06/20/2014 06:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Losing My Mother Defined Me, Unleashed Me and Changed Me

I was a guest on my brother Brian Koppelman's #TheMoment Podcast earlier this week, and it (of course) got me thinking (wait, I am always thinking!) about our mom.

I think we all have some mixed up crazy part of our brain. But most of us have a bigger, healthier part of our brain that keeps the other less healthy part in check. In my mother's case, I believe the crazy side was just a bit larger than the not crazy side. And dealing with the ever-growing understanding of the lack of my mom's ability to control the off-kilter part of her brain (not that) long after she's gone fills me with extra sadness.

I'm sad because I want to tell her I get it. I really do. I get the anxiety part that consumed her. I have inherited it!

I get the huge insecurity part -- I have that too! But I also got my dad's pragmatic view of things, my mom's ability to connect with people, my dad's ability to connect to people, my dad's work ethic and his optimism. I think I may even have his singing voice, too!

I feel sad that my mom was part of a generation that felt so ashamed of any odd thoughts or odd behaviors that she couldn't really laugh at what made her unique, fantastic and also impossible. I get to share my issues daily on the radio, or here on my blog, or on Twitter or FB or anywhere, really.

Although there is still some taboo over being super-open about what ails us emotionally, there is significantly less taboo now than there was years ago. My generation is lucky in this way.
My mom was an astounding beauty who never knew it. She was warm, loving and delightfully zany. And her face was so expressive. Clearly, I've inherited her expressions. I'm beyond grateful for this unbreakable link to her. But my mom was sure she was ugly because in addition to her magnificent moon pie baby blue-eyed face, she had a chubby pear shape much of her life with not so glamorous legs. (Thanks mommy. I have your legs!) Later in life my mom was super skinny, but the scars from battling her weight never allowed her to realize what she had become. (Note to self: Allow myself to realize what I've become which is not as skinny as she was but no longer as fat as I WAS!) My mommy was incredibly smart, sassy, talented and funny, but unknowingly hid this much of the time by being overly invested in what didn't really matter like her hair length and color, the wrinkles on her face (which were never really permitted to accumulate), the cleanliness of the house, the color of her bedroom walls, the handbag she had to have, the dress my sister or I shouldve been wearing, the length of my brother's hair and the full assortment of not-to-be-eaten-by-me baked goods in her kitchen at all times.

My mom had the kindest spirit and a huge heart. She made the prettiest, most fun and most elaborate parties for all of us, the stuff of legends -- ask anyone who got to go to our weddings, my brother's bar mitzvah or my sister and my sweet sixteens! She did love to see us smile. Her incessant need to take care of others was compromised only by her obsession with perfect aesthetics. And how angry it made her when something wasn't aesthetically pleasing.
Her mother never told my mom that she was pretty, capable or competent. She wasn't told she could be everything. Or anything. And I think she could never find a way to change that message.

My mother became defined by everything around her rather than what was actually inside of her.
I believe she couldn't even assess accurately her hopes and dreams.

I was told by both of my parents that I could be whatever I wanted to be. My intelligence was always credited along with my pretty face and much too fat a**. But my mother's subtext was always be thin enough to find a good man, get married and make babies.

Also she recommended I become a judge.

She really did think a judgeship could be around the corner for me.

I know. Crazy! My mom spent countless hours and dollars on what I looked like. Clothing that wasn't my style, hair, teeth, spas, trainers, nutritionists and more.

She did this out of love. Truly. She couldn't love me more than she did.

In addition to constant hugs, kisses, smothering and phone calls, her way of showing that love was by trying to turn me into her idea of aesthetic perfection. (It didn't work!)

Looking back, I would've preferred a nurturing of my talents -- like my gift of gab or my singing like a daintier Ethel Merman or less full of vibrato Andrea McCardle's ANNIE. My dad did his best to balance out my mom's issues but back in the '70s, '80s and '90s, he had to work. A lot. He brought most of the fun. And so many extraordinary memories. And today he tells me he so sad he didn't realize some of what I went through. I know this is true. And I often feel sad he has to even hear about it!

(PS Dad, I am totally OK now.)

My childhood is remembered in extremes. The freaking incredible things I got to see and do. The giant laughs in our kitchen over who knows what, and the personal pain and anguish I often experienced. By the time I was 23 years old, I found my way to therapy and started to figure out who I wanted to be separate and apart from my mom's view of me. This was challenging. It made her angry.

Separating from her was a slap in her face. Much like my being overweight must have been.
As a grownup, I know this anger she had wasn't really about me.She got over the anger and our relationship became less full of conflict and much more full of joy. Especially when I got married to the right guy for me and we made two incredible babies. I think my mom didn't get to do everything she wanted to do.

And I realized at some point that my life had to be different.

I had to fulfill myself beyond the stuff, beauty regimens and fixing my (already perfect in my eyes) kids.

When I started working, when I found my passion in talking to and with others on the radio and TV, our relationship really changed dramatically. My mom got to see me from a different view. It was incredible. We still fought about my clothing choices (what was wrong with the same sweatpants and same sweatshirts each day I'll never know!) but the understanding, pride and dare I say admiration of what I'd become in a professional sense were palpable and life affirming.

She saw my full person, not just my full body.

What a gift to have come full-circle like that before she got sick and died.

It was almost magical.

May through July is super emotional for me since my mom died in July of 2008.

My body remembers what she went through. What all of us went through during her pancreatic cancer and death. And the immediate aftermath.

The wounds get covered by the slightest of scabs that are easily scratched off by the gentlest of touches.

Losing my mommy defined me, unleashed me, changed me, and annihilated me.

But unlike like my mom -- who ran out of chances to find her version of happiness -- I have that chance. I have that opportunity. And I will not waste it.