“God, grant me the serenity –
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I was put in this life with the mother I have, and that’s the way it is.
My parents were both addicts. I spent my childhood in turbulent homes, around abusive men, and most of all, caring for a mother who hasn’t been sober since the ’80s. In the late 2000s, she lost her husband, her job, her home, and me.
We were reunited after a year in homes that weren’t my own, and I maintained the position of the adult in my relationship with my mother. I kept as much distance as I could from her and her way of life as I grew into adulthood. My distance broke her heart, while her lifetime of toxic habits broke mine.
In the midst of finding my own independence and optimistically learning how to build boundaries, I thought I was ready to confront the pain and anxiety that clouded our relationship. I began to photograph my mother. I set out to explore the way she interacts with her own space, and with me. I thought that this would somehow fix everything, or give me some sort of closure through all of these feelings of anger and resentment. I couldn’t ignore that fact that the individual I see in the mirror looks and sounds more like her with each passing day.
A rude awakening showed that I couldn’t change her, no matter how much time and photographs we shared. My reservations and resentment of her way of life haven’t entirely faded away. Slowly but surely, I’m finding that my resentment must be healed with acceptance of the fact that I cannot change her, and I can only try to muster up the courage to change the person that looks back at me in the mirror. I’m still trying to learn the difference.
By Ty Dahlstrom
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