I’ve never been an overtly emotional person. Even as a child, I was not one to get whipped up about holidays, or vacations, or whatever. I wasn’t shy … no, that has never been my calling card. But emotions were something to be controlled … shared sparingly with only those who could be trusted with the vulnerability that came in the expression’s wake.

My mom was an emotional person. She spent many of my growing up years grabbing at my hand when emotion overcame her, or expressing her frustration with the banging of doors and the yelling of my name. She cried easily and thankfully, laughed easily as well. With her, I never knew quite what storm would meet me when I came in from school or a friend’s house. Her rampant emotion often caused me to not share pieces of my life, for fear of the emotional repercussions that were surely to follow.


I also often felt manipulated by my mom’s emotional outbursts. I learned throughout my life that often people use their passions to “get what they want,” whether it’s desired behavioral changes from those around them (“Do what I want”) or sharp spikes of expressed emotion (“Look at me!”). I know … no one can “make” us do what they want … we give them permission to “control” us. But when it’s your mom, and you love her … giving in to her tsunami of feeling was often easier than fighting the tide.

I ran from that type of behavior because being a “closet” introvert, that type of exhibition always made me … uncomfortable. I felt like swirling emotional outbursts from Mom were rip tides, threatening to pull me under and drown me in her feelings. I still struggle with that, when I’m with friends who are more expressive than me. Heck, I’m not even comfortable with my own emotions, if they slip out from under the cover of my control.

That’s why, at this point in my life, I’m often struggling to keep my emotional head above the water. The older I get, the more my emotions — my “feelings” — tend to wriggle their way out from under the protective cover of my consciousness and slip out of the fractures of my life.

I see this a lot in regard to my kids. They are growing up (or in some cases, grown up) and they are wonderful, fabulous people.They are moving on, successful, energetic, fairly well-adjusted … but it breaks my heart just watching them grow, and move on.

There was another brief eruption today. A dear friend posted a picture of her baby and her husband … and my head goes swirling back to when my oldest was 6 months old, and I snapped a picture of him, lying next to my husband. Totally lost to the world, asleep, dreaming. It was such a beautiful thing. Now, that baby is engaged and soon to be married, with children of his own, no doubt, coming with my next gulping breath.

And the emotion pulls me under the waves over and over and over again.

No wonder I feel like I’m drowning most days. And my weak attempt to fix the fractures are usually met with another crack there … then there … then there. And while there is immense joy and pride in watching these beings I birthed come into their own they leave me with an emptiness I could have never imagined.

And yes, other beautiful things will fill the void. But sometimes, right now, in the middle of all the change, the echoes are maddening, driving me to the brink of emotional breakdown. And it’s given me a new appreciation of some of the emotions my mom spilled over onto me when I was first testing the waters of adulthood.

Now, I understand.


3 responses »

  1. i so understand your feelings here, my friend. We were swimming in the pool while on vacation and a family with 5 young kids was swimming nearby. I was jealous of the fun they were having. it made me remember the fun we used to have with our kids and even though we still have fun times, they’re different and i will forever hold those “young years” in my motherly heart. These are times i feel like crying about missed opportunities but hold onto the fact that grandchildren will help me ‘right some of the wrongs’ someday……. great post!

  2. Thanks, Roomie! I remember so many women when I was younger saying, “Oh, I can’t wait until they all move out.” My experience has been very, very different than that. And yes, we have GREAT times, laughing and sharing … but the quiet times in-between are those things I need to learn to navigate …

  3. Right there with ya, Gina. I have a grand kid now, with another on the way! I can get overwhelmed with a sense of loss sometimes, hit with the fact my kids are grown and gone, living their lives. When they live on the other side of the country, it can be hard to keep that control. I rejoice in their achievements, but miss those little babies.

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