Just when I thought I was beginning to work past my grief of losing my mom, a strange thing started happening. I started to worry about whether she would be proud of the life I was living. Now, asking this question was not the weird thing. Most people want their parents to be proud of them and the life they’re living, and that doesn’t go away just because the parent passes away. What was strange was that I was questioning my mom. Throughout my whole life, she let me know that she was proud of me and supported whatever I wanted to do. I never had questioned while she was alive whether or not she was proud of me. I guess that’s because I always knew I could ask her if she was. Though being completely honest, I never did actually ask her that.
The argument could be made that I started questioning this because I no longer had the opportunity to ask her. But I think there was a bigger issue playing in. The older I got, the more I realized how little I knew about my mom. This confusion led to me questioning whether or not I was correct in assuming my mom was proud of me. If I didn’t know who she truly was, how could I ever know if she was proud?
This ended up being one of the most unfair statements I could have made against her. I may not have known all the details of her life, but I knew who she was, and she knew who I am. She probably knew more about who I was than I did. It is really easy to look back and rewrite the past based on new information. Nothing changed with the way I was living my life, and everyone around me seemed to be telling me that my mom would be proud of me. Somehow, that made me debate if she would be. I couldn’t take people at their word.
For a long time, I felt the need to work harder than I ever had before to make up for this gap I had created in my head. There was no way she could have actually been proud of me before if I could work that much harder! Then, there was a switch. I started to get angry that I seemingly knew so little about her and that everyone around me was lying to me about her being proud. I wasn’t doing any special. I was just living my life. So I decided to give up. I stopped trying to impress her. I stopped trying to impress me. It was a bit of a mess for a while, but I realized something important after I stopped trying so hard. I may not have known every detail about my mom or her life, but I knew who she was, and I know what I meant to her. She knows that I do my best, and I know that that is all she ever wanted for me to do. I am happy with my life and who I am, and in realizing that, I think I reached any expectation she could have put on me.
She is my mother. Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean the expectations she had for me changed at all. Listening to those who knew her better than I did has helped a lot too. I have learned to listen when they tell me she would be proud. I have learned that if I am proud of myself for something, she would be too. I no longer feel this invisible weight on my shoulders to rise to her expectations. The expectations I thought were coming from her were really things I put on myself, and I now know when to cut myself a break and when to slow down and let her know that I am proud and that I am doing the best I can.