When I got the email from my publicist asking for a blog post about mother daughter relationships, I immediately got a headache. Haven't I said enough, written enough, suffered enough? My partner laughed. You asked for it, he said. Now get writing. I dragged myself to the computer, head bowed.
Once I started typing, I remembered why I've done so much work on the subject: the mother daughter knot isn't easy, but it is worth working until you reach some kind of resolution. Without that, you're forever lost on a sea of adolescence, not quite sure you can make the next step.
The truth is, I've been blessed with a biological mother and a stepmother, a godmother, and a half dozen "pretend" mothers. I wouldn't exist without one of them, wouldn't be who I am without another, and wouldn't be where I am without the other seven. I love them all, thank them all, and admire them all.
But I have to be honest. When I think of all the mothers I've known and the mothers I've loved, there is one that isn't on the list. She's the one I've never met, the one with whom I've never had an argument, the one that has loved me unconditionally from the very beginning.
She's the imagined mother. The mother I've conjured to love me when I've felt unworthy, and to affirm me when I've felt alone. She's the mother who forgives me when I've wronged, and celebrates my achievement when I win.
The mother in my mind looms over me, yes, like a deity. She is pure, unstained by intergenerational conflict and judgment about my choices. She has no ambivalence about who I am and what my role is in her life.
Imagining mother is not a new concept. Psychologists have long asked patients to imagine the love they've always wanted. I have sat on the couch more than once, envisaging steady ground beneath my feet, the strong arm of protection around my shoulders.
We all know we have the power, the faculty, to imagine what we need. We imagine ourselves working at a dream job, living in a certain neighborhood, giving birth to a beloved child, and we move toward what we want. But what about the feeling of being whole, complete, enough? What course do we take to get that? What book do we have to write, read, or turn into a movie to win that prize?
The imagined mother reminds me that because I can imagine her, I already have what I seek. I don't need a therapist, a new wardrobe, or even a baby to find out what it feels to be loved without limits. I don't have to change my biological mother, or love her any less.
I do have to be continually open to the imagined mother, though. I have to take the time to visualize her, and to appreciate the qualities she embodies. In the midst of a world based on what is tangible, known, proven, I have to believe in the imagined mother, and let her love me.