A relationship can be a very complex mix of emotions, past programming, and many times have "stuff" from generations that has been carried forward into it.
I was taking time recently to meditate in my room and became overwhelmed by emotions related to my relationship with my mom. I miss her. I miss her voice, her high-pitched laugh, and the way she said my name. I miss her calling my daughter by the nickname she gave her, Breezy. I miss her Harley mama vibe and kiss my a** attitude. Even with all these things I love and miss about her, our relationship was not an easy one for me.
Gaining her approval, trying to get her to like me, see me for me, was at the center of our relationship for me. When I look back on my childhood, and then look back even further into hers, I can see how much of her "stuff" and even her parents "stuff" had been carried forward and impacted our relationship.
My experience growing up made it very difficult to make sense of the pieces of my life. The sharp edges of those pieces that left scars were due to growing up with an abusive father and a mom who, although so tough and amazing in so many ways, was also someone very hard to get close to. She masked her emotions and feelings for the most part really well and didn't talk much about her own past. At times I felt like I never really knew her.
I never met my grandparents or her siblings until I was much older and sought to find them on my own. She wasn't really close with anyone in her family, never had many really close friends, and in an effort to get close to her somehow I wanted so badly to impress her, take care of her, and realize now I even resorted to trying to buy her approval at times with trips, and gifts, and concerts. I desperately wanted her to be happy, to be a part of making that happen for her, but I also now realize I was always seeking her approval. When I didn't get the reaction I thought she should have or expected her to have or have her behave in a the same way I would if someone did something nice for me, I always believed it was somehow my fault. I, in so many ways, felt like I owed it to her and like I owed it to myself to keep trying to get her to appreciate me somehow.
She lost her battle with cancer in February of this year and in the last few months of her life she said some things that were very painful for me to hear, and yet did things to show just how much she loved and appreciated me and my daughter. It was, all the way to the end, emotionally complicated to sort out our relationship for me.
But I knew one thing for sure. I knew I did not want to hold on to any negative emotions and carry my past stuff or hers forward into my future or into my daughter's future. I have spent the past four months meditating and seeking clarity about my relationship with my mom. Through that I have learned that feeling like I owe someone something and showing gratitude, love, and compassion are very different things. I confused them for years.
I see now that my mom loved me deeply and showed it in so many ways, in ways she knew how and yet kept a safe distance because for her that is what worked for her. I never had to prove anything to her. She would always love me the same no matter what because of who she was, not because of who I am, what I was or anything I ever did or didn't do. My own insecurity and need for approval wrote that self-narrated script. The good thing about scripts... you can rewrite them!
I miss her. But most of all I thank her for all she has given to me, all she has taught me even after she rode off on her Harley into the sky. Because of her I now know that sometimes the most important, resilient moments in life are the ones that are spent alone in silence rewriting our script.
Michelle Renee is an author, speaker with The Parsons Company, and the creator of Extreme Resiliency. Follow Extreme Resiliency on Facebook or Twitter (@dailyresiliency)