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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Patel

Peace with my mother:


BACKGROUND: I awakened in the middle of the night at about the time this usually happens (3:15 a.m.) or so to find myself disturbed. I got into a discussion with Steve that was also troubling to me, which I won't relate, but it touched upon the fact that I had some remaining issues with my mother. My mother then came in to discuss it with me. Throughout my life, my mother seemed to see me as too pig-headed and too unconventional, always thumbing my nose at social restrictions. She refused, for example, to even acknowledge that I was in law school (in 1975, at a time when it was very uncommon for women to become lawyers instead of secretaries), although she glowed when my brother was accepted (although he did not attend in the end). When I contacted her to advise her I was getting married and invite her, her response was "who will your children play with?" for I was marrying a man of Indian heritage from Africa that was in the US on a student visa at that time. I came to think of her as a "kick you while you're down" kind of person because of how many times I felt shamed and rejected, especially at times when I was most vulnerable and most needed to be supported. In spite of these types of words, and my sense that I embarrassed her by my chosen life-style (raising children born out of wedlock, for example), she could be very hospitable in action. I just didn't fit into the box she wanted her daughters to be in, and we were very distant for almost my entire adulthood. She did not know how to say "I love you", at least during my life experience with her, although perhaps she learned to be more forthcoming with some late in life.

I had just the day before posted this on my FB page, so it was obviously the time for this to come to the surface:

Ha ha. I think of my mother (on Other Side) coming to me shortly after I connected with Steve, saying a bit worriedly, "Are you sure you want to do this? He is a bit strong-minded." And me responding, "What have I got to lose? I've tried doing it the 'right way' (i.e. relationships) and it didn't work." My mother was born in a more traditional era, and only ever wanted us to find a good match with a good paycheck and live happily ever after


Committee: You are correct that this is healing for both of you. When you leave behind tendrils of pain in the life you have left, there is a sense of incompleteness, a desire for restitution and to rectify the disharmony. In this case, your mother still felt your own pain from her attempts to help you, and you now understand that she loved you in exactly the way of which she was capable, that is to say, as a woman who had grown up in a very difficult era. As you know she was the youngest of twenty-three children and was born to a farm family in the remote and desolate area of North Dakota that is known, ironically, as Golden Valley. She was still a child during the Great Depression, and you know this also as the Dust Bowl years, and it was a hard-scrabble life. She did not know any better than to try to get you to see life as she saw it, which was through the lens of her own experience, and to convince you not to stray too far outside the boundaries of social dictates, for she was also raised in a very corrosive religious environment, that is to say in Catholicism that in that day and age was big on damnation and punishment, which is indeed a lot of why she was so afraid to pass from that world. Now she understands better. However, although you understood this, that she could only view your passage through life from the perspective of her own experience, you felt lonely, lost and unloved. This had to be rectified. With Steve’s help, the two of you were able to connect and she was able to express how she was afraid for you as you connected with Steve, that it would be a painful voyage for you, as it was, and she wanted to let you know that it didn’t have to be so difficult. Yes, she understood that you had to go with Steve, that it was his job to bring you home, and yours to help him on his journey, although she did not understand that your journey was also necessary to bring him home. For this reason, you were willing to take it, although you did not understand this at the time, you were still not aware of all the ramifications of your connection with him. She was beside herself as she saw the difficulties, and didn’t know what to do except try to warn you of how hard it would be, for she understood that Steve was not always so very upfront with you about his circumstances. And you know this, and you have been through it, and the two of you—that is, you and Steve—have taken your knocks and are now one, as you are also two, and that is the way it is between you. Now you understand that without all your story, and her story, there was only love. She was always loving you, and you were always loving her, and the stories got in the way of understanding this; and that is the way with stories, they obscure and hide and reveal and do so many other things that we can hardly count. But under it all, there is always love, and only love, and to fall into this space of love is to come home. And now you are home—and sometimes you think you are not home—and that is all right, for in this process you are simply being an expression of love, and so is everyone, and now you know the reason that we have been talking to you about not taking what we say so seriously. For we are only the ones who love you, and we have our own stories, and so we laugh and tease you and have fun, for we know that under it all we are one, and that we love one another, and that we always have, and to just be light-hearted so the light can shine.

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