Mother's Day 2013: Why I Love My Mother and How Our Love Makes Me Brave

I've always been extremely attached to my Mother.

As a small child, I'd cling to her leg whenever anyone tried to talk to me. I'd bury my face in her green fuzzy nightgown when she went on a date night with my Dad, and I'd cry for her to come home. She'd wear that fuzzy green nightgown in the mornings when I'd ask her to make me "ice cream of wheat" for breakfast. She'd always send me my school lunch with a bite taken out of my sandwich (because it looked so good when she was making it) and a note on my napkin. There has always been something so nurturing about my Mom.

It's true that for many of us, there is nothing quite like the love we receive from our mother.

And others of us find the motherly-type love from others in their lives, and that is beautiful and magical all on its own.

As I said earlier, when I was a young girl, my mother was my rock. However, once I started recognizing my sexual orientation, I started to distance myself from her. Because deep down, I knew my mom wouldn't approve. Because I knew she'd try to change me, and not accept it. Because I knew she'd try to save me from going to hell. I knew if my mom found out that I was gay, I'd not only disappoint myself, I'd be disappointing one of the people in the world who loved me the most.

For many years, I lied and hid some of the deepest parts of myself from the world, from my mom, and worst of all, from myself.

And even after I came out to her, I still tried to hide myself. It wasn't until a few years ago, when my marriage started falling apart, and I started telling the truth of who I was, what my struggles were, and what my real inner life was like, that I allowed my mom a chance to really start to know me. I'm not sure when it started, but she started doing work on her own, too, looking at her own beliefs, and started really accepting me for exactly who I am, not despite who I am.

I started being more honest about who I am, because somehow I started to realize that it felt better to risk her not accepting me for who I truly am than for her to accept me for who I was pretending to be.

I started coming out to her in all areas of my life: a few months ago, I finally shared with her how my spiritual beliefs are vastly different from the religious ones I was raised with. I sat, crying at the dinner table, and she simply came over to my side and hugged me while I cried. I was honest about my experience as a child and she cried right along with me.

Standing in her dining room several weeks later, she started asking me questions about my past experiences. And, I started answering her honestly. It was scary to stand in front of her, feeling naked, but she cried with me, hugged me, and told me she simply wanted to know because she wanted to know me. It wasn't because she wanted to judge me or make me feel bad about the poor choices I made in my teenage and young adult years.

I walked away from that conversation feeling more known by my mom than ever before. We have both changed over the years. I've become more willing to be honest about who I am. And she's been willing to examine her beliefs and change them if they don't match up with her new understandings and insights of life. I've benefited hugely from this.

My mom is now one of my biggest allies for my rights and acceptance as a lesbian woman.

If you would have told me years ago that this is what my relationship with my mom would look like now, I would have had a hard time believing you.

I know not everyone's mother is as accepting as mine has become. I know sometimes you have to protect yourself, literally, from people. And I know that sometimes the people we love the most never do end up understanding us or accepting us for who we are.

But sometimes, people surprise you. And sometimes you surprise yourself. There is something that shifts inside you when you decide you are worth knowing.

When you open yourself up and show someone who you really are, sometimes you get the biggest and best life-affirming relationships. And sometimes you don't. But you'll never know until you try. The biggest gift of all is that, somehow, when you allow people to see you, you start to accept yourself more for who you are, regardless of others' reactions.

I encourage you to reflect on your relationships and to identify those with whom you can truly be yourself. Or those relationships where you are ready to be a little more vulnerable.

On this Mother's Day, I'd like to tell my mom that she is one of the most valuable people in my life. I know now that when I speak my truth and stand in who I really am, Mom will be there, cheering me on. I recently found a letter from her in which she said that when she thinks about me, she thinks:

"I am Woman. Hear Me Roar."

That's right, Mom. And I'll find you easily in the crowd because you'll be the one wearing The We Belong Project t-shirt, smiling because you love your gay daughter. And I'll feel blessed beyond measure.

Thank you to all you mothers who love your children for exactly who they are.

Happy Mothers Day.

Xo

Niki