It was my Mother’s birthday recently and I was surprised to discover that I was missing her...which seems a strange thing to write and even stranger to admit that I was surprised, but anyway, there I was missing her with an awkward intensity that took my breath away. Let me explain.
Mother was an absolute conundrum, an unsolvable puzzle. She was adored by many and she inspired many more. She was flamboyant and stunningly beautiful and wherever she arrived, the party could start. She was a social butterfly who could drop you like a stone. She was incredibly generous and ridiculously mean. She broke hearts and didn’t care, yet she didn’t forgive those who slighted her. Nor would she forget.
Right up until her last moments, she had dreams of what she wanted to do next and where she wanted to go when she was better. She always had a purpose; even on the worst days of her illness, when she was medically too weak to get out of bed, she had something that she had to get done. Although her body became frail, she remained a powerhouse of stubborn determination and nobody but no one was going to keep her down. She would disappear off in her car without a word to anyone, dosed up on painkillers, cigarettes and dolly mixtures. She would walk her dogs across beaches, shop ‘til she dropped and argue with passion about inconsiderate parking. She became fond of recalling memories of my childhood that didn’t match my own, and she was more than a little annoyed that I had become the parent in the relationship, as she became sicker, taking control of things that she could no longer do. She was young when she had me, not much older than in the picture, and she was still young when she died. We had a strange, and at times, strained relationship that ebbed and flowed, predicted by her own circumstances and needs. We had/have very different personalities and ways of looking at life and people, me and my mother. I used to think that this was an irreconcilable problem and indeed, before she was ill, there were years when when we didn’t see, or even know each other at all, and that was very sad. I missed her then, and felt bereft at being abandoned at a time in my life when I was most vulnerable, and here I am, missing her again.
There are now often times when I see her in my hands and hear her in my spoken voice and sometimes even in my thoughts. I can look in the mirror and see her disapproval staring back at me. Sometimes I think I hear her call me - "Manda!" And I can’t help but think "crap, what have I done now - what am I taking too long over, what have I done that isn’t good enough?" Yet I know that she was proud of me, because her friends told me so. They also tell me how much I look and sound like her - there’s no getting away from the fact that I am my mother’s daughter, even though there’s been times when I didn’t want to be.
It would be all too easy to dwell on the deficits, on the wrong things in the relationship we had, particularly when I see other daughters with their mums; when I see how relationships evolve and blossom, as daughters become mothers themselves or enjoy careers, always supported by the bond they have with their mother. It would be easy even to reflect on how I don’t miss her in the conventional sense, as I hear others talk lovingly about their mothers who are no longer here...or even talk lovingly about mine! It would be easy even, to be angry or shattered that our relationship wasn’t one that I recognise from other people’s descriptions.
When we have relationships like this, it’s easy to feel annoyed when we see inspirational quotes about respecting or loving our mothers because they are the best friend we will ever have. It’s easy to feel aggrieved when this is not our experience - and indeed, I do feel aggrieved for other people for whom these well intentioned inspirations are nothing more than a reminder of what they are missing.
But what if we can reconcile with our feelings of loss or grief for that which wasn’t to be, and live our life with a different perspective that serves us better?
What if we could find joy, and the confidence to be who we are as individuals without the need for positive affirmation from others, even from those whom we are supposed to be important to? What if we could discover this without having to judge the other person, or focus on the problem feelings that this person evokes in us? What if, we could find out how we got through those hard things and how to thrive in spite of, or even because of,
the adversity we have experienced in our most important and formative relationships? I know that all this is achievable, and not just from my own experience, but from the experiences of other people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of having solution focused conversations with.
If a conversation like this resulted in being really useful to you - what might you notice would be different? What difference would that make to you as you go about your daily life? What would it be like to be just fine?
Don’t just tell it to wind, or dress it up, or continue to ponder on what continues to hurt you - get in touch.