What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series click here. Today’s guest post is by Kelli J.

Photo by: Nine Kopfer 

When she moved here to be near me, I really thought things had changed between us. All the years I spent praying and hoping for peace between she and I were finally going to pay off for me. I was a grown up now, and she finally realized that, or so it seemed.

I’m a mother now too, so surely she’s accepted that my load is heavy, I assumed.

Things will be fine, in fact they will be great, because I’ve waited so long for them to be, and surely because of everything that’s happened between us, she would never hurt me again.

But I was wrong.

At 40 years of age, I have finally had to accept that some things, and some people don’t change. Won’t change. Can’t change. At 40, I’ve had to swallow the bitter truth that my mom is never going to be who I’ve so desperately wanted, needed, and yearned for her to be.

My mom is a wounded warrior. And, I am the collateral damage.

She never had the tools to build the life she wanted, and because she was afraid to face the reality of who she was, she built a wall so high, that only God could see over it, into the person my mom is.

She is hurt, but not yet broken. She is spiritual but not in touch. She is giving, but not generous. And she loves me, but isn’t loving.

I recognize in myself the need for a mom, as I mother my children and wish that I could call on her wisdom, but I can’t. I sometimes need a hug. The kind only your mom could give you, but the embrace is now off limits as I’ve realized that the need for boundaries is far greater.

My mom lives 6 minutes from me, but I have to love her from a distance. Because loving someone toxic is like setting yourself on fire and expecting them to feel the heat.

The last straw for me was just before Christmas. My mom had come over to drop my son off who’d been with her for the day. I could feel tension the moment she walked in, but I tried to make small talk and keep things light when All of a sudden, my mom starts berating me and scolding me for one thing after another that I had apparently done recently that upset her. I was used to being read the riot act by her, so I tried to remain calm. But, after about 15 minutes of her tyraid I blew my fuse. Things escalated and she stormed out of my house.

That, of course, was not sole situation leading to my decision to separate from her. My mother and I have oceans of terrible, awful, and hurtful memories between us, but im the only one who has felt the suffocation… And I’m the one who has to dog paddle my way to the top every time her tides of rage wash over me.

That was 5 months ago. I haven’t been able or willing to speak to her since then. But oddly enough, I know I’ve forgiven her. The difference this time, is that I realized that reconciliation does not always accompany forgiveness.

After years and years of emotional neglect and abuse, I have finally realized that love does not require one person to be a doormat, while the other one dominates and be littles. I have finally found my peace in realizing that just because she’s my mom, does not mean I have to endure her cruelity. And now, I clearly understand that ‘honoring my mother’ does not mean that as a 40 year old woman, I must also ‘obey’ her.

It physically hurts my heart, my whole being actually, when I witness a healthy, loving mother/ daughter relationship at the mall or grocery store. Because I am in mourning. Mourning the dream of what I wished I had with my mom.

It’s almost more painful to mourn someone who’s still living. But I’ve also realized that what I’m grieving is a dream, and that makes it a little easier. But after mourning and grieving comes accepting. And I’m somewhere in the grey right now. I don’t yet know how to move forward without my dream. So, for now I love from a distance. Emotionally, physically, and honestly.

I want others to know that just because you may have a dysfunctional parent or parents, doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. I want people to understand that it’s ok to walk away from someone who doesn’t treat them with respect, even if it’s a parent. And I especially want those people to know that they are worthy and deserving of a healthy and fulfilling life full of real love… the kind that gives and not just takes.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the ways my life’s been affected by my mothers unwillingness to recognize her own faults. There are probably more ways than I even recognize. But one thing I can tell you is that there is light at the tunnels end. And I have found it by respecting myself, and learning day by day and little by little where she ends and where I begin.