The last time I felt this numb was when my mother left the planet…which probably sounds silly, dramatic and insane, to compare a complete stranger’s death to my own flesh and blood’s.
You see, I was taught to suppress emotions. To be as private as possible, and sure enough, that is the way I have always been…or was. Recently, I started noticing that I may not be the person I was raised to be, for with every instance I do open myself up, I realize I am growing stronger. The more vulnerable I become the stronger I feel, which is something completely new to me. Fast forward a few months of trying this thing called opening up, and I am now a believer in the power of vulnerability.
With vulnerability, I now have the strength to be honest with myself. That honesty, is enabling me to be more in-tune with myself than ever before…and because I know myself, there is nothing — nothing, that scares me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always lived life with almost zero fear, taken risks, never afraid of failure, followed my gut and found ways to just…figure it out — traits that were passed down from my father. Because of that DNA, I have seen things, been places, experienced more lives that even I at times have a hard time believing.
Then, my mother died.
I had no idea how to deal with her death. All my life, I’ve moved full steam ahead, never looking back. In retrospect, I now see my risk taking and optimism wasn’t courageous. And how that false courage was there to help power me forward, because I didn’t have true courage nor the strength, to deal with real problems.
My mother has almost everything to do with my ability to finally grow up. Her death was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve experienced, starting with making sense of our complex relationship. She was my very best friend. My role model and hero. As much as the everything she was, she was also the only person on this Earth whose words and actions cut as deep as they did. I was always never _________ enough; the blank, interchangeable with any word that means inadequate.
When she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, she did not tell my brother and me and only survived for 4 months. My brother and I got the call moments before her passing, that she was on her death bead. We didn’t get to spend any of her last days together.
But what she did leave behind was a journal, documenting the last months leading to her death. Every day, she wrote multiple entries, about her regrets, what-ifs and shoulda-coulda-wouldas. Every entry was filled with negativity. Page after page of her not being __________ enough.
As her last days drew closer, the tone of her writing changed. Suddenly, she started seeing what she did have, as opposed to what she didn’t and became appreciative. Mainly, of mundane things, like the smell of pavement after the rain. Or how amusing bread popping out of a toaster was. Silly child-like musings continued but those thoughts made me smile. I was comforted, knowing she was finally…happy, as all of her life, she was a miserable individual always concerned with what she didn’t have. Her biggest worry being wealth, even if she made more than enough to retire before 50. With my mother, nothing was ever enough.
Growing up with a mother always chasing what she didn’t have, making her and everyone around her miserable, gave me perspective early on. Influenced my outlook on things and life. As I grew older, the resentment of an absent parent turned to sadness. I couldn’t help her. Nor change her situation. All I could do, was be supportive and empathetic as I can. So knowing she spent at least some portion of her life happy, truly happy, gave me peace. Her very last entry, she wrote how she was the happiest, most fortunate person in the world because of me, my brother and her boyfriend, gave me closure and a deep understanding of life. What is important. What I should focus on and how to live — really live — being honest to myself and those I love.
My mother, who was an incredible individual but an awful wife and mother, left behind invaluable life-lessons that up until now, I have only shared with a select few. She is also the one person who inspires me to be courageous from inside-out. It took a while after her death to get here, but I can now say, I am no longer running. Running on adrenaline. Nor running from anything.
It’s still baffling how my mother’s death impacted me so positively. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s normal or okay, to take such a horrible thing as death and turn it into something that benefits me. But after four years, I am finally allowing myself to admit my mother’s purpose in life was served. I am not a parent, but I imagine every parent would want their child to be the absolute best they can always be to themselves, their loved ones and to the world. Because of my mother, I am able to do so…or at least die trying.
So the reason Steve Jobs’ passing has impacted me so, is because just like my mother, Steve Jobs left behind life lessons, inspirations and wisdom. My hope, is for you — whoever you are reading this — to take what you can, from what he left behind, before it’s too late. Life is short. Live it to the fullest.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. — Steve Jobs
Thank you for everything, Steve Jobs.
Image via http://jmak.tumblr.com/post/9377189056