It’s story time! So grab a comfy pillow and relax. :)
I thought a change of pace might be nice for a little while. I thought it might be a nice time to share some of my own life stories with you. After all, you deserve to know a little bit more about this strange person who’s writing to you every week, now don’t you? :)
Here's one of my cornerstone stories.
My Mother: One of My Greatest Spiritual Teachers
To most people who knew her, my mother was a very kind, quiet, peaceful, and almost saintly woman who was very devout in her religion. Many people also knew that she was an excellent schoolteacher who positively influenced so many of the young students who benefited from the extra reading help she offered them, whether in her classroom or theirs. Many saw and were inspired by how active she was in her church community, and how faithfully she practiced her beliefs.
I knew my mother in those ways too. But I also saw other sides of her.
I saw a side that was probably beaten down from her possible perceived failure of deciding to leave the convent after 5 years as a young nun. I saw a side that was likely devastated after choosing to divorce my father.
I saw sides that were rigid and controlling of me. Sides that could deliver a guilt trip (with a hidden attempt to manipulate) like nobody’s business, and on a very regular basis, even well into my adulthood. Sides that were so fearful of me being exposed to anything outside of her devout tradition and its doctrine. Sides that were all about me keeping up appearances in public, so that she wouldn’t feel ashamed of me. And sides that showed an emotionally shut-down, hurting soul.
Like me, Mom liked her quiet time. Teaching, although she seemed to enjoy it, took a lot of her energy. And when Mom got home from work, she was likely tired. She also didn’t really seem to be all that interested in the struggles or connection desires of a young girl. She’d ask me what I learned in school and such. But more often than not, we sat silently in the kitchen throughout the evenings, listening to her favorite religious radio station. If I watched TV or listened to other music, it was constantly monitored and often turned off.
I never really formed a woman-to-woman bond with my mother. She didn’t teach me about makeup. We didn’t go shopping just for fun, or make holiday dinners. In fact, we didn’t do very much outside of the house other than church. And we didn’t really talk about what was truly on my mind, because often, whenever I tried to tell her, it would turn into a religious lecture about something. So I stopped trying to tell her, and yet kept desperately trying, all at the same time.
I can’t say that Mom shouldn’t have been a parent, because then I wouldn’t be here as me. But if we take that factor out of the equation, Mom really shouldn’t have been a parent.
She didn’t really have any interest in the ways of children. She had great interest in teaching children, that’s true. I really think she found satisfaction from that, as well as from the times she spent teaching me. However, her greatest interests lay in her aspirations of living a meditative spiritual life. And I think that like most introverts, she needed to dictate her interactions with others in her own time and space. And having a curious, needy little girl around 24/7, who also incidentally had her own anger issues to deal with after my father moved out of the home, likely didn’t afford Mom that time she really needed to recharge.
Because of all of these factors and possibly more, I got the crumbs of my mother’s energy and ability for connection. And as I grew up, and well into my adult years, I struggled to understand why I was so drawn to others in my life who I’d hoped could fill that connection void for me.
Of course this never worked. Ultimately, it took until many failed connection attempts later and until after my mother passed when I was finally ready to admit to myself the depth of my wounds around our relationship.
Ironically, Mom was always so concerned about my spiritual life and growth. She probably didn’t ever realize that she would become one of my greatest spiritual teachers, and certainly not because of me modeling the strict, doctrine-filled ways she’d had in mind!
After Mom died, I decided I wanted to change my pattern of reaching out so desperately to others to try to fill a connection void that I’d been unable to admit could not be filled by them or by anyone else. So I started to study psychology to try to understand the dynamics of my family better. I also expanded my spiritual views. And I began to learn more about why Mom, and so many of us, myself included at times, had and have such a hard time matching our beliefs with our behaviors and actions.
In studying psychology, I realized what was likely the core reason that Mom had treated me as she had, and why she couldn’t act with me as her very virtuous beliefs requested of her.
Mom was afraid to see and fully accept her full self. That’s what I believe was the core reason.
She was afraid. That’s it. She was afraid to admit and accept all of those feelings inside that to her felt less than virtuous.
She judged herself as a failure for her mistakes and life experiences. And she was afraid to fully feel that pain.
So she gave the pain to God. And yet, doing that didn’t make her feel or act whole. It only seemed to break her more. The greatest thing she could have done to feel whole would have been to accept all that pain, all that hurt, all of those parts of her that felt unworthy, and to know that even so, she was still okay and worthy of love. Because in accepting all she felt was unacceptable, she could learn to love her full self—human faults, hurts, and all. In accepting all of it, she could realize that she was more than the pain, and that the pain didn’t have to rule and run her life any longer.
I think Mom attempted to understand that she was still okay, in the best ways she knew how. It seemed that she was able to sense that since God loved her, she was still okay. But I don’t think she ever believed deep within her heart that she truly was. And she really didn’t discuss her feelings directly with me. Yet, I still picked up on a lot of them.
As I learned and reflected on these things, I stripped my own spirituality down to bare bones for awhile. I took out a few of the practices that seemed to come up in pretty much every spiritual tradition I’d heard of, and I focused on those. Forgiveness, compassion, and love, all of and for both self and others.
In being able to do what Mom couldn’t do, didn’t know how to do, I was able to see and accept all of her. All the greatness, and all the hurt. Even all the hurt she passed to me. In the emptiness of her presence, I was able to finally express all of my own feelings about how receiving all of that hurt had affected me. And in accepting all of Mom, I was able, over time, to find such great compassion for her—this woman, who, just like me, just like all of us, was a big jumble of greatness and hurt.
Interestingly, in accepting all of my own feelings and directing them toward the idea of my mother, I was finally able to really open this huge wound in my heart and allow it the love, space, and time that it needed to heal. And I was able to learn how to offer that same great forgiveness, compassion, and love to myself and to feel into the depths of my being that I was really okay—human faults and all.
With a daily commitment to practice that still continues to this day, I aim to offer those gifts to myself and to everyone around me, no matter what their actions or claimed beliefs may show.
Sometimes we may realize that it is those who we have had the most difficult relationships with that can end up becoming some of our greatest spiritual teachers. Mom was definitely one of mine.
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Thank you for letting me share more of myself and my stories with you. It is really because of my own process through these very experiences that I felt called to create All About Me, my first book. It’s truly at the cornerstone of what I believe is much of my life’s work, now and into the future.
I benefited so greatly from learning and understanding more about myself. That’s why I wanted to give you the same opportunity, without having to study any psychology in the process!
If you’d love to learn more about All About Me, please do check it out here.
If you feel called to it in any way, you’re likely to get some great learning and understanding of your own from it. And if what you learn allows you to better act with integrity in your own beliefs, perhaps helps you do some deep healing of your own, or inspires you to continue to make this world a better place for yourself and others around you, I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to have played a small part in that.
No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,