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Full House: How Living With My Mom Has Kept Me Sane
I moved out at the ripe old age of 29. Some say this is too old and experienced to be moving out and experiencing things. In our South Asian culture, where the laws are strict and deter children from moving out, I was a rebel with a cause. I had met a new man and he happened to live on the other side of the country. After a couple of years of texts, phone calls, one trip in Las Vegas to make sure the other in fact existed and was not a bot (Capchas included), I decided to cut all the clutter and make it official. Again, I was bold, brave, and an Indian girl set on busting through the doors of how it's been to create new ways of living fearlessly, for the culture. How naïve I was. About six hours in, I knew something was amiss and I wasn't welcome. After about three months, he told he had found someone else and I was left to fend for myself. For four years. The idea of this makes me shudder, as does Captain Morgan spiced dark rum, which kept me from losing my marbles and jumping off my 24th floor apartment. In March of this year, after several failed attempts at finding someone suitable, and a pretty long stint, by millennial standards, at a soul crushing corporate job, I booked a one way ticket back home. What did home hold for me? My younger sister, my dark black (with some greys) shih tzu, and my best friend; my mother. Our relationships over the years had been a roller coaster; one filled with co-dependence and, at the end, the realization that we needed to completely re-define it and ourselves to move forward. Her struggles with mental illness, divorce, #widowlife, ailing parents, psycho relatives, and everything in between had taken a toll on my young childhood, so the majority of my twenties were spent trying to transform her into the mom I knew was hiding underneath the medication and manic episodes. If I could just help her see the woman I saw, I knew I could get my mom and maybe some of my childhood back.
The woman that came to this country at the tender age of 20, worked her way up, and in the corporate world, knowing nothing of the language or the culture that was designed to make it extra difficult for her. She grew up as we grew up, dancing and singing badly to boyband obsessions and helping us through the best and worst times of our lives while staying poised, strong, and somehow together in the midst of her demanding and abusive in-laws. I know she was in there. Somewhere. The uncomfortable truth was that the woman I worked so hard to bring back was permanently gone, but what emerged from the rubble and wreckage that was our dysfunctional family was an even stronger, more self aware, brutally honest woman (sans mother, wife, daughter in-law) that stood on her own two feet, speaking up even when the rest of her shook. After my father passed away, we flourished. It was as if all the darkness and sins our family was being crushed under left with him and we could finally bask in the light of our progress, grit, and newly resurrected relationships. I had a newfound respect for who my mother was becoming. I felt as though I was watching my own child grow and thrive in a way I didn't think was possible. I could cry just thinking about it. I have. Fast forward to March 8th, 2018. I fly into Pearson International Airport and I'm reunited with the loves of my life. Life will be better. I had a plan (because I'm so good at those) and I was ready to hit the ground running and: find my dream job, get a beautiful condo downtown, and resume my independent life while still being very connected (emotionally and now physically) with my family and friends. It was fool proof. What could go wrong? Narrator: Everything. And it did. The saying "when it rains it pours" should be re-worked to, "when it rains, God is taking a huge dump on your life and you should try to stay indoors because you will be shat on." Or something along those lines. I am month six into unemployment and have no career/job in sight. I went to drop off my resume at a Starbucks and the Manager told me to find something I was more qualified to do, snickered, and turned back to mopping up a freshly spilled latte. This is what I'm dealing with. So you can imagine that depression and anxiety isn't far off. But the only thing that is keeping me going, the only person that I can really talk to and be in the same room with without panicking, is her. My mother. The one that taught me to read and write and trust the heart she passed down to me. The one that even in the fits of her schizophrenic episodes, could always see me. The little girl she knew that was stubborn and rambunctious but made it out of whatever tunnel life put in front of her.
So now, at 33, I turn to her for support. I am living in her house, eating the groceries she buys, and I am at her mercy, needing her support and guidance because I just can't face it on my own. And, as per usual, she rises to the occasion because she trained her whole life for this. When I said that I was going to need to lean on her, she puffed her chest out, put her evening tea down, and told me she was waiting for this moment. I couldn't help but trust that. So as I sleep in a bedroom with purple walls and a ceiling fan that gives me anxiety just sleeping under it, I am washed over with the warmth of her presence, the safety in her words, and the faith in her eyes that things are going to be okay.