by Leah Clouse
“What’s the wort part about being outside of a relationship with your parent?” I asked myself one day when I was feeling especially pitying. “Feeling orphaned”, I thought. Feeling like there is something inherently wrong with me because my mother has chosen unhealthy habits over me. Knowing that if she wanted me, she could agree at any minute to see a counselor together and boom there we’d be… Together again.
In Bird by Bird Anne Lamott says that we own our stories and everything that’s ever happened to us, and if the people in them wanted to be painted positively then they probably should have behaved better. This is how I feel about my mom today. When I was younger I used to lie about my upbringing. I lied a lot actually. Some of you might believe I was a cheerleader (I wasn’t. I wasn’t allowed to do after school things because I had siblings to babysit). My mom had a clever way of incorporating fancy things like cotillions, shopping sprees and overpriced clothes into our lives while we wondered why nothing happened when we flipped the light switch or couldn’t find a dial tone. Without saying a word she told us that lying about who we were and how much money we had was essential to being accepted. I did this for years. I falsified my past and my inner being because I believed it made me more valuable.
It didn’t. It can’t because my value is not determined by my successes or my failures. It is separate because my worth cannot be altered. I am valuable. I am valuable because I have a heart beating in my chest and a soul swirling around within me. So are you.
This narrative I’ve been living, the one where I believe my worth as a person fluctuates, has expired. It’s old and stale. I’ve outgrown it. Like a snake that sheds its skin, I’ve stretched beyond the bounds of my expired narrative and it’s falling off around me.
My false self tells me I better give more than I take. It wants to know how I can expect anyone to value me when my own mom doesn’t. It maliciously whispers that I am unwanted, damaged and unloveable.
The brokenness of my family does not make me damaged.
The distance between my mother and I does not reflect on my inherent worth.
And I. Am. Loved.
I am loved without makeup. I am loved with hairy legs and armpits. I am loved when I cry. I am loved when I don’t cook. I am loved when I’m angry. I’m loved when I take more than I give. And dare I say it, I am beloved. I was made by the same God who made the moon and the sprawling trees I love so much. Sometimes I forget he loves me more.
I forget that if I believe in God then I believe my story is worth telling because He made me to tell it.
What is the world missing when we allow our failures and our fears to hide us? To muffle our voices and our stories?
More than we think; of that much I’m sure.