A couple of days ago I met with the intuitive healer I’ve been working with. Most of the session revolved around my family of origin including my sister, my father and my mother. My mother and I are leaving in a few days to take a trip together for two weeks. I was told that my mother wants us to be closer, and that this trip was an opportunity to become closer to my mother, and for me to really see her for who she is.
I have extremely mixed feelings about becoming closer to my mother. On the one hand, it’s something that I have yearned for all of my life. My dearest dream is for my mother to see me for who I really am, and for her to love the real me.
On the other hand, being close to my mother has not been safe in the past. I grew up very enmeshed with my mother and have spent a lot of time and effort in my adult life to separate from her. I’m currently in a place of keeping her at arm’s length. The idea of being close to my mother feels threatening. I worry that I may disappear once again into her vision of who I am, or who I should be.
Additionally, I still harbor some anger and resentment about how she parented me as a child. I struggle with knowing how I really feel about her. My need to protect myself from her and the knee-jerk reactions I often have when I interact with her keep me from being authentic with her. I realize that without being authentic, I really can’t know what I feel for her.
Putting all of this together, you may understand that hearing this news about my “mission” for this trip with my mother was pretty uncomfortable for me.
Enter my mirror.
The next day I was co-leading a gathering with my friend who is also the intuitive healer that I work with. We have recently started a Meetup to share information with others and do group coaching to help the members move toward changes and results that they want for their lives.
At this meeting there was a woman who had not attended before. Initially she mentioned that she was there because she wanted to overcome her stage fright. However, as the meeting progressed she brought up an issue where she was not as close to her adult daughter as she wanted to be.
Raising this issue came from something that had been brought up by another member of the Meetup regarding his mother and how her lack of support and criticism of him in childhood continued to affect him now. We were discussing how with each generation we try to do better than our own parents did, and I shared how I had compassion and understanding for why my mother was the way she is and that I consciously chose to do things differently with my own child.
This woman joined in the conversation which eventually led to her sharing her sadness and frustration at not being closer to her own daughter. As more was said it became clear that she had very specific expectations of what her daughter, now 40 years old, should be doing and how she should be expressing her caring and involvement in the family. The daughter’s reaction has been to remain distant and angry with her mother.
My co-leader and I suggested ways in which she could be different in her interactions with her daughter, which in turn might lead to her daughter reacting differently. I had become aware during my meditation earlier in the day that one of my objections to the way my mother approaches me is that her requests are in the form of a demand or an expectation, and that I don’t feel that they are requests or invitations at all. I know that if my mother approached me differently I would react differently.
I could see that this woman was approaching her daughter in the same way as my mother approaches me. The woman believed that she was issuing invitations to her daughter, but they really were expectations and demands. I used my relationship with my mother and this insight I had about it as an example for this woman.
Unfortunately she could not accept this idea, saying “I don’t believe you” about the idea that if she was different her daughter would be different as well. She wants to hold on to her desires and expectations and even stated that she had a right to have expectations. Well, I don’t dispute that she has the right to have expectations. My point was just that they were not getting her what she said she wanted.
The woman got angry with me and with my co-leader. I realized later that she was treating us like she treats her daughter. She had expectations of what the Meetup would be like and expectations of how we would interact with her. When we did not meet her expectations she became angry and blaming, just as she is with her daughter.
The biggest learning for me that came out of this situation, though, is that this woman is my mother. Hearing her desires for her relationship with her daughter, witnessing the pain she feels, and seeing that at this moment she does not have the capacity to make changes that would create the relationship she wants gave me greater insight into my own mother.
I also realized that the suggestions I was making to her about changing how she interacted with her daughter can also be applied to me changing how I interact with my mother. If I take the first step in interacting differently I can open the door for my mother following my lead.
I have kept my mother at arm’s length because I am afraid of being overtaken by her (there’s that boundary thing again). As I am consciously striving to be more authentic in every area of my life I have to trust that I will be able to keep myself safe even as I reveal who I really am – not only to my mother, but to everyone in my life.
I have not shared the real me with my mother. It has felt too dangerous. After meeting this woman yesterday, I see that if I give me mother what she longs for – being close to me (the authentic me) – that she can stop demanding and expecting. She will have what she wants. Right now my mother is striving for that closeness in the only way she knows, by demanding and expecting. She doesn’t know the path that will create the relationship she wants with me.
But I do.
So, with a deep breath and not too little trepidation, I decide that this trip with my mother will be the opportunity to create the relationship we both want.
And I thank this woman who came to the Meetup yesterday for providing the mirror that allowed me to see things from my mother’s perspective.