Part two of a three part series. Click here for part one.
As I was saying in “Mom, I have your Back…Do you have Mine?”
The work was not about getting my Mother to change. It was about me reclaiming my power and belief in myself. ‘Being present’ rather than ‘going away.’ Learning to have my own back. Stand up for myself. Love and deeply listen to my body’s messages.
How was I ever going to do it? I got backlogged by my Mom’s career as a concert pianist. During her concert tours I remember my parents leaving home where my oldest brother repeatedly beat on me. I felt my Mom didn’t care enough to keep me safe. At age 6 a voice in my head started blaring, “I must not be worth it.” Fast forward 20 years. I was still hearing the same voice. I lived the ongoing challenges of staying clear in my mind while navigating the daily craze and distraction of mothering kids, home, husband, my massage practice and teaching yoga.
Despite all of my self-discipline I was at my wit’s end. Even though I had become a young mother, what I really needed was a Mother-Mentor. A wise older woman to model a healthy powerful presence in my life. To help to heal the wounds and restore my faith. A woman who ‘had my back.’
After years of suffering from my self-critical mind…I found the perfect Mother-Mentor. Rita Rivera-Fox offered me a clear reflection of myself with the support of a ‘Super Mother.’ She had total faith in me, when I didn’t. Her unconditional love, empowerment and guidance shined so brightly that over time I learned how to recognize the lenses of blame, fear, shame and being a victim…which ultimately were the roots of my dis-empowerment.
Step 1: See and Heal the Wound with Awareness.
The tendency is to see the wound, associate it with someone, then make them wrong. What I learned was to see myself with the wound as a child. I saw where, when, how and why I believed the story of my wound. Rather than contributing to the drama in the story, I let myself feel whatever was inside.
On my own, this step would have been impossible. As a master trickster in the arts of self-justification and victimhood, I easily blamed my parents and had good reasons in my mind. They abandoned me to an unsafe situation. And kept doing it. Over the years many iterations of the abandonment story validated my mind’s belief that ‘I must not be worth it.’
What if I had the opportunity to express what I really felt? And truly be heard? I didn’t know how to trust feeling safe, nurtured and loved. I wanted to stop being bullied and hurt. I wanted him to leave me alone. So I said it. And I felt it deep in my bones. And with Rita’s help, I came to my own rescue. As the adult, I learned how to nurture these younger versions of myself each of whom longed for ‘accolades, attention and expression’ as my mother had said she longed for as a concert pianist. My journey was about taking everything back including the grief, anger, sadness and rage. Not being understood, abandoned and alone.
Step 2: Rebuilding Trust in Myself.
“You have lost your faith in yourself. But I have complete faith in you. And I will hold your faith until you are ready to take it back. This is my promise to you.” Rita blew me away when she spoke these words! I knew exactly what she meant. Throughout my life I was lied to over and over. So my truth-o-meter was pretty sensitive to bogus claims. Rita told me the truth, even when it was hard to hear. She embodied the image of Mom I had longed for. This was a huge step…to trust an older woman. At this stage of the game, what I was trusting was pretty darn crazy…that I wasn’t good enough or anything enough for that matter.
I learned to pay attention to my inner voice, body and feelings. Isn’t that what we want from Mom? It was really important to honor the rage, alienation and take full possession of my feelings. This step was a profound act of “Mothering” myself and getting my Mother back. I began reclaiming who I am without judgment, as a healthy mother does with her child, the Mother I chose to be….without blaming anyone.
My parents never realized the depth of my fear and rage I felt at my brother for battering my body. Sure, they failed to give me what I needed. But my making them wrong for umpteen years certainly wasn’t helping me feel safe and empowered. On the contrary, it was debilitating and dis-empowering. Rita asked me if I felt ready to take my power back. Forgive and move on!
Rita guided me to see I had options: A. Self-empowered Love, or B. Crippled Victim. Was I ready to have my own back? Or did I still need to be a victim? Alongside my Mother Mentor I rekindled the faith in myself to share my love and light in the world.
I wanted to know what qualities were in the fabric of a successful woman and Mom. So I posed the same question to Rita that I had asked Doris so many years earlier. “Why did you choose the work you do?” Her reply underscored the reason I choose her as a Mother Mentor in the first place. “My heart came to life when I chose to become a guide. More than anything, I needed to share the breakthroughs I’d experienced with those ready to do the work.”
Healing the false belief that I needed ‘accolades, attention and acknowledgement’ in order to be loved/successful required exposing/clearing what I had taken from Doris as the gospel of motherhood. With the clear guidance of Rita I learned to embrace the Mother inside myself as my greatest ally. I felt the love inside of myself. Thank you Rita!
Step 3: Transforming Our Relationships.
A whole new world opened up. I began to transform the relationships with my Mom, daughters, and other women including clients all over the world. I stopped blaming my Mom, which took the sting out between us. I see Doris for who she is, rather than who I wanted her to be. She has many distorted beliefs that laced her 83-year life journey with guilt, shame and fear of rejection. Through it all, it’s remarkable how much enjoyment, love and creativity she has given the world through her music and art.
To truly see Doris, I needed to forgive her. To truly see myself, I needed to embrace the me I always wanted to be. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the strength, courage, love and creativity that grow from the timeless lineage of Mothers/Women/Daughters. For years I’ve practiced facing fear in order to step out into the world! This practice and tools have been shared with my daughters, sons and a multitude of clients over the years.
The latest incarnation of my transformational journey is the Mother Daughter Roadmap. Mothers and daughters come together to strengthen their bonds and empower each other. Each time I witness the power of this sacred relationship through our work together—healing wounds and receiving what has been yearned for—I am deeply touched and inspired. The mother is at the root like the very soil we walk upon. It is time to take back our power and celebrate who we are as women and model that for our daughters!
Stay tuned for Part 3: Mom, Before you Leave, I want you to Know…
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta