Little did I know that forgiving my mother would bring me my partner, my life purpose, and catalyse a global quest for true beauty.
Mother’s Day as a child was the one day of the year that filled me with utter dread. I went to St Monica’s Primary and the good Catholics would organise a Mother’s Day stall in the hall where you could buy your mother a present. It was a big deal.
These were the days when warm milk was delivered daily to the classroom entrance, everyone in my class received Holy Communion, and out of 30 kids, there was only one other child who had divorced parents. I was the only one who was brought up by my dad.
Like an adult missing their front teeth, I was so keenly aware that my home didn’t have a mother in it to bake cookies, plait my hair, or do tuck shop.
Lining up for the Mother’s Day stall each year, buying soap or talcum powder for my grandmother, despite how wonderful she was, wasn’t quite the same.
The dragon left behind
The loss of my mother when I was four marked my life in a very significant way. She walked out on our family on Mother’s Day.
As you can imagine, a death might be far easier to accept than a mother walking out on three children under four years of age.
In the magnitude of sins in the eyes of our society, maternal abandonment is right up there. Especially when she abandons three very small people.
Experiencing such significant abandonment so early in life lead me to over-compensate with ridiculously high standards of achievement and a dragon of perfectionism I wrestle with every day.
The journey towards self-acceptance and self-worth for me is a lifelong one. Some days feel as though I have a sign around my neck screaming ‘reject and abandon here’. Other days are sprinkled with a lot more compassion and understanding.
The moment that made me realise the need for change
When starting a relationship in my forties with a fellow yogi who was quite sweet, but much younger than me, I knew that if I didn’t revisit this internal, all-too-familiar territory in a new way, I’d be lining up again for another round of pain, sorrow, rejection, and failure. And abandonment.
As I became closer with this man, my terror swelled. I knew I needed to seriously face this inner dragon, both for the sake of the relationship and for my health and sense of meaning in my life, even though I didn’t know what it was at the time.
Long story short: I started to pray. I made a simple altar with a pink candle in it. I figured that the colour pink represented love (to me), so I lit a candle every day and just prayed for forgiveness, compassion, and understanding. Nothing elaborate or fancy.
My paramour was away in the desert for that time packing up his life. In my solitude I had the space to let this daily intent permeate my awareness and my world.
Two months later I was at a Mother’s Day yoga class. At the end of the class we had to send love and gratitude to our mothers. That opened the floodgates and I finished the class with a very soggy yoga mat.
Bring three generations together
A few hours later I was painting my office and a question flashed through my mind: I wonder if my daughter would like to meet her maternal grandmother? That evening when I asked her, she told me her partner had just asked her the very same thing. For a woman never ever mentioned, twice in one day seemed to me to be a sign for action.
Fast-forward ten days. Both my daughter and I were in mother’s living room with my half-brother. Thanks to Uncle Google, I found her first go.
I approached her with flowers and a hug at the door. This melted her defensiveness. My spontaneous words; “it’s all right” softened her.
Then she held me tight. I could feel her tiny, sparrow-like body frame. This woman didn’t make sense to me, and I couldn’t connect with her as my mother. We only spent an hour together. That was enough. And I’ve seen her probably about five times since.
It was – and still is – a very strange feeling looking at her and trying to fathom that woman is actually my mother – she gave birth to me.
I don’t have that. Not really a yearning to make up for lost time either. I don’t have any sense of ‘let’s make it all better’.
Even now, years later, I can’t fathom the complexity of this paradox, and I’ve given up trying
Now my mother and I speak on the phone every few weeks. I don’t call her Mum. We don’t really have a great deal in common, but it doesn’t matter.
Today her happiness at seeing me moves me so deeply and gives me much joy. In these moments I am unable to speak. Last Christmas Eve she got dressed up in her finest to meet me for an hour for a cappuccino at Gloria Jeans. The spark in her eyes was beautiful.
Opening the door
After that evening of our meeting my life slowly but surely changed.
I looked less for outside reassurance that I’m enough as I am. Even though this feeling didn’t entirely leave, it was abated.
I sank into that relationship with my younger yogi. We lived in a beautiful beachside home where we laughed and healed a lot. I rebuilt my life – only to break it down 18 months later when this relationship finished and catalysed a new pathway of growth.
Fast-forward five years
Now with a strong life direction, a man who is my true partner so firmly beside me; my daughter, her partner, and three granddaughters living a seven-minute drive down the hill, I know none of this would be possible had I not taken that critical step of forgiving my mother.
Forgiving my mother for abandoning me as a small child ultimately led to starting to forgive myself for everything I decided and lived out as a consequence. My life is very much a work in progress and I know that the journey to attaining true self-worth is a life-long quest.
Whilst the journey towards self-worth is a very humbling one, I know that compassion and forgiveness really do work. I also learned that to forgive is to make a stand for yourself; it’s an act of love for you, not necessarily the other person.
Forgiveness creates the doorway to our inner transformation, which ultimately propels the outer transformation of our lives. What’s deepest in our hearts now has the possibility to really show up.
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