Thursday, January 31, 2008

Circle of love

Yesterday, we had a family meeting with my mother's psychiatrist and two nurses from the program she is currently enrolled in. Her nurse said when asked by my sister J. how mom was doing, "She is doing well. She is up here," and she motioned with her pen to a position just in front of her face. "Unfortunately, she'll have a day up here and the next," and her pen fell like a stock market ticker on a bear run. "We'd like to stabilize her moods, up here." And her pen rose again. An uptick in the markets. A rise in fortunes.

The psychiatrist chimed in from where he sat across from my mother on the opposite side of the circle, "That's not going to happen. That's her nature."

It's her nature.

Years ago, I felt compelled to ask my mother to tell me her life story, I wanted to understand. Her life. Why she was the way she was. Why our relationship was so strained. I wanted to be the best mother I could be to my daughters and believed understanding my relationship with my mother would help me. If I could only understand I believed I had a chance of improving my relationship with her. I thought if I changed so would she.

I forgot about 'her nature'.

Later in the session we shared with eachother three things we needed the other person to do to help improve our relationship. When my mother reached me, she asked me to phone her more often. At least twice a week. I agreed and then she said, "And don't say anything negative. You always say negative things to me. I was so proud of you since you came back to us. You are becoming a good person finally. But you still say negative things to me."

That's a toughy. Both for the trigger in her sentence and her request about negativity. For my mother, any comment that focuses on reality is considered negative -- how do I speak without speaking my truth?

I have a tape that runs through my head, "I am the outsider." Like a stream running over rocks, it trips me up with the belief that throughout my life I have been an outsider in my family. In my teens and twenties, I jokingly called myself 'the oddest duckling' whenever I spoke of my family position. In my youth, I thought it was all my fault. I thought I was to blame for the discord around me.

It took years of therapy, journalling, and life experience for me to realize it wasn't about me -- at least not all of it. What was about me were my responses, my triggers, my reactions to my family.

For my mother, her litany of woes concerning me has been part of her story for many years. For a moment yesterday, when she went on to explain to the nurses just how thoughtless I am and how I continually hurt her, I felt the ping of angst, of sadness, of regret. Why couldn't I be different? Why couldn't I be the daughter she wanted?

And then I took a breath. Most of my life my mother has seen me through the haze of her medications. Most of my life has been spent rebelling against not having the mother of my dreams.

A couple of years ago when a girlfriend's daughter told me she thought she was to blame for her mother's drinking, I told her. "Your mother drinks because something inside her compels her to do that. It isn't about her love for you. It's about a lack of love for herself and so much more."

"But what am I supposed to do?" she cried.

"Love her exactly the way she is and get help for yourself."

I need to take my own advice. I need to love my mother exactly the way she is, nature and all, and help myself by turning up for me, and her, in love.

It's time I learned from my daughters again and fall in love with my mother's nature. I need to surrender my fears of never being enough so that I can love my mother with the same fierceness and devotion of my daughters' love for me.

And so I come full circle, connected through love to the powerful bond of motherhood before me and behind me. A circle of love that cannot be broken, no matter how hard I fight against it.

The question is: Who's in your circle? Are you fighting the bonds of love or accepting the nature of their connection?

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