My Mom is the Strongest Being in the Universe
How this Mother’s Day is rooted in my mother’s strength to survive 40 years of abuse; the story of her survival.
My mom is broken.
People ask my mom how she remains so happy, so perked about life.
Anybody who sees her knows it. She radiates goodness and positivity. Nothing gets to her. To the stranger looking from the outside, you’d think she’s the strongest person in the world.
She works in retail, she works with people. Last year, she sold almost a million dollars worth of clothing. In fact, she sells a million dollars worth of clothing almost every year. The company loves her. Her clients love her. When people come to the store, they ask for her by name. There is a sea of 500 associates with the ability to help someone find a shirt, but if they’ve been helped by my mom, they will wait in line to be helped by her instead.
She’s a product of abuse. You can’t see it when you see her. Constant abuse that she confused for love at the hands of her own mother. 20 years of it, in fact. Then, forced into a marriage that most people would consider a sales pitch for a product they’re on the fence about. My dad, her ex-husband, acquired about 20 more years of abuse.
She survived. Beatings, verbal confirmations on how stupid she was.
Loss of blood.
Her mom never telling her she was good enough.
My mom never showed that side of her. The dark side that’s too ashamed of the things people say about her.
She gets dressed, she puts on her make-up, she tries her hardest to be an amazing mother to my sister and me. She checks off all the boxes of a great mom.
If I have any kindness, I like to think I got it from her. In the smallest sense, I hope that I at least learned it from her.
All those things definitely get to her. When she finally divorced my father and we left him behind, when the beatings stopped, when her mother was put in her place and the Stockholm syndrome was dealt with, she broke down.
She was strong because she had to be. She was strong because there was no other way to live. She was forced into three abortions between myself and my sister because my dad didn’t know how to spend a few dollars on a condom.
There was no luxury to choose emotional strength. It was not a choice.
In my mom’s case, it was life or death.
I stand next to her, and sometimes I feel the weight of everything on my shoulders. I snap out of it when I remember all the things she’s been through. I snap out of it when I realize how far we’ve gotten out of those dark days.
I snap out of it when I realize that my sister and I had the privilege to attend a school like U.C. Berkeley regardless of how little money we had at the time. I realize today that we worked 10 times harder than the next kid because the nightmares that most people see in their dreamscape existed in the shadows of our own home.
We fought to do better because those nightmares happened to our mom. We fought to be our best selves.
We tell ourselves that just because somebody else went through something tougher that it doesn’t mean our problems are insignificant. That’s just the thing — that’s exactly what they are. We try to remove the ability to compare when comparison is all we have.
Emotional maturity. Emotional strength. Whatever we want to call it.
It’s the acknowledgement that people have gone through worse and they still choose to stand tall.
If you choose to stand small, there is no recourse. My mom survived; it’s because she told herself there was no other choice. She had to. Her reason was for us. For my little sister and myself. She only had one reason to be emotionally strong against a tide far too big to handle alone. But she only needed a reason to stand tall.
Today, I stand tall for my little sister and her. Every Mother’s Day is a lullaby to acknowledge my mom’s existence and my gratitude; it is a reminder that despite the world’s evils, good prevails.
Sometimes, emotional strength is a matter of finding a single reason to fight when there are a million reasons to give up.
You only need one. Some of us are still finding it.