Two and half years ago, I stormed out of my mother’s house after unloading a lifetime of resentment, frustration, and anger on her. I’ll spare you the details, but in essence, it wasn’t pretty. I took a plane the very next day to San Diego to be with my children, someplace I had hoped to be, but changed my plans to help mom out during her knee surgery.
We both said things that were hurtful, and if my own children had said even half of what I said to Mom, I’d die on the spot. To her credit, a month later, when I was back home in Texas and about to go to my first Breakthrough to Success with Jack Canfield, she called and said, “Let’s put this behind us. I want you to concentrate on your workshop.” I was relieved…but still for a couple of years there’s been some tension between us. We talked every week or so, and she was very supportive when I left my marriage and Texas and traveled to San Diego to be with my daughter and my grandsons. Yet we never again spoke of that argument, we never spoke of our feelings. We talked about the weather, feeding the birds, relatives, and her cats.
Mom and I never really understood one another.
We are so different. If we didn’t have the same eyes, I would swear I was switched at birth. Mom likes things to stay the same and surrounds herself with possessions that she no longer uses––or perhaps never used but acquired from a deceased relative when cleaning up estates. I purge my surroundings frequently––often out of necessity––particularly when my gypsy-like spirit senses a completion in one part of the world and sends me off looking for adventure in another. Mom keeps her heart shielded (she’s walked a tough path), and my heart is open for the world to see. I’ve seen her cry twice. If I don’t have tears in my eyes at least once a day, I’m searching for why I’m closing up.
For over a year now, I’ve been looking at my calendar and saying, “Well, maybe I’ll go to New York here…or maybe there…well maybe not then…I’ll have to wait and see…” The visit finally happened in October, thanks to my daughter’s promptings. She and the boys were going to be there for three weeks. Knowing the tension between my mom and me, Shana said, “We’ll be there to buffer whatever comes up. You’ll both be focused on the boys.” Knowing I needed another nudge, the universe sent my my friend Rina into action as well. She said, “Kath, you need to do this for you. What if something happened to her? You’d spend the rest of your life regretting not making the trip.”
The next morning as I sat at my computer, I suddenly had the feeling that I had to go. I made my plane reservations within minutes and hoped it wasn’t too late. Mom’s health has been precarious at best for several years, and now I really wanted to see her.
Divine choreography was at work again in my life––as it always is––in the weeks leading up to my trip. I was scheduled to assist my beloved mentors––Jack Canfield and Deb Sandella––in their training rooms for two weeks in Southern California, and then headed off for four days of master’s RIM® training with Deb in Denver before I headed to New York. Any remaining hooks dealing with my relationship with my mother were on the chopping block, and I knew there were some given my rising anxiety about the trip––even after dealing with many layers of our relationship in my mini RIM® sessions with Rina for the last few months.
At one point during the week my friend Jaro and fellow RIM® facilitator said, “Why are you acting like a child about this? You are a grown woman––and a grandmother! Where is the courage I see in you in other places in your life?” He hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t responding to my mother as an adult.
I was still the little girl longing for her mother’s love and attention.
And perhaps more importantly, I wanted to be recognized for who I was. It was time to dive in and take care of this once and for all. In a RIM® session later that day with my friend Brenda, and under the watchful eyes of Deb and Jaro, any remnants of the unresolved issues with my mother were cleared. Two days later I was on a plane to New York, not feeling anxious, but excited.
It took a couple of days for my mom and I to cross paths. Apparently she was more nervous than me, and a stomach bug sent her to bed. She warned my daughter and I off, not wanting to spread her germs to any of us. So the first visit, three days after my arrival, was short and sweet, as my daughter, the boys, and I were heading off to my sister’s for an overnight visit. Walking into mom’s house, I felt a tinge of anxiety, but a short prayer to just be present pushed it away.
She hadn’t changed much in the two years, except now she walked with a cane, and was a little stooped over. Her house hadn’t changed. Her possessions surrounded her, as did her multitude of cats. I sat down and yes, the focus was on the boys, who began to draw on a cardboard box with magic markers. It was a pleasant visit of about 45 minutes––an icebreaker.
Mom and I had a longer visit the day before Shana, the boys and I were to go home. Mom came to the open house at Shana’s mother-in-laws, where all of us were staying. We chatted mostly about her life, her activities, and the boys. I didn’t feel the need to share anything about what I was doing. In essence, I really didn’t need for her to see me, or my life. I was there to be with her. After accompanying her to her car, I walked around the yard under the moonlight with gratitude filling my heart. I’d seen my mother and said good-bye, truly not knowing if I’d ever see her again. And I was okay with that. There was a sense of completion in the air.
A week later, I was in Santa Barbara at Patty Aubery and Terese Dow Huggins’ women’s retreat. Mom called at some point during the evening reception, leaving a message about the newscaster that I’m sure she has a crush on. I hung up, and I said aloud, “My mom is such a hoot.” The spontaneity of my expression startled me. I felt as if I was looking down upon myself. I had never found my mother to be delightfully humorous. Up until that moment, I had usually expressed my frustration with her. Something had shifted.
The topic of conversation around the first morning’s share was about mothers. Tears filled my eyes, and I knew the integration of the lessons with mom hadn’t yet been completed in my heart. And then I had a sudden epiphany. During my trip, I had come to love and accept my mother for who she is, honoring the choices that she makes for her own life. I even told my daughter, “I don’t need my mom to do anything for me anymore. I have no expectations.” And now I knew I meant it. And I knew why it was so important for me to get to this place.
Many years ago, a friend, Hedda Leonard, shared that when dealing with her own mother and other difficult people in her life, she affirms that she will, “Stay in the present, Meet People Where They Are, and Respond Appropriately.”
By resolving the wounds of my little girl, I was able to be in the present, as the courageous woman I am. I met my mother where she is at, and I did respond appropriately––with love and compassion.
In doing so, I freed myself to be the mom that I am choosing to be at this stage in my life. For a time, I’d been struggling with guilt over my frequent travels and not being available as much as I once thought I would for Shana. And I hadn’t yet traveled to Austin to see my son, where he’d been living for about a year. Suddenly that was gone. I knew it was okay for me to make choices that were good for me––not to fulfill someone’s expectations of me. Hopefully it will model for my children that they can do the same. Freedom is such a relief.
Without all the work I’ve done on myself over the last few years, I know I’d still be a little girl locked in a grown woman’s body. And while there is still the playful child within me that loves to swing, climb monkey bars, slide down slides, dance, and laugh a lot, there is a grounded woman within me that is filled with a lot of wisdom. It’s a nice place to be.