Renewal and Mom Issues
After my first marriage ended and I had had a year of therapy, I began making visits back East with the specific purpose of grilling my Mom. Throughout my childhood my stepfather had molested me and I wanted to ask Mom where the hell had she been? I had no drive to salvage my stepfather’s and my relationship but I wanted to stay connected to my mother.
Pulling Mom into the truth was like pulling her out of a thick sludge – she had simply not seen any of it happen. But Mom never flinched at my confrontations and she apologized in every way possible. During one visit early in this process, after I had launched several hefty cannon balls her way, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and simply said I will do whatever it takes to have a good relationship with you. That was all I needed. After those words I knew we could reach across whatever chasms we encountered.
When Mom moved in with Juan and me I figured we’d have the normal adjustment discomforts and I didn’t expect any big issues because of our hard work over the past thirty years. But big issues surfaced – not for Mom, for me. When Mom stopped being able to wash herself and tend to her bathroom needs I did them for her. Though I had mentally prepared myself ahead of time, the hands-on reality of no longer having physical boundaries in place dredged up profound anger in me. I was shocked at how viscerally I reacted. I had to "leave" my body in order to touch my mother's body; I could barely bring myself to clean her after she'd gone to the bathroom, wash between her toes, dry her after she showered, spread lotion on her skin.
This went on for a few weeks but clearly it had to stop. Though I did everything in my power to hide my feelings I knew Mom was energetically impacted. Not knowing what else to do, I journaled until the truth spilled out onto the page. It wasn’t Mom’s body I hated, it was my own; my crooked feet, meaty thighs, wrinkled skin. But it went far deeper. In feeling Mom's complete vulnerability I re-inhabited my own childhood vulnerability. In a wave of recognition I realized that having complete power over Mom's body was triggering flashbacks. Each time I touched her I was being touched - the wrong way, by the wrong person - and shame engulfed me. That toxic shame that is so often the residue of abuse. The self hatred that has been my life-long companion.
Regardless of whether or not I could accept myself, I was determined not to do Mom any harm. So I let myself free fall into my anger, like going limp in the throes of an ocean wave, its power too great to fight, and after being tossed about and washed onto the shore I felt my shame drain out into the sand. I no longer cringed when I touched my mother. My vulnerability had vanished, my self judgment disabled. Mom's body was her own, as was mine.
I could never have prescribed the poetic and challenging juxtaposition of situation, participants, love, and needs that led me to this deepest level of reconciliation. Accepting my mother enabled me to accept myself.