Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making Peace With Mother (Part Two)

My mom and dad on their wedding day
2 March 1961

I have written in a previous post that I had a desire to make peace with my mother. As part of that exercise, I was determined to find the good things about her and the good things about our relationship. I was trying to remember the love I felt for her as a child, and the love I had hoped she had felt for me too.

For so very long, I have hated (yes, hated, not disliked, not didn't-get-along-with. HATED) my mother. Yes, she's been dead twelve years, but despite that I continued to hate her for twelve bloody years more after she had left this world and her body turns slowly to dust in the coffin beneath my father's at Westpark Cemetary. Good, I thought. It's good that you're dead. I didn't want to look after you in your old age - you would have been impossible. I am glad you went before dad. I am glad you're dead. Now you can't make my life a misery anymore. I am free! Mwahahahaha!

Except, I wasn't really free. Hate is Tartarus. It's a maximum security prison of our own creation where we allow ourselves to be tormented and punished. And the goalposts continuously change. We think we are doing something when we are hating, but in reality, we are not. Nothing constructive anyway.

I have been seeing a spiritual counsellor because of all my anxiety attacks. He suggested that I write an angry letter to my mother listing, in detail, all the times she hurt me and every event and every time she went nuts and did crazy weird shit. I started the exercise and only got one page in. It seemed like a redundant exercise. I didn't feel it was getting me anywhere. "You must release this anger, get it out, or else you will get sick," he told me, "The energy of your anger is already sitting in  your gall bladder. If you don't release it, you'll get gall stones."

It's nothing new to discover that my mother 'galled' me. And, while I am into all this Louise Hay "your body has a spiritual reason for being ill" thing and that the physical, mental and spiritual are all intertwined and all that, something about vomiting out my anger like this didn't resonate completely. Why? Because, in the car, on the drive to my uncle's funeral, I spewed all of this out for four hours of the six hour drive to Tzaneen, after my cousin Melt made the mistake of telling me how "mellow" my mother was.

And suddenly I was empty. But I didn't know I was empty until yesterday.

Absently, I pulled out a bracelet of my mother's that she gave me when I went to live in England. I never wore it, but it has followed me across an entire continent and to several places in the UK and then back again. Just like that, I snapped the bracelet onto my wrist. Surprised, I looked down at the bracelet and felt... nothing. No animosity, no anger, no hatred, no pain. Just the thought that this was a rather nice bracelet and I was pleased I had kept it.

Looking at that, I realise you might be thinking "big fucking deal.". To me it was. Because I was so opposed to anything to do with my mother, I refused to wear the jewellery I inherited or that she gave me. I kept nothing of hers after she died apart from her rosary and the ring she left me. And the bracelet of course. It was as though everything she had touched while alive was tainted and by that same brush I too, would be tarred.

On Monday I was reminded that every relationship, every encounter with anyone in our lives, is a mirror to ourselves. I was angry at the mother for never giving me a chance, for not understanding me, for hating me, for not being compassionate, for hurting me, for not loving me. But, when I looked in the mirror, what I saw was that I never gave her a chance, I didn't understand her, I hated her, I was not being compassionate, I too hurt her and I too did not love her as much as a mother deserved.

This revelation was the point of transformation for me, a place for forgiveness to creep in. Because let's face it, my mother probably doesn't give a shit one way or the other how I feel about her. She's been dead for twelve years. The only person keeping her here is me and I am keeping her here just to yell at her and tell her how shit she is and how she fucked up my life. And these are all things that I accused her of doing.

It's not that I am 'better than that' or that I am 'being the better person' by forgiving her. That's not what it's about and that is not what forgiveness should be about. By 'being the better person' all I am saying is that I am superior to her, and that is not consistent with the spirit of forgiveness.

Forgiveness, I believe, is a letting go. A release. A realisation that all this shit stuff that I believe fucked up my life doesn't actually matter in the here-and-now present moment. In her way, my mother did what she felt was best. I am not saying I agree with what she did, or that it is all suddenly okay and that anyone's mother can treat their kid the way I was treated and it's fine. No. That's not what this is. This is a decision from my side to stop hurting my mother and myself. To let it go. To stop the process of hatred and pain. My mother hated her mother before I hated her. I saw nothing wrong with Ouma, but she did. Just like my nephew adored his Nonna and I hated her. The cycle of hatred for mothers in my family needs to end. It's time.

And I am done. I am done being angry and upset and tired and exhausted. I am done telling the world how crazy - institutionalisably crazy - Yes. I made that word up. And the punctuation that went with it - my mother was.

I am done with blaming you, Mom. I am done with the hurt. I am sorry I hated you so long.