Behind The Music: Oh Mother // 5.14.23
howdy, pals, and welcome to yet another installment of Behind The Music. I'm jumping around in the order of the Crystal Eyes album track list today. in the last entry, we looked at the song emptymidnighthighway. the next song on the album is This Weather, but I'm skipping it right now and moving right to Oh Mother. it is Mother's Day after all. (don't worry, we'll come back to "This Weather" next time!)
if you've listened to Oh Mother, you've probably figured out that it's about my mom. (if you haven't figured it out: hey, this song is about my mom.) in order to really unpack this track, I'm gonna share a little about some darker aspects of my life, so if you're not in the best headspace right now, you might want to stop here and come back to read this entry another time.
I'm pretty open with y'all about my struggles with mental health. there are a lot of components that tie into those struggles, and this song looks at a couple of those many components: genetics & relationships.
my relationship with my mom wasn't always the greatest. I mean, what mother-daughter relationship doesn't have its ups and downs? but as I've gotten older, I've realized my mom and I are very alike in a lot of ways that I couldn't see or understand when I was younger.
my mom has struggled with her mental health for a lot of her life, too. of course, as a kid and teenager, I never knew that. I just knew she was my mom. sometimes I'd see her do things that I didn't really understand, but we never talked about those kinds of things in my family. so I didn't have the slightest clue about what she'd been going through until I was in my 20s and had started fighting my own mental health battles.
as I began navigating my journey into treating and managing my mental health, I started looking back at some parts of my past and wondering if they were connected at all to the mental health challenges I'd eventually face as an adult. being afraid to sleep as a young child, having really vivid nightmares, crying spells as a young teenager… were those things all tiny red flags stringing themselves up a mass? were they echoes of a warning for what was yet to come?
at that point, my mom had started opening up to me more about her story. I'm not sure why it took so long for us to have conversations about it. I think I had gotten tired of not talking about it, and when I started sharing about what I was experiencing, my mom connected with that from her own experiences. we bonded a lot through those discussions.
sometimes, during these talks, my mom would look at me and just say, "I'm so sorry." for awhile I just thought she was being apologetic because I had experienced some difficult things, like an empathetic sort of apology. but then one day she explained, "I feel like I gave all of this to you." and I realized that's what she'd been apologizing for the entire time. that's when I started to wonder if my mom had noticed those little warning signs I had tried to throw into the universe when I was younger.
turns out, she did.
my mom worried about me. a lot. and I think it's because she saw a lot of herself in me. when my mom was a young woman, she didn't have access to the resources she needed to properly tend to her own mental health. and if she never learned how to approach her own mental illness in a healthy way, how could she teach me to approach mine? when she saw me hurting, she often didn't know what to do. and I'll be honest, I didn't always make it easy. a lot of the time, my hurt came out as anger and isolation. I didn't know what was going on inside of myself, and it scared me. so I pushed people away.
my mom didn't get it right all of the time. no parent does; that's just not humanly possible. but I didn't need her to get it right all of the time. there are several of these moments that I remember when I was clearly hurting and my mom didn't know what to say or do. she was probably just as frustrated, angry, and scared as I was, and she was at a total loss for how to handle it. so she just held me through it, until I came out on the other side.
at it's heart, that's what Oh Mother is about. my mom has spent her life trying to break her own demons, but she never quite figured out how to tame them. and then she saw them start to slink towards me, so she threw everything she could at them. not everything worked, but those moments when she held me, a crying, snotty ball of emotions… I've held on to those moments like small, sacred treasures. they are the amulets that have helped me continue to move forward safely in the darker times. Oh Mother is a homage to mine and my mom's story; a psalm of gratitude for all she did to help me when I was young and for all she's done to help me heal as I've grown.
so thanks, mom. this one's for you.