Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Broken Hearts, Hopelessness & Letting Go

For three days now, I've pondered sharing something so deeply personal here but I'm writing it anyway for catharsis, to set my thoughts free and in hopes that someone, somewhere may benefit from my experience as well.

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...
Three months ago, my mother suffered a heart attack, at close to 70 years old and struggling with Diabetes, she had been apparently dealing with chronic heart disease silently as happens to many diabetics for a long time now.

At first, they sent us home with pain medications and told us that surgery was not even an option, the blockage was so severe, her heart under such duress that there was nothing to stop the ongoing death of her heart cells until the moment when her weakened heart stopped. Forever.

Numbness and denial set in. My mother, both stubborn and courageous, grasped at the idea she had very little time left. A few weeks later, it turned out that open heart surgery, bypass, was an option for my mother after all. However, my mother, after having survived a hit and run by a drunk driver in the early 1970s, major reconstructive surgery and skin grafts on her leg, decided enough with the surgeries. She was going to leave her destiny in god's hands.

You can imagine how heartbreakingly agonizing and frustrating this was for me. On one hand, I felt obligated to respect her wishes and on the other, the shrill scream of "PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME, MAMI!" selfishly resounded through my entire being.

My brothers and my sister all had different thoughts, fears and ways to deal, which also included getting into arguments amongst ourselves about the best course of action. We finally decided on tackling it together and our plan is already underway. I know, I believe, as my mother's youngest daughter, her baby, I have the power to sway her to reconsider surgery. Perhaps that is just ego but after all, I am my mother's daughter, and just as stubborn and strong as her. But this post is only partially about my mother's broken heart.

Letting Go

Life of PiThis past weekend I rigorously sought escape, I watched the finale of American Horror Story, followed by This is 40, and Life of Pi. These may all seem very analogous in terms of content but one of my talents, lays in being able to connect threads from disparate categories that lead to breakthrough ideas and new insight.

American Horror Story made me contemplate the horrible plight of having to give up a child. While This is 40 resonated with me, I related to it on so many levels, the absentee dad, the loving moocher, the   identity crisis caused by getting older and having kids. Then Life of Pi, it was beautiful, visually, and full of deep, meaningful, epic discovery.

In many ways, the common denominator, was the idea of Letting Go, of surrendering, of not fighting the things you cannot change, the things you have no control over, but instead embracing them for what they're worth.

Daddy Issues

A year or two ago, while watching a reality show on the Logo channel, where a gay man dealt with his biological father's refusal to accept him as his son for being homosexual, I had a moment of clarity when the man's mother comforted him and told him that his father had served only one purpose, really his life's purpose, bringing the young man into being, and after that point, he wasn't necessary to rest of the journey.

I have been plagued with the repercussions of my biological father's abandonment my entire life. I've dealt with all the classic issues from overcompensating and being a perfectionist in hopes of winning approval to dooming my personal relationships by latching on to people who are emotionally unavailable.

As I folded laundry this weekend, my thoughts circled back to my mother, by no means a saint or perfect, but a good mother, who has always loved me unconditionally and protected me as best as she could and this gay man's father's purpose. My mother took this job on, of nurturing me willingly when no one else wanted to or did.

I thought about having to give up a child, if you had no choice, and how if I were in those shoes, I would leave my child in the hands of the person who could love them the most. All those years, I had sought to understand WHY my father left, how he could just simply walk away.

In that second, it became clear, he had left me with the one person he could trust to always love me and to care for me. The one person who would love me the most, who would give her life for me. In that moment, I understood this act of love, this act of kindness and saw it came from this stranger in my life. And although, make no mistake, that his actions are horrid, irresponsible and monstrous, I felt blessed instead of the usual anger or self-pity. This chasm, this void, that had haunted me for so long with its barrenness, in an instant ceased to be.

While this may all be speculation, of course, and who knows ultimately, what my father's plight was really like or his true motivations, what was obvious to me, was that his "WHY" was irrelevant, of no consequence to this narrative or my mother's. His purpose was accomplished, my mother and he brought me into this world and when he left, my mother shaped me into who I am today. That we know to be true.

Empowered by Crisis

As we approach Valentine's Day and become entrenched in the hyper commercialization of the holiday with hearts and candy everywhere, it's hard for me to reconcile the irony of my mother's diabetic heart-striken predicament against the backdrop of season.

There is also irony in that the pain brought on by the fear of losing my mother granted me the pathway to release my father and honor my mother for stepping up to the plate. In a couple of years I, too, will reach the age of 40 that milestone of mid-life, and perhaps, even have a child of my own in tow.

A former coworker used to stop by my desk, every once in a while and kindly tease me with this encouragement, "You is kind, you is good, you is important" to remind me that I was not alone and that I was appreciated. My mother always imparted her belief of self-efficacy - that I could, if I chose to and wanted to, could and would impact and change the world, and as a global citizen it was an imperative to leave this place better than I found it.

As I struggle with the plight of urging her to not go gently, to not succumb to the ease of giving up, I embrace the lessons of accepting what I actually have control over and what I don't. As painful as this may be, I exchange it, for the beauty and the wisdom of the future ahead of us.

Release has never been sweeter.


  1. Zaira Zafra9:37 PM

    This is so beautiful, so sad, so strong...this is a gorgeous tribute to your mom and your spirit.

  2. The universe must have conspired to bring your words to my eyes since I have a close friend who is also contemplating whether to have open heart surgery.The feelings I have attached to her current decision not to have the surgery are now in better focus.
    We seem to have very similar mothers and absent fathers too. I'm glad you've come to an understanding and forgiveness at a relatively young age (younger than when I finally decided to forgive). Thanks for an intimate post.


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