You might know that I devote my life to love in every moment, and that, generally speaking, I am honest. And if you know me at all you know that I miss the mark on these things all the time—more on the former than the latter. But the path, for me, is reaching for that kind of love and honesty.
If you’ve been around me much in person, you’ve probably heard my confession that I yelled at my mother a few weeks ago. (I’ll spare you the choice words.) This was a moment when I noticed I wasn’t loving her, but it was also a moment that helped me love myself more clearly. In my experience, self-compassion has to come first. I simply cannot love someone I find difficult unless I love myself first.
So it’s been a dilemma. I got into blame-space and anger toward her in that moment. Luckily, I was able to get out of that judgment-mind pretty quickly. But only by being away from her. And since then, I’ve been asking myself what kind of compassion I can offer her. Is the best I can do to simply avoid her? This question has come up over and over during my entire adult life. Can I maintain a compassionate relationship with her, or must I walk away?
Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that my mother is too wounded to be able to have an honest conversation about this stuff. She hurts so much. Because her sense of self-worth is so damaged, and for many other reasons, I concluded that she is not able to have the kind of mutually enriching relationship I long for. My shorthand for this was to think of her as having an illness.
Some folks don’t like it, but this perspective allowed me to be kind toward her much more easily. I imagined that she had something like Alzheimers or Schizophrenia or a developmental disability, and it was just no problem, then, to have compassion for her — and more importantly, to not need her.
But this prevented me from being honest with her. I don’t imagine I’d go up to a parent with Alzheimers and say, “You know, Mom, I have to muster all my courage before I walk into this room. Your yelling at me gets on my last nerve, and every time I talk to you, I go cry in my hubby’s arms.” This approach helped me cope with mom, but it didn’t really leave room for honesty.
This year for Mothers Day, my mom is getting honesty. She’s about to learn why I don’t call (because my serenity falls apart when she berates me), and about how I’ve tried to keep this from her by arranging visits when I can humor her, or only seeing her when I’m particularly strong. She’s about to learn how much her constant stream of not-good-enough messages puts distance between us.
This is the where my intention to love her meets with her need and pain and lashing out. This is where they come together, for now. It is always shifting, so I won’t say it’s where it will stay, but for now, it’s time to talk with her.
I’m excited, actually, because I have such peace around the upcoming conversation. I’ve finally exhausted all other options; honesty is what’s left, and some how it’s begun to look not just possible, but kinda beautiful.