I went to visit my mother last night in the care centre where she’s been for the past few weeks. She has been extremely depressed, not eating and losing too much weight. At 91, her weight was ten pounds less than her age when she arrived at the centre. “I have no appetite and I’m always tired,” she said.
“When you choose not to eat, you will be tired,” I replied.
“But how can I eat?” she asked. “I’m tired all the time.”
For my mother, the inciting incident was a woman at the assisted living facility where she lives who bullied her during a card game. Unable to let it go, her thinking kept spiralling around and around the events, her story became fixated on all that was wrong with what the other woman did and how it hurt her.
I’ve forgiven her, my mother said. But I’m not going to speak to her anymore.
Will that get you more peace or less peace? I asked.
My mother wants peace in her life. It is all she’s really wanted for a long time. Peace.
I have not always been the vessel of peace for my mother. I have struggled to let go of resentment. Of anger. Of feeling abandoned long ago by this woman who gave me birth.
I have struggled to be forgiving and loving and caring.
I can learn a lot from my struggle with my mother. I can grow a lot from seeing where in holding onto what I cannot change, I have held myself back from being all that I want to be in this world — kind, caring, loving, a light of joy, a circle of Love.
See, I’ve carried the same thinking as my mother. I forgive her, but I’m not going to trust her with my heart.
Hello? Who am I kidding?
One of the many things I learned through the experience of almost dying in my search for love in all the wrong places is that I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.
I learned this — but where my mother is concerned, I did not practice it. I have held onto fear. I have kept my distance fearing she will do or say or respond in ways that will make the past, once again, the present. In my mind, I believe that to my mother I am not good enough. I am not who she wants me to be. And in holding onto the belief that I am not the daughter my mother wanted, I keep myself separate and away from being who I am when I let go of fear and stand in Love.
In fear, I forgive… with restrictions. I give… with expectations. I love… with limits.
As I sat with my mother last night and listened to her, really, really listened, my heart broke wide open. My mother has seldom known happiness, not the deep, deep joy of feeling at peace, at one with the world around you. Not because she didn’t want it. She did. Desperately at times. But life for my mother has not given her what she wanted. A lifetime battle with depression. Grief. Fear and worry have robbed her of the peace she so desperately wanted and continues to want today.
As I listened I thought about how challenging life is when depression and fear and worry drown our peace of mind and steal our joy.
I thought about how sad it is to not know our own magnificence. To not feel our own light shining brightly.
My mother has a kind and loving heart. It is the core of who she is.
And like me, she struggles at times to allow kindness to be her first response.
Like me, she has not always known she is worthy.
Like me, she has felt pain and hurt and sorrow and grief.
Like me, she has searched for understanding and yearned to be seen and understood.
Like me, she has struggled to make sense of the past. Struggled to let go of what was never meant to be held onto.
Like me, she is perfectly human in all her human imperfections.
Perhaps, it wasn’t the journey into the darkness of an abusive relationship that was my greatest teacher. What if, it is my lifelong relationship with my mother? What if, in seeing and hearing my mother last night, in looking into the mirror of believing I can be present and loving, with conditions, I learn one of life’s great truths?
I cannot embrace forgiveness and love when I am holding onto fear.
Our lives are filled with teachers. People who mirror for us our greatest fears, our biggest obstacles. With my mother, I have held onto the belief that to be safe, I must stand outside and not come in from the cold.
What if I am always safe when I stand in my light and shine fiercely beyond the limits of my fears?
What if I choose to live from the heart of my truth? I am always safe when I stand in forgiveness and embrace Love.