I have a habit of downplaying myself because my life doesn’t look the way I dreamed it would. I haven’t exhaled yet. I keep feeling like I should have a certain loving relationship with my family like the one I had imagined in my mind. The older I got, the pain of “what isn’t” intensified. The fact that I’m not a wife and mother was always thrown in my face by my mother up until last year. I know I have value as I am, but to repeatedly hear the person who gave birth to me devalue me hurt like 10,000 hells. I attempted to use my report cards and career successes as a way to earn her approval over the course of my life, but it was never enough. She criticized everything. She only saw value in me as a man’s girlfriend, my looks, and as a wife and mother. She told me I wasn’t a real woman. I knew logically that she was wrong, but the lifetime desire for her acceptance filled up my mind. Everything I had accomplished, and who I was as a person didn’t matter. So, I’ve been operating from “not enough” my entire life. I constantly battled against her words. I understand I made that choice, and I finally told my mother how I felt and what I wouldn’t accept anymore in a 3 year attempt to finally establish healthy boundaries. I literally stepped away from talking to her for a year outside of holidays. Not being verbally assaulted gave me slight relief, but I still felt crippling shame. I saw myself as less than for not having a close relationship with my mother. It wasn’t a new revelation, but I never made peace with it. My relationship with my family filled me with shame. I have been judged and treated poorly by ex-boyfriends and friends who knew this about me. I’ve been called unforgiving and accused of being selfish because I’m not close to my mother. I always placed her above me, so I usually kept quiet. I took the abuse to appear normal outwardly, while she ripped me to shreds. How am I still allowing my mother to abuse me? Why didn’t it end? How do I get off of the repeated loop of good times, abuse, estrangement, repeat? I wanted out and I am just starting to see the role I played. I wanted to break the cycle, but I didn’t know how. I already live far from family, so I clung to what I knew. The problem is I am not good with expressing my most vulnerable feelings without being defensive and anxious. I realized that the lack of love I had for myself resulted in me accepting a lot of bad treatment, while placing unattainable expectations on my family, and friends. My need to establish healthy boundaries is what I lacked. I was too extreme. I was either all in or absent because I was starved for love and affection and I expected others to fill me up. What I began to realize is that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. I can still have boundaries. I began talking with my mother again, and it seems to be going well. We actually text mostly so that I can control and filter her words. She isn’t being mean and she actually doesn’t reach out as much as she used to before my year sabbatical. I wish we were a lot of things, but today we are civil. I hope it’s a fresh start. My good memories of her are mixed in with horrifying and trying times. I have a permanent scar that serves as a reminder that forgiving is hard, but necessary if I want to live a healthy life while loving and being loved. I am determined to start a new chapter and not allow my past to haunt me. It’s okay because I am giving myself permission to keep walking forward. I had an amazing weekend with family and friends back home. I cannot allow one person to dominate my life anymore. It’s my life to live.