By Sean Kosofsky
At age 30, I am only now fully realizing that nearly everyone I know has a love/hate relationship with their mother. Although I have never been in therapy, I was talking to a therapist friend once about my frustrating mother and she reassured me that I was not alone. I couldn’t believe that after just 10 minutes of my pouring my heart out about my mom that I would hear such profound words of wisdom and validation.
I felt liberated. I felt validated. I felt like I probably should have been in therapy all these years instead of dating people that subconsciously reminded me of my mother. Either way, I am clearer now than ever before about the role my mother has played in my life – for better and for worse.
My mom and I are both Aries, which means we are good leaders. I am an activist and she is a teacher and mother. It also means that we are supposed to be bright, even though we both got the airhead gene. But, ultimately it also means – if you believe in this stuff – that we are stubborn and always think we are right. Because this is MY column I will offer that I AM usually right, but she just won’t admit it.
As a young teenager, however, one thing I was very wrong about was my own value as a person. I struggled very hard with my sexuality and was constantly throwing tantrums and bizarre displays of melodrama. I ran away many times (although not very far and I always came back), and I threatened suicide more than a few times. I did this not just because I was depressed about being gay, but also because any other weight on my shoulders compounded the dilemma of my homosexuality. Getting in a fight at school or not getting my way on something could mean a frantic cry for attention that sometimes ended in me threatening to take my own life. It wasn’t meant to be manipulative, but it was a desperate cry for someone to understand me.
My mother, as crazy as I think she might be, was the one with the cool head. She is why I am still alive to this day. I would look right in my mother’s face and tell her that because of something she did, or something I felt, that I was going to end my life so I could end the pain. I wasn’t sure if I was trying to punish others or just myself or just end the punishment I felt I was enduring, but I was insistent that suicide was the answer. This was very selfish of me and I did it in a very scary way. I would tell my mother that when she woke up, I would be dead. I was very fragile and very serious. The slightest mishandling of my situation, or trying to call my bluff, would have probably ended in my death.
My mother was the architect of my intervention. She knew my spirit and knew that as a happy, kind and generous kid, I would never do anything to hurt another person. She used this tool to save my life. She shook me, looked directly into my eyes and yelled at me that if I killed myself, she would have nothing to live for and would kill herself, too, unable to handle the grief and loss of her son. I was being told that my actions would actually hurt and possibly kill another person, starting a chain reaction of disappointment, grief, sadness and overall anger at me by the entire family. My legacy would be one of selfishness that was to blame a great deal of pain.
It worked. My mother’s threat saved me on numerous occasions from deciding to slit my wrists or swallow an entire bottle of whatever I thought could kill me.
I owe all that I have accomplished to my parents, but I want to thank my mother in these pages, because she saved me from becoming one of the statistics that drives me in my work. She won’t take credit for this, but trust me; she showed leadership, brilliance and stubbornness in raising me. She is an Aries, and I love her. Thank you, Mom.