Every year I struggle to find a Mothers day card that conveys in some small way what my Mom means to me. I’m too honest for the typical “You are my best friend and the most wonderful loving mother” card. My mother would cringe at such a card. It’s more like:
“Mom, we’ve been through hell and back and yet have managed to find some level of love’s common ground. As different as any mother-daughter relationship I’ve ever seen—but it works for us at this point in life.”
“Mom, we may never be really close, but there’s this sort of mutual understanding of what each feels and we’ve learned to accept that, lose the bitterness and find a satisfactory way to connect that doesn’t leave us both depleted.”
I also wince when I see social media posts of those with memories of such nurturing, caring mothers, when I know there are those out there whose conflictual maternal past inspires longing to vacation on an island without wireless connection this weekend.
So I wanted to write a post that reflects a glimpse of my own mother-daughter journey. There has to be a place for unmothered others who aren’t blaming or bitter, yet feel the loss at times.
What I learned from my mother is more from what she did not do, rather than what she did.
Lest you think I’m going to write a mommy bashing, blaming mini-memoir, let me assure you that I honestly am now grateful for my mother, for the lessons, and I love her more now than ever. I totally “get” her now and comprehend what was going on for her that produced the mother-output it did. Our relationship struggles in my adult life are resolved in the sense that we are no longer at odds with each other–no longer bitter. And we communicate solely by email…occasionally.
There’s a quote that I read in the book “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron, several years ago that struck a chord in my chest, sank to my stomach and wallowed there as a thick muddy goo, waiting for me to do something with it. It said:
“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” C.G. JUNG
What has compelled me most to seek answers…to seek personal healing and growth…to seek fun and figure out how to live and love my life is watching my mother not live hers.
I longed to see her beautiful smile more often–to hear her laugh and reside in the beautiful blonde-haired, Marilyn Monroe-meets-Dolly Parton charm and beauty. Brief snapshots gave clues to it. But the light would vanish quickly.
Fear and Depression would consume her life.
A word or glance from her own critical mother would shut her down for months—-still does.
So fearful of her mother’s tongue of disapproval, she once let go of what she called “the love of my life”, because he had been married and divorced several times, and according to her mother, there must be something wrong with him. I remember him. He was kind, there was life in him…and he saved my mother’s life once both literally and metaphorically. And she let him go…because her mother disapproved.
I recently read some advice, given to a gay man in his 20′s living with rigidly religious, critical parents (to put it mildly), in Tiny Beautiful Things, Advice from Sugar–Cheryl Strayed,
“You mustn’t live with people who wish to annihilate you. Even if you love them. Even if they are your mom & dad….”
How I wish my mother had known these things in her young adult years. That she’d had the resources available to her that I have had.
Another thing my mother taught me that I continue to learn is not to “hide”.
She was beautiful (and is), talented, intelligent and witty in a corny humorous way. It was only after I stepped back from all of the hurt and saw my life with her objectively that I saw her squashed potential. So afraid to allow her beauty to shine…to go her own way. A caged bird. Heart silenced.
I’ve learned that an unhappy, unfulfilled mother cannot truly give her children what she does not have.
There may be some in our culture who believe it to be a crime of selfishness for a mother to take care of her needs first. I’m living proof that children need to see a mom who takes responsibility for her life, for her happiness, and takes the time to fill her own soul with what she loves. Children long to see their parents thriving.
I’ve learned that I cannot live in a place devoid of color and life, music and dancing.
I’ve learned to break the rules that sucked my soul dry and to leave anyone, any job, any religion or any place that insinuated it was not ok to be myself or pursue my dreams.
I’m learning from my mother’s confinement to beliefs about aging–that I’m free–no matter the age. That it’s never too late to course correct.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter who approves—or who doesn’t. ”They” are not living my life or caring for my heart and soul…I AM!
How I still long for her to be free—to experience this adventure—to mother herself as she’s so needed—to be her own hero. I’m grateful for my mother’s lessons of omission and I dream of a time when she can make them her own.
So word to Hallmark on Mother’s Day: Would someone please sum up my blog post in words loving & concise enough for a Mother’s day card???? :-)
Mom…these are for you!