I headed to SoulCycle this morning to get my mind off what I knew was bound to be a difficult day. Little did I know I’d end up leaving in tears and learning one of the greatest lessons of my life.
As today marks Mother’s Day, the class was packed with moms and their daughters, smiling, laughing and taking polaroid pictures at a little station the studio had set up to commemorate the fun morning. When they asked if I’d like to grab my mom and take a photo, I simply smiled and shook my head no.
I was alone.
Today marks the fifth Mother’s Day I’ve spent without my mom. I never really know what to expect from these types of holidays. Some years I find myself doing okay, smiling over memories, while other years those same memories debilitate my entire body with the overwhelming pain of heartbreak. For whatever reason, I woke up today and felt the latter.
I thought that taking this spin class would get me to fight through the sadness and help me turn the day around for the positive. However, when the instructor ended the 60-minute ride with an anecdote about how her mother taught her to always wear sunscreen, my heart throbbed as that familiar feeling of pain shot through my body.
Here come the tears I’m so often capable of fighting back. But sometimes, just sometimes…
I quickly got to my car before letting out a scream of anger (or was it sadness?) and admittedly hit my steering wheel a few times as the tears and sweat dripped down my face simultaneously.
You see, my mom taught me so much in the 20 years I was lucky enough to have her by my side…but she forgot one thing.
She taught me the importance of a manicure by the time I was in fifth grade: every two weeks on the dot and make sure you become friends with the woman who does them. I haven’t missed an appointment with my girl Judy in years. She taught me to drink a French martini but always make sure to explain to the bartender exactly how to make it: more pineapple, less cranberry, please! She taught me to sing in the car at the top of my lungs, even though I’ve always had a terrible voice, and never take myself too seriously.
She taught me great style, and along with that, she taught me how to hide a shopping spree from my dad until the American Express bill came in the mail. I was in charge of giving the puppy eyes and explaining why the four-digit rack-up was essential to my life. After all, “Mom and I share all of our clothes so it’s like the price is cut in half, if you think about it!” (I’d memorized and recited this speech more than once).
She taught me to be the bigger person and yet never take anyone’s bullshit. She taught me how to love deeply and passionately and always make sure it’s reciprocated. When I couldn’t get over Kyle from college who simply didn’t want me like I wanted him, she assured me it would all make sense eventually. It does now. She taught me respect and dignity and strength and perseverance. She taught me that, even when you’re battling against all odds, you still get up every day and fight with everything you have.
She taught me what it means to be loved by a truly wonderful mother, and she taught me that there’s nothing else like it.
What she didn’t teach me, though, was how to live without her.
She didn’t teach me how to get through a breakup without her warm embrace telling me it would all be okay. She didn’t teach me how to get through holidays and birthdays and family milestones without her smile and laughter filling the room. She didn’t teach me how to cook a fucking Thanksgiving dinner let alone wrap a damn Christmas present. She didn’t teach me how I’m supposed to get her nod of approval when I find “the one” or how to get through my eventual wedding day or first child without her holding my hand.
She didn’t teach me how to dream about her nightly and wake up every morning only to realize she still wasn’t here.
As I sat in my car with my face in my hands, my head pulsing with anger or sadness or whatever it is, I tried to wrap my mind around how to get myself through it–the moment, the day…life, in general.
Tonight it hit me.
After having brunch with my grandma and our family–a forced occasion we all know will never be the same, swallowing mimosas along with our reality–I came home and slept off the heartbreak for a solid three hours before waking up to several messages that made me realize something new.
My mom never taught me how to live without her because she never needed to.
I received messages and phone calls from several friends and even a few simple acquaintances, from two women I consider family and even someone I’ve only spoken to once before in my life. All of these people reached out to let me know they’re thinking about me, sending me love and promising it will all be okay.
Right before I fell asleep, I prayed for my mom to give me some type of sign–something to tell me it would be okay. These people are my sign.
From that, I came to realize she’s still here, working through other people and parts of the universe to make sure I’ll always be okay. She’s never really gone, and I’m never really alone. She might not be here to physically hold my hand, but I have so many amazing people who will. She won’t dance with me at my wedding or cheers a French martini with me after my next big job promotion. But she’ll be there. I’ll feel her in the music and in the extra bit of pineapple juice and in the friends and family that surround me at that moment.
I’ll sense her in the air and see her soul through that little ray of sunshine that pokes through the clouds on my morning drives. I’ll know she’s there when a butterfly passes me on my walk to Starbucks or when then wind causes one perfectly heart-shaped leaf to fall on the blouse I borrowed from her and still wear. I’ll notice her in the ocean at that perfect time of day when the sun hits the waves and causes them to sparkle, and I’ll see her in my dreams when I close my eyes tonight.
But most of all, I’ll feel her in my heart forever.
She never had to teach me how to live without her love because that love will continue to live within me. Once you know that kind of love, it never leaves your soul.
I realized this on my drive home tonight. When I turned on the radio, one of her favorite songs played, and I sang it at the top of my lungs. I know she was right there with me doing the same, terrible voices and all.
Happy Mother’s Day.