“I entered I knew not where,
And there I stood not knowing:
Nothing left to know…”
~St. John of the Cross
I didn’t have a picture-perfect family.
I hesitate to write this. I want to be so über positive that I cringe to make room for the dark, muddy, heavy truth.
I think my devotion to positivity results from surviving my childhood.
I will spare you most details, but I come from a small family. I am an only child and mostly it was me and my mom.
For holidays we have her two brothers, only one of whom is married, so there are generally five of us.
Life was more manageable when my grandparents were alive. Grandpa Phil always had my back. And in my family, you need someone to have your back.
The way of relating in my family of origin is sarcasm, ridicule, criticism and harassment. If you can’t take it, or resist, you will be ridiculed harder.
Through college and the onset of adulthood, I raged against my family pretty hard. I had to. Boundaries were not something I ever knew about growing up, and I was fair game for everyone. I took it. I had no choice. Comply, or die, is the way of the dependent child.
The adult can have the wool removed from their eyes, and perhaps see that there were ways in which the adults around them behaved poorly and that the impact was costly.
I’m not interested in perpetuating the story, so I shall stop there with the background information.
Thanksgiving day, I had hoped, would be enjoyable.
I head home to my mom’s house for a safe haven, a reprieve from the outside world. The only problem with that is that it has never been that. It has never been a haven, or a safe space.
It has always been a place of pain for me. A place where I once again have the wool ripped from my eyes to remind me that I am not a child, and there are no safe mothering arms for me to find myself inside of, to receive comfort, support and love.
There never was. I’ve never had that relationship with my mother, nor my father, nor any of my uncles or aunts.
Most of my life feels like me against the world, and as I’ve matured and softened, I’ve been held in the arms of dear chosen family, friends who see me, and provide a safe space to cling for awhile, when the broken winged bird inside needs to recuperate from the harsh reality of whence she has come.
And, they give me deep reason to rejoice and celebrate. Thank God for chosen family. By the end of that day, I ended up int the loving arms of another mother, one who met the needs of my inner wounded child. She held me, in the setting sun, and consoled me as I sobbed for the love that I missed from another.
Bless my parents hearts, I forgive them, I know they provided the perfect lessons I would need. They keep on providing them.
My mother was neglected by her alcoholic, distant, cold mother. My father was abused by his military trained, narcissistic, fearful father, who also beat up my grandma.
It’s not a pretty tale. Not one I have ever liked to tell. Yet, it is the story of my family. It is part of the truth. Like it or not, it affects me.
So, on Thanksgiving, I was seeking reprieve in a childhood home that only contributed to my anxiety and trouble with feeling safe in the world.
This is a familiar pattern. One I act out with mates, too. I seek refuge from the abuse in the arms of the abuser. I learned it young and I learned it well and the unlearning of adulthood can feel stark, raving, mad.
I left my mother’s home in deep pain. What takes me tender time to cultivate and build, my sense of self and self-esteem, my positive thoughts and deep wishes for my life, seem to be quickly popped around my family.
I had the best of intentions, I arrived with delicious, healthy food, I prepared meals, I brought birthday gifts for my mom. As the plaque read in my childhood home, one I looked at every day for years, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
I felt reminded that we are all alone. The energy of the conversation with my mother left me feeling that life is but a hard-knock course in bumps and bruises, where you are ultimately alone, eventually orphaned, until you have, as my mother says she does, “One foot in the grave.”
What of a motherless child?
What if we were? My mother and I?
She did her best with me, but in so many ways, I too, have struggled with feelings of abandonment, aloneness and that ultimately, the universe is distant and cold.
It has taken my whole adult life, many therapist couch sits, and deep friendships to fan the flames of passion and desire and bliss and love and happiness that live inside me like a bubbling cauldron desperate to produce magic.
This, I think, is the ultimate letting go in life. We must cling not to anything, not to comfort from our mothers, nor friends. We must cultivate a relationship with the beloved within, growing ever taller, wiser, and more encompassing, until we feel not like a ship lost at sea in the years that make up our life.
I am on the verge of I know not what, but I imagine a life of abundance, success, prosperity, love, deep relating, and fun and I’ve created that in the here and now.
When I visit my mom, I wonder if life will be a series of disappointments, until at last I reach the bed of my death.
In dying, I will let go of all of it. Perhaps then, and only then, will any of it make sense.
“Are we on our way to a tomb, which will be the end of us, or are we on our way to a womb, which will be the container for the beginning of a new life? It is the same question we ask about the grave. We have no answer. In fact, the proper spiritual etiquette during this void seems to be simply not knowing. I do not know whether I am going to new life or to death. Emily Dickinson says: “Uncertain of the length of this that is between it goads me like the goblin bee that will not state its sting.” ~ David Richo, When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-less and Resource-full