This is the first video I’ve cried over once it was uploaded.
That’s not really a huge surprise, since I’m a softie who also cries over kind children and beautiful music (I love symphonies).
But for me, I suppose I was relieved that I was able to press “publish” and not feel like a fraud. I had been holding out on filming this video for a while since I was afraid that the act of announcing it to the world would expose to myself the truth of my feelings.
And it did.
The truth was that my heart was still at peace. I had this sense that things had settled. That some karma had ridden itself out, finally, on this 10th anniversary of my mother’s early death and I still can’t exactly say why.
My saga with my mother had finally run its course.
And I survived.
There are a few things I’d like to clarify for anyone on this journey, since I’ve received such a positive and varied response (thank you from the bottom of my heart).
First, my mother being long dead is a great mercy.
My progress on this journey may have been hindered had she still been alive. She was still actively being a negative influence in the lives of myself and my brothers, carrying on with alcoholics, smoking like a chimney and essentially, not really learning.
The same summer she died, I had actually been planning to go complete no contact, lying that I’d gotten a forestry job in a remote area, changing my number and never seeing her ever again.
My heart goes out to those who must still deal with living abusers. I am an advocate for divorcing abusive family members. If my mother had not actually died, I would have had a ceremony for her, buried her in effigy and changed my number.
In my training with Bodynamics, I did an exercise in L.A with one of the original founders, Erik Jarlnaes that he called “taking back the love”.
He guided me through recognizing all the hope I still had for my relationship with my mother (which still existed even after she was dead!), all the love I was holding out for her, all the ways I was still somehow waiting for her to acknowledge me.
I felt and pictured it and reached out with my arms over and over, pulling it back towards myself. Taking the love back and giving it to myself, the self love I would need to become a real adult, take responsibility for the pain that had been handed to me and move on with my life.
That was one of the most emotionally raw experiences of my life.
It was about 4 years ago but I still remember the sunlight filtering hazily in the room, the smell of books and coffee, the feel of my legs against the dress I was wearing.
So I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to forgive my mother.
It was the end of a process that was 10 years in the making. I have been in therapy for ten years, reading books on spirituality and forgiveness for 10 years (most of them are rationalizations and platitudes but anyway), I’ve done the EFT tapping, hypnosis, logical explanations for her behavior, trying to feel empathy for her based on her childhood, group therapy, pillow punching, every thing one could do, I did.
I’ve explored the depths of how much she actually hurt me. Realizations that sometimes made me so sick I was actually bedridden by grief. (There is a beautiful and haunting video on YouTube that explores the depth of child sorrow, despair, abuse, bravery and betrayal. My story was different but it resonated emotionally. Watch it here if you want to take that journey. Gord Downie’s final masterpiece, Secret Path: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGd764YU9yc )
I’ve been so angry that I literally saw red and could feel a ball of lava rise from my stomach once when a therapist got me to try and imagine how many pennies I’d have in a jar if I put one there every time she hurt, angered or disappointed me. A jar wouldn’t cut it. Eventually an image came to my mind of wading into a small room, waist deep in copper cents.
I realized I was carrying all those pennies inside for years and damn, they were heavy. I’d been managing all of that excitation and distress with my little nervous system and muscles and stress hormones for so many freaking years.
Here are some things that surprised me about my forgiveness:
It was just a grace bestowed upon me. There was no logic to it. There was no understanding why she did what she did. I don’t recommend trying to understand the actions of crazy people, in general. It will make you crazy too. If you stare into the abyss for too long, you start to become like it. It must be examined, but once you get the message, hang up the phone. That is essential.
Ultimately, there was just an acceptance that it had happened. There was nothing I could do about it and that it was my time to move on. To find the gift and continue on down the road.
I don’t forgive my mother as a person. I never really knew her as a person. She was not the kind of person I ever would interact with in any capacity at this age. I can’t truly ever understand what happened. I have a lot of insight into it that has helped me over the years. It’s extremely important to learn what was done to you, so that you can set about the deeply spiritual task of healing yourself from it. But there was not some kind of peace like “OH that’s why she did what she did” or “OH the universe sent her to me to teach me blah blah blah” or “It HAD to happen that way because…”.
There was no rational explanation for anything. It was more like a deep inner sense of peace, power and knowing that I call Grace because it was beyond my human understanding. It was like a cleansing, iridescent and pure waterfall that started as a trickle but then slowly cascaded over me, taking everything away. Like some universal force had finally been satisfied with my sacrifice and was pouring its Grace down over me. I had a hand in this for sure, but I do not see this as anything less than Divine.
I have more to say, but I want to say this at least for now.
Today a friend took me biking in the river valley here in Calgary. The day was oppressively hot but in the shade of the river trees, a cool breeze was coming off the water.
There were peaks and valleys on the trail. I wore my hair down and long because I knew how good it would feel with the breeze going through it FAST down those hills. I was not disappointed, hooting and hollering the entire time. These are the things that really make me happy. What a gift to be on a bike in a beautiful city I never imagined myself in, with a friend, going fast. Smiling. Laughing.
I got some pretty intense chest pains after. This is the price I pay now if I raise my blood pressure too fast. I’m fine at the gym with a slow buildup to running but an activity like this can cause me trouble.
I didn’t say anything. It breaks well…my heart to think of being with a friend who was having chest pains and didn’t want me to know. But I don’t want to alarm anyone. The cardiologist said it shouldn’t be doing that but I’ve talked to other women with this condition and they said yeah, it does that. Today it stabbed and struck through my chest like lightning and then it went away.
Maybe one day it will be a warning that my time is truly coming and I will sit down, gently close my eyes with a soft sigh and never get up again. Maybe one day, but today was not that day.
What a gift that I have a friend and a healthy body and a bike to ride. How have I ever made it this far? How did I ever earn such a beautiful life ♥
“My mother’s funeral was filled with hopelessly fake, lost shells of adult children who had loved basking in her extroversion and laughter and personalized attention on their lives while watching her self destruct and also abuse her children with nary a protest.
“I’m so sorry about your mother…..I…”, they’d say to me, eyes welling.
There was Rhonda who had once stood by watching dumbly while my mother took my painfully thin brown wrist and used my hand to hit my little brother while I remained determinedly stone faced, tears rolling down my cheeks and my brother cowered, frozen.
Martin who had let her constant flirtations with him run the gamut of his multiple marriages, rewarding his friend the broke, pretty single mother with twenty dollar bills he’d sneak under the butter dish while visiting with his disapproving wife until the evening my eight year old self once came into the living room with a handful of cash chiming, “Look what I found!” to a room full of silent adults.
His wife stormed out of the house.
There was Erika who was the only person who called me by an endearing term when I was a kid. She constantly pressured my mother to go to dancehall parties with her. Burdened, they’d have to bring me along and I’d sit in the corner with my knees up resting my head there with my hands on my head or hiding under the tables.
“Why is your daughter such a grouch? Come dance Adelle, sweetie!”, she’d sing out, laughing joyfully over her rum and pineapple like I was an old friend from college and not a tired and overwhelmed four year old.
It was Erika who introduced her to jailbird men and the idea of raising multiple fatherless children on welfare.
Look at them crying now.
I’d glance back at them, dry eyed, pull the corners of my mouth slightly tighter in acknowledgement, turn and leave them staring numbly at the space I’d been standing in.
What did they expect? This is what happens to women like my mother.
And later we’ll see what happens to the children of women like my mother.
Ten years ago, I lived through this.
My brother had just started his last year of high school. I had to call my other brother in the middle of the night, where it was two hours ahead in Toronto.
I still remembered how he didn’t say hi right away. When he picked up, his laugh trailed off first and I could hear other people in the background. It sounded like a night market, or a festival of some kind.
That was the single, last time I ever heard my brother’s voice with that level of lightness and youth.
I couldn’t……. say …………..anything.
In the silence I could hear his winning smile melt from his face. “It’s mom?”
My voice cracked, in small fractures at first.
“Yeah. It’s…..I…. you should probably come home”.
Small fractures radiated out into a final, irreversible, glacial crack! and my words fell through the ice and pulled us down into the cold, dark water of a truth we’d both known would come one day.
You don’t feel only grief when an abusive parent dies. You feel relief wash over you.
Maybe I am finally safe now, a voice inside of you that is still 4 years old says, shamefully and you’ll feel guilt for that.
You grieve the realization that you always did have hope you were not aware of until this day.
Hope that one day she’d wake up and realize what she’d done and not done. How it hurt and fucked up everyone, especially the ones she should have been actually caring for and protecting and she’d call you all up and you’d meet back at the old townhouse, everyone after work with the mysterious air of their strange and separate lives still clinging to them and the sky would be dark velvet blue outside standing barefoot on the sidewalk like you used to in a neighborhood where no one had to lock their doors, and you’d feel the heat and warmth off their bodies beside you in the cool night air and she’d say it with a gravity like the space between the image of lightning and the sound of thunder taking the air from everyone’s chest in one rush like a gasp that had been held for a decade “I’m so sorry”.
That will never happen.
And you don’t realize you ever believed it until the mortician is explaining why one of her dresses is more fit for cremation than the other.”