Expressing gratitude for the Mother archetype is like oxygen for a woman’s psyche.
It doesn’t matter whether it happens with our birth mothers or wise nurturing feminine mentors. Without it, we, as women, whither away. We need to gush for Mama.
But first comes the work of healing wounds associated with Mom. Otherwise those thank you’s are just a phony window dressing. When we hold onto resentment or blame toward Mom, all our relationships either fall apart or breed drama/anxiety. Deep down, women live with a deep longing to just be in love. That’s it. So simple. Yet so often, we drop the scepter.
A long time ago, a wise woman Rita Rivera gifted me with a powerful tool. She explained that on our shoulders sits ‘the angel of death.’ At any moment this angel can snatch away life, and we are done. By living with the awareness that at any moment life can be lost, my choices became different. My desire to be open, share love and compassion became my priority. Which leads me to the importance of speaking truth—especially knowing our lives can end at any moment.
So how about gushing for Mama?
After forgiving myself for all the lies I conjured about Mom, my next step was to recognize the truth about her. Doris had no idea about what she did, why she did it, or the distorted beliefs clouding her capacity to be my mom. Simply put, Doris did the best she could. Even to this day she remains clueless about her own underlying motivations behind repeatedly lying, pretending, gossiping, or being overly protective to the point of smothering me.
Today I see the truth. Doris lived with terror of being unable to support herself. And this fear poisoned all her relationships. She never recognized the fear-based message she was sending me. I always felt my mom had no faith in me. That I’d never be enough and always had to prove and re-prove my worth, especially to men.
After challenges which lead to divorce, Doris felt alone and filled with the guilt of confusion born of what her priorities were or should be: taking care of her needs or others, her music or family life? Doris has never understood that the way to alleviate her suffering and reclaim the scepter of her self-esteem would be to deal with the consequences of going against her own integrity and failing to live her truth. She had no clue what her truth was, only what she was taught she should do.
My mom has lived at the effect of her external world, ever waiting in a posture of self-protection, fight-or-flight and self-condemnation for her own humanity. Can you imagine living in her mind? Obsessing about what others think about you, constantly comparing and selling yourself short. Many women walk around torturing themselves just like my mom. I know I did. Fortunately, I’ve stopped believing the lies. The truth is my mom, under all of the distortions of her mind, is an extraordinarily beautiful, talented, creative woman. Yes, neurotic! But that’s the story she created from the beliefs which continues to define as her tortured nutty truth.
What I offer to women and girls, as clients, is the possibility to live beyond the stories, lies, manipulations and suffering. This journey isn’t about denying pain, grief or anger. It is about declaring what is true.
This past Mother’s Day my mom and I celebrated the day together for the first time in years due to the distance we live from each other. During a conversation I mentioned how my priorities were doing what I love and what makes me feel happy and healthy—rather than putting everyone else first. My mom commented that my priorities were selfish. How fascinating, especially hearing it on Mother’s Day!
Every day Doris prides herself on living to please everyone else. And then she complains bitterly about always feeling under-appreciated, drained and miserable. In my heart of hearts, after raising six children, I’ve mastered this lesson. Over the years, whenever I failed take care of myself first, I have experienced overwhelm, stress and disconnection from life which inevitably trickled down to my partner and my children. When I took the time to practice yoga, meditate or go for a bike ride, everyone in my home benefited. Not just selfish me.
Though it wasn’t until later that I mastered the art of setting healthy boundaries as a leader outside my home, I would have been in far worse shape if I hadn’t taken basic care of my needs., i.e claiming ‘alone time’ and investing in my physical, emotional and psychic well-being prior to my family’s well-being.
I posed the question to Doris. If a mom had to choose, which would be better? Giving to please others and make sure they were happy? Or choosing to love/nurture oneself and expressing joyful honest living as a model so her children can learn how to love and care for themselves? She acknowledged the extraordinary job I had done in raising my children especially considering the difficulties of my childhood. This was a huge admission for Doris. Good job, Mom! And she confessed to the difficulty of making new choices for herself at the advanced age of 84 years. Then she promised to try.
Her words were all I can ever ask for in a Mother’s Day gift. My mom and I were gushing from our hearts. One mom gushing to another mom. One daughter gushing to another daughter. I felt so moved that my mom could leave this earth a little less burdened by the beliefs which had brought her so much suffering and unhappiness.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel