fighting you like you were robed in the rival’s uniform. You are you. You are more than anxiety. You are more. You are my mother and a pretty dang good one at that. You have fought this battle and continue to fight. I will always stand at bat for you. I will always hold your hand when a hurricane hurries onto shore. I will always speak your words when it starts to pour.
•Openly observant. When I was younger, I would hide and huddle in closed doors and never want to understand. The pain you felt grew deep and my small mind couldn’t process it. With time and patience, I get it now. I get what happens when the worry sets in. I understand the cues that lead to behaviors that cause the worry to worsen. I promise to continue to look for the everchanging cues to help you adjust and cope.
•Loving and helping others was and is our bond. We both know the bonds made by sharing stories. We both know the relief of the expelling this excess energy. To keep going, to keep trudging, we must keep writing. We can always live to let our hearts ring. We can always continue to find the peace when we sing.
•How can I love you the best? Hands down, the most important question. What can I do to help you the most? What can I do to help you figure it out? Do you want me to sit and listen or blurt it all out? I promise to stay and continue to ask this question and do this every day, because this is what love really is.
And Mom, I will always try to love you my best.
My mom and I will always be different, but we will always be the same. We will always work together to figure this thing out and accept what comes our way. We will fight hard to find the words to help others understand. We are your biggest advocates and supporters and we want the word out. So, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. We are not professionals and by no means am I offering medical advice. Please, please, if you are struggling, ask a loved one to help you seek the correct help.
I hope that if you are struggling with anxiety or know someone who is struggling, please take the time to love on them today. Let them open. Let them know that it is going to be okay.
With many hugs,
*A word (and permission) from my Mom:
“Anxiety has crumpled my confidence and rumpled my dreams. It weighed heavy, but not so much anymore. It forces me to go deep within myself and with others, still. And it always will. For that I am thankful and certain that sharing my journey will let others know, ‘It’s OK.’”