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  • Writer's pictureAnne Heffron


Photo by Brad Ewell

I've been living in my childhood town now for two years, and in a month or so I'll pack up and go back to California. I've been on the East Coast for two and a half years, and it feels like I've been here for a very long time in wonderful ways, in summer and winter school vacation ways. Time stretches in humidity and snow, I think.

My life always seems to be intent on teaching me things in a dogged, never-ending manner, and so I was curious what I was going to learn by coming here. I learned so, so much about friendship and commitment and loving life by working with Kathy Delaney-Smith on her almost-completed book Get Your Head Out of Your Ass and Live Your Best Life. I also learned a lot about friendship by spending time with Joyce Maguire Pavao and my mom's friend (and now my friend) Mimi Earley. Being around smart, hilarious, generous, grounded women is the best school in the world. You can be yourself around women like that because they aren't afraid of you.

I learned that in order to leave home, you have to leave behind what needs to stay left behind. I didn't know why I felt so stuck here since my dad died. Part of me was afraid I was going to decide to stay forever and never get back to what I had claimed as home, never get back to an easy driving distance to my daughter.

One morning I lay in bed and really paid attention to my body. I had the sense I wasn't alone. I felt this heavy blanket of unhappiness inside of me, and I had the feeling it wasn't me. It was my mom. As crazy as this sounds, it felt crazier because when I asked her to get out of my body, she refused. I had to use my mind to yank her out and force her to go her own way. We battled. She really, really, wanted to fill my body with her own spirit, and I wanted, finally, to be able to strike out into the world, solo.

It was like Star Wars goes matriarchal.

I loved my mom when she was alive, and I love her still, but I don't want her to influence me as much as she has my whole life. It's complicated when you are adopted and you don't get to fully breathe into the influences of your biology. I can't even hear what my mind and body want most of the time because I'm still hard-wired to think about what my mother wanted of me and for me, first.

Anyway. All of this is to say, I'm free, and I'm super curious what life is like as me without her. Or at least without so much of her. I learned so many wonderful things from my mom, but I don't want to be her. When you are adopted, it can be even more important for the daughter to seem to be like the mother to make the relationship as real as possible, but that game is over.


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