Tag Archives: perfectionism

Letters to My Son

A little over three years ago my teenage son and I had a blow-up. It wasn’t even about anything very important, but it was the culmination of a lot of anger on both our parts that had built up over several years. He was living with his father and visiting me at the time we had the fight. I told him to leave, which he did gladly, and I have not heard from him since.

At the time, I had no way of knowing that fight would turn into the estrangement that it has. Over the years I have made multiple attempts to start down the path of reconciliation, but have not received any response from him.

Today I had an a-ha that brought together and integrated different realizations that I have had over the time we have been apart.

In thinking about the fact that I haven’t missed him very much during this time, I realized that was because the relationship that we had was superficial. I long to have a close relationship with him, yet as he was growing up I was unable to be authentic and vulnerable with him. That authenticity and vulnerability is the very basis for an intimate relationship. Not surprisingly, he was not authentic and vulnerable with me, either.

So, I haven’t missed him because there was nothing much there to miss. And, I’d like that to be different.

Of course, I realize that there are two people in a relationship, and I can only do my part. But I also realize that if I’m not willing to go first and put myself out there, he probably never will. And, even if we never reconcile, even if I never hear from him again, I want him to know me. I want him to know who I am on the inside, which I have hidden from him most of his life.

To that end, I decided that I would start sending him stories from my life. I’m removing the mask of perfection and detachment from being emotional that I’ve worn with him.

I’ll let him see times I was hurting or scared. I’ll let him see times I did something I regret. I’ll let him see times things didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

And, I’ll also let him see the joy and love that has been in my life.

I will be sharing these stories on this blog as well because its purpose when I began it nearly five years ago was for me to show up authentically. There may be stories related to my son that I choose not to share because it would violate his privacy. But beyond that, my intention is to be an open book.

I remember when I first began blogging how terrified I was to be seen. The feedback I received here was a huge support in me being able to continue being more authentic and more vulnerable.

Today I find it almost amusing how scared I was to “expose myself” in the beginning. Today I am mostly comfortable letting people see me with all my foibles and imperfections, yet there are still times I hold back from being fully seen. Here is my opportunity to change that.

Thank you again for your continuing support!

Mother’s Day Part 1 – Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Mother’s Day is always good for bringing up stuff for me. It began when I was at the store the other day looking for a card for my mother. We’ve had a rough go of it – at least from my perspective. I don’t think she is conscious of how difficult I have found our relationship, even as I have tried to address some of the issues with her over the years. And of course that is part of the problem.

Looking for a Mother’s Day card is always interesting. Most of them are all about what a wonderful mother the person in question has been. How loving, how supportive, how… fill in the blank. The problem is that I don’t feel that my mother was a good mother for me. Yes, we always had food, clothing and shelter. My sister and I were not physically abused. My mother was not an alcoholic or a drug addict. She was the epitome of a good, responsible citizen.

Unfortunately, that was not enough. I didn’t get what I needed most: unconditional love.

Yes, I know she did her best. Yes, I know she was the product of her own upbringing and environment. And, as I have told my counseling clients many times, just because you can understand and have compassion for why someone acted a certain way, does not make it okay that they acted that way.

I do have compassion for my mother. And I still did not get what I needed as a child.

This morning I was looking at all the tributes to mothers on Facebook, and it was in my face again. I couldn’t honestly say that I felt the same way about my own mother.

In thinking about this more, I realized that, in fact, I got exactly what I needed from my mother. My relationship with my mother has been my greatest source of personal and spiritual growth.

Here are the lessons my mother taught me.

  1. Perfectionism. In my mother’s world you must do something perfectly, or you fail. An A- is not good enough. 2nd place is not good enough.

The real lesson:  I am already perfect. As a soul I am whole and perfect. It is the human part of me that needs to work on becoming perfectly myself. Because I’m already perfect.

  1. You have to earn love. This is a corollary to #1. The reason you need to be perfect is so that people will love you. Otherwise, you will be abandoned and alone.

The real lesson:  As a spiritual being, I am love. I don’t have to seek love from others, because that is who I am – and who they are – at the core. I have the love of Spirit, no matter what. No matter what I do or don’t do.

  1. What others think of you is more important than what you think of you. Starting to see a pattern here? Yup, once again about earning the approval / love of others. This time by being what they want you to be, which may not be who you really are.

The real lesson: Be true to myself. People come and people go. Some like me, some don’t. In the end, I’m the one who has to like me.

  1. Rules are made to be followed. If you break a rule / law, you will get in trouble. People will find out. They won’t like you anymore. Boy, was I good at following the rules! (I still struggle a bit with this and judgement of others when they break rules. But I’m working on it!)

The real lesson: Rules and laws are useful to keep society in check. And I do what feels right to me. If what I’m doing harms no one else (for me this is the litmus test), then so what if it’s against the rules?

  1. Right and wrong are opposites and clear cut. My mother has a strong sense of right and wrong – and difficulty seeing a situation from anything other than her own perspective. My sister and I used to say, “There’s our mother’s way to do something and the wrong way.”

The real lesson: I know what’s right for me. I don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. And there’s a whole lot of grey between those opposites of black and white.

In looking back over these, they really are all closely related. They’re all about judging and being judged in order to give or earn love. I guess that’s the crux of my issues with my mother and her way of being: I constantly felt judged and was constantly trying to earn her love.

These days my mother and I have the best relationship of our lives, in my opinion. I accept her for who she is, but I don’t buy into her stuff. That’s about her, not about me. I rarely feel guilty that I’m not being her vision of a “good daughter.” Once I gave up the guilt and the feeling of obligation that caused it, it was a lot easier to want to spend time with her.

I don’t have any illusions that my mother will ever become the mother I wish I’d had. But I do feel compassion for her and her own struggles, and I recognize the ways in which she tries to show me that she loves me. I’ve let go of feeling that every good deed from her comes with a price tag attached (that’s one I forgot to mention – if I do something nice for you, you owe me), and instead just express my gratitude for whatever the favor is.

Finally, I am grateful for the lessons I learned through having her as my mother. I believe that we pick our life lessons and who will play them out with us before we come for another lifetime, so obviously I set this all up for my own benefit. I guess I can’t be mad at anyone about that, but myself!