When I was a little girl one of my biggest annoyances was when my mom would sigh. Not a typical sigh, but the kind of sigh that could make walls crumble. (Only a slight exaggeration). It annoyed me because I knew it meant she was sad or at the very least unhappy and as a kid, hell even as an adult, other peoples sadness is not something I deal well with.
As I kid I didn’t understand the complexities of life. I did not understand the struggles my mother had. See at the age of 6, my parents decided to get a divorce. When my parents told me I remember saying…” Does this mean you guys wont fight all the time?” “Yes” they replied. ” Ok. Can I go play now?” See in my head my only concern was how this decision would impact me. I never once considered how it impacted my parents. Later on my dad paid for my mother to go to art school. See my parents were the weird parents who divorced and seemed to instantly be friends again. (Except now I wonder how much of that was really for mine and my sisters benefit). In 1987 my mom suddenly found herself a single mom in school with two daughters. Let me tell you her two daughters didn’t make it easy on her. There is a 7 year difference me and my sister. She used to be forced to “watch me” which, I guess in her eyes meant, chase me around the house threating to kill me. To this day I credit my sister for what I believe is a keen ability to escape the grasp of homicidal maniacs (though I have never tested this theory, thank heavens).
The truth is my mother had to have been hurt. I don’t have to imagine how stressed out she must of been in school because I myself just finished three years of grad school. Furthermore I only guess that my mother was scared of what the future had in store for her. So it dawns on me now, as an adult, what never dawned on me before as a 6 year old. My mother was her own person. With her own set of fears, desires, expectations, and emotions.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve “known” this was true for a long time. I remember the first time I realized the people in my family were more then just people in MY life was when my grandma died. Looking through all of her pictures and hearing all the stories about her made me realize that she was more then just MY grandmother. I honestly credit that moment as being the moment I became an adult, when I no longer saw the world revolving around me.
So like I said I’ve “known” this to be true of my mother, but I haven’t KNOWN it to be true until recently. I was sitting in my chair at work the other day and I let out a loaded sigh. A sigh filled to the brim with anger,annoyance, fear, and sadness. I sigh A LOT. But this sigh acted like a time machine and for a brief moment I was hurled back into the past. I saw my mother sighing and my 6 year old self get annoyed and when I came back to reality, suddenly I understood my mother and her sighing.
As you get older you start to realize that your “super human” parents are just like you (all too human). You start to recall all the times you saw those human flaws poke through, but you were too wrapped up in your own life to see them for what they really were. You would think it would be incredibly depressing to realize that you parents are just as vulnerable and flawed as you are, and perhaps for a brief moment it is, but then it becomes incredibly freeing when you realize that your choices are just as valid as theirs because no one has all the answers.
Sighing, for me, provides relief from my feelings of anxiety. It’s like a brief touch with reality. Like when your drowning and you rush to the surface to breathe only to sucked back down into the water. To think that this is probably the exact same feelings my mother had years ago, on one hand it makes feel incredibly selfish that my younger self would have denied that outlet to my mother and on the other hand it makes me appreciate her even more then before.