People talk about rejection as if it could never come from the first home you ever knew- your mother’s womb. Most of us grew up with folklore of mothers loving unconditionally, nurturing, prepping their babies for the role of superhero, best friend, and greatest lover- but what if that fairytale is a foreign film with no subtitles?
Or what if your story is even more confusing because there were times when your mother left you with the imprint of love, comfort and small moments of hope that something had broken (or fixed itself) inside of her and awakened her to what you really needed. (Her, always.) What if your story lays somewhere between cold, unloving mother and nurturing best friend? Where does someone file the memories of confusion and gaslighting needed to reconcile the thought of she’s my mother and she did her best but I am angry?
What about us? The forgotten middle children of the world’s oldest love story about mothers and daughters. Mother Earth, Mother Nature. The ones who get a glimpse of affection and understanding until the lens adjusts to reveal manipulation and performance. The ones who learned to be everything but themselves because the person their mother imagined was never born. The ones who were embraced until they were curious enough to question their world, to question them.
What about the daughters of absent fathers, the ones with thick, purple scars and black holes in their hearts that made us desperate to get anything from anyone- especially our mother. The ones who learned to expect so little that they felt selfish to have any expectations at all. What about those of us who grew up thinking it was powerful to use our love as a weapon? Dangling it in the sun and creating beautiful projections in our homes only to throw it in a box under the bed the second the sun set. The ones who didn’t know how to light a candle in dark places and instead waited for someone else to come along with a match.
What happens to the little girls whose first friendship with the same sex was full of heartbreak, secrets, drama, and conditional love. The ones who went into the world with pages missing from their guidebooks, making messes, breaking hearts, isolating, feeling unworthy, and never getting it quite right enough for a best friend. Or a lover.
And what about the ones who were taught to cast themselves in the role of other people’s perfect person, the ones who betrayed their truest selves because it was the only way they fit in anywhere. Removing emotion, trimming thoughts, stapling their favourite person’s music and art and hobbies and interests and language to their bodies so they could rip it all off and seamlessly adjust for the next person- like an old corkboard full of holes, like a project that is never done. The ones who thought assimilation was more powerful than creation. That feeling less, saying less, doing less, and taking up less space was polite.
What about the girls who grew up into women that learned very quickly that authenticity actually meant shape-shifting. Who spent their childhoods and young adult years perfecting the science behind complete and utter acceptance in every situation. The ones who were unable to lean into their thirties with grace because they were shotgun blasted into reality with the realization that they had no tangible identity. Their soul and personality so out of alignment that they were full of dis-ease, dis-comfort, dis-honesty. The ones who spent their lives burying their true self and instead of harvesting the juicy fruit their inner-child had planted- are only beginning to recognize they are full of weeds. Are only beginning to realize they are the farmers and not the sheep. And they have no tools.
What happens to the women and girls who lost out on decades of self-actualization, whose memories are so full of dark moments and trauma because memories are made from emotion and their joy was never that strong. What happens to the women who learned that motherhood meant sacrifice, resentment, and scarcity so their wombs closed shut and their dreams dried up like a newborn’s umbilical cord. What happens to the women who heal generations of trauma and unlearn codependency only to pass it on to plants, to animals, and to communities that don’t share their DNA? Is that enough? Is that fair? Is that their fault?
What happens to these women?
They call themselves empaths. A word used as pretty packaging to hide the sensitive, intuitive, shape-shifting nature that comes from walking on eggshells and being hyper-vigilant. The glamorous name card used when someone is so used to taking on the state of others that they don’t know where one person’s energy ends and theirs begins. A person who cannot handle being around too many people at once because the anxiety of not knowing which role to play is too overwhelming. Empath- the identity that makes us a target for the narcissist. The fixer to everyone’s problems, the distraction from looking within. The full cup that empties into a drought and then smashes itself to disperse the broken pieces. The empath, the person with such depth it feels you are constantly overflowing with emotion and predicting how everyone else feels- because not knowing is more painful than assuming. Than communicating. Than asking. Being called an empath is a wall that is built so we can keep a safe distance from others because ‘we already know’.
Or do we?
What is the antidote to this hyper-vigilance? Boundaries, communication, forgiveness, healing. Reaching inside of our souls and pulling our inner-child to the front and centre and asking what her needs are. Who are you baby girl? What do you need from me? Joy? Expression? Love? Affection? How can I offer this to myself without leaning on another person for fulfillment? How can I balance healing from codependency while allowing others to love me?
Boundaries. Self-awareness. Personal responsibility.
Asking myself what is unhealed. Healing it.
Asking myself what I am tired of. Resting it.
Asking myself what I want. Taking it.
Asking myself what I have control over. Owning it.
Asking myself what story I am telling myself. Re-writing it.
Asking myself why.
“I am angry”
“Because my partner was cold to me”
“Because I’m asking too much from them”
“Because I don’t feel loved”
“Because I don’t know how to comfort myself”
“Because I was never taught”
“Because my mother didn’t love herself”
“Because she was never taught, either”
Doesn’t understanding our own pain seem more digestible when we peel it back? Dissect it? When we realize why we are this way, why we feel this deep, why we feel this lost and disconnected… answers almost present themselves. Part of seeking purpose is healing. Part of healing is forgiveness. Part of forgiveness means seeing that everyone is always doing the best they can with the tools they have.
We may be the forgotten middle children but that is not our identity, our purpose, or our future.
I demand and deserve better and so do you.