junie@junieswadron.com | 250.813.0183

04 May

I Love You. I Love You More.

Mother's Day

Our relationships with our mothers

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about mothers and wanted to give you time to process anything related to your mom that was unresolved before Mother’s Day, which is on Sunday. I hope that you were able to do that.

“Thanks, Junie, I had a healing, loving, virtual chat with my Mom who’s in a care home with advanced Alzheimer’s. I gave her freedom from me to go and be with Dad, her parents, brothers, etc. on the other side. We also shared forgiveness, although I didn’t think of much that I needed to forgive her for.” WG

Another person wrote:

“Thank you Junie. Before last week’s newsletter, I had been thinking – oh, no, another mother’s day is coming up where I have to fake it. I took your writing exercise to heart and I can hardly believe that by the end of it, I was able to see my part in our discord and invited her out to brunch. I feel hopeful that for the first time that there’s a space, an opening and it’s going to be OK. I really want that and I know in her heart, she does too.” LF

In case you missed it, here is the writing prompt I offered:

What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.

Were you able to do that? What was the outcome? Do you feel more relaxed, healed and at peace around her? Or are you still carrying some hurt and resentment? If so, I highly encourage you to consider re-writing that story so that you are no longer walking around in pain for things that happened in the past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our attitude toward it.

My sincere wish for you is that you and your mom have a loving, respectful, and honest relationship and that you will celebrate Mother’s Day in a wonderful way!

My story, my truth

My relationship with my mother was as tumultuous as they come. But when it was good, it was the most loving, most engaging, most beautiful love I have ever known. And because I knew how it felt to be loved so deeply, when she withdrew her love, which could happen on a dime, I suffered unbearably. My mom, like me, suffered from bi-polar illness. Unlike me, however, it was never diagnosed, and therefore never treated. So my mom did not have the skills or know-how to make the demons go away. Oh how I wished I could have waved a magic wand and made her demons go away. I wanted that so badly—for her, for me, for my dad, and for Lorraine, Barbara, and Howard, my siblings.

Read on to hear about our mixed up, crazy, profound, and beautiful love. This is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life. Today, and on this Mother’s Day, I dedicate this story to her, Minnie Swadron.

 

quillI Love You. I Love You More.

by Junie Swadron.

Mom, Mommy, Minnie, Minnie-Mouse, Moth–er! Mimi, Memes, Mindle, Ma, Minerva, Mama.

She was all of the above. Each a different personality. Still, she was my mother. Minnie Swadron. Born in 1919 in the miniscule town of Shaunavan, Saskatchewan; first born child of Romanian immigrants, Joseph and Lily Lazarus.

I remember being at the hospital and holding mom’s hand. She didn’t know I was holding it. Or perhaps she did. Who’s to say what a person in coma knows or feels or perceives? Sometimes I would hold her hand a few inches above the sheets and then let go of it – let it fall. It was an eerie feeling but I did it hoping the sudden drop would wake her up. I wanted so much for her to wake up and smile up at me with her beautiful green eyes.

And yes, there was that day––the day that you did open them mom and you recognized me right away. And you held your hands out to me and I bent down and you kissed my face. You kissed my cheeks, my forehead, my chin, my eyes. There was a desperation to it––an aching, a pleading, a hanging on. A memorizing of every feature: the shape of my eyes, the smell of my hair, the feel of my breath upon your face as you drew me into you. Soul to soul. And I loved you more than ever knowing how much you loved me. No holding back. In those kisses, you gave it all. You kissed me with an aching need to hold on which caused my heart to split open but I understood. I needed to hold on then too. It was a moment of truth. Just us and the love––no-one else in the room. No-one to criticize your love for me. Like T. who was embarrassed by your displays of affection.

I used to be embarrassed too. I hated it when I was in my teens or twenties and even thirties and we would go to the Lawrence Plaza or for walks anywhere and you insisted on holding my hand. I guess it reminded me too much of being a child sitting next to you on the couch watching TV and you would want me to scratch your legs. It used to repulse me. But the queasy feeling left once I moved west and went back for visits. Of course I was middle-aged by then. And last October when I stayed with you after your surgery and you seemed so little and vulnerable, I would have done anything to make you feel better. So I actually heard myself offering to massage your back. I did and as much as you cooed expressions of delight, it was me, I know, who benefited the most.

My mom Minnie
My mom receiving a loving kiss from her grand-daughter Jennifer.

And now you’re gone and I remember those Toronto days traveling the T.T.C. There was snow piled high on the ground when I took the bus from your apartment on Chaplin Crescent to the Scarborough General Hospital. Sometimes there were blizzards as I walked and waited for the bus. I hate being cold but I loved the snow. It held me. It supported me. It reminded me of so many other Toronto winters.

And the times you and I spoke with glee on the phone from our respective homes after the first snowfall, loving the beauty, the stillness, the freshness in the winter sky. We loved so many things like that. Standing on your balcony or mine mid-summer when the thunder storms crashed through the sky and the rain came down in torrents and splashed heavily onto the pavement below. We loved the drama. We even loved the humidity. And I remember when I was a little girl living on Neptune Drive when you took me outside during the rain showers to wash our hair or catch the drops in our mouths. And we’d giggle and dance in the puddles. Those were on the good days. And those are the ones I care to remember for now.

Last night in my writing group I wrote:

I’m here with you again mom. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten you because my days get full and I don’t remember to miss you and I’ve gotten used to not calling you every day. Used to it? I don’t know. Buried it is more like it. Sometimes lately when I’ve spoken about you, I talk about how crazy you were when I was a child. I don’t talk about the summer sun shower dances or my teenage years when I’d walk in the door after school and Dick Clarke’s American Bandstand would be blaring from the television set. I’d breathe in the comforting smells of dinner cooking on the stove and then be greeted by a happy you in your hot-pink summer short-shorts and freshly ironed white cotton blouse. I’d toss my books on the table and in two seconds we’d be jiving to Elvis Presley or twisting to Chubby Checkers. And I wouldn’t talk about the numerous times my teen-age friends gathered in our living room to be with you even when I wasn’t home. They came because you offered wisdom or encouragement or simply because you were fun to be with.

No I haven’t been mentioning those times at all. And then it struck me the other day why not. It became as plain as day. Simply put, I don’t have to miss you. I don’t have to yearn for you. For your gentle words. For the unconditional love you have had for me whenever my illness struck. Without fail you’d rally round no matter if we were face to face or oceans apart. Your tenderness caressed me through the phone lines, comforting me with loving words, reminding me how courageous I am, how I’ve beat this time and time again, and how I will this time too. And you’d remind me how many other obstacles I’ve faced and how I fought and won. And you’d talk about the beautiful life I made for myself and my successful therapy practice––how I helped others when I couldn’t see that I was or when none of it had any meaning for me. And you’d remind me of the constant flow of friends I’ve always had who love me to pieces. And you’d talk to me and talk to me and even when I couldn’t imagine there could be any more words left you’d find more to convince me not to give up. You were my champion mom and possibly the reason I’m still on the planet. But the irony was you also passed this hideous illness down to me. Even though you were never formally diagnosed, it was blatantly obvious. But you fought too, mom. You fought too. Differently than me. You locked your doors. You judged and blamed and eventually scared everyone away.

But I don’t want to go there now. Because in my heart, I know you were hurting. And perhaps that was the bond between us from the early days on––well that and the laughter too. All of it. Perhaps in some strange way it’s what kept our hearts intact – beyond the madness when you got too crazy to be around. Or I did. Funny, how we held each other on a pedestal which of course, never lasted. Before long, we were side by side on the floor scraping to help each other up again. And we always did. We did it with laughter, we did it with tears. In the end, we always did it with love.

I still carry you in my heart wherever I go and on some days I miss you fiercely. Whenever I see something beautiful or funny, touching or strange, I imagine you beside me, laughing your infectious laugh or smiling your beautiful smile or making a witty comment or a judgmental one. No doubt if it’s judgmental I’ll give you my ridiculous self-righteous lecture. Inevitably, you’d take a deep drag on your cigarette, look me directly in the eyes and say, ‘Junie, don’t use that therapy voice on me’ and we’d both burst out laughing.

I still have messages from you on my answering machine, mom. In one you say: ‘I miss you, Junie. I miss you honey. That’s what I do, I miss you.’ And I feel your lonely, aching heart. And now it’s my turn. Such irony. But as I type this now, a peace has washed over me. Perhaps it’s because you’re here with me. Yes, I feel you here and yet ironically I sense you telling me that it’s time to let go. Like the vivid dream I had only weeks after you died where you came to me and said, ‘It’s time to let go of me now.’ And I fought with you. I said it was too soon. And I didn’t know if you meant it for my sake or yours or for both of us.

And I am ready to do that. It’s been almost a year since Lorraine called me with the news. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was awake waiting for the call. I knew you had died. Still, I got off the phone and started wailing. Wailing! And when I stopped, all I could remember were the parting words we used in our daily telephone conversations.

‘Bye, mom. I love you.’ And you would always answer. ‘I love you more.’

So good bye, mom. I love you. And you know what? It’s my turn to say it now:

I love you even more.

Writing Prompt

Think of your mom as a woman, apart from her role as your mother. What do you think are or were her hopes and dreams? Do you think she fulfilled some of them? Are there are others she never did? What do you think are some of the most significant things she has taught you? Open yourself to the love in your heart for your mom, the woman who gave you life and begin to write the story of your relationship. Consider giving it to her on Mother’s Day as a beautiful gift or reading it to her even if she has passed away. She will hear you still.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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29 Apr

Mothers, Viewed Through the Eyes of their Children

woman

Mother’s Day is just around the corner

How do you feel when you think about your mom? Is it warm and tender or is it something else?

Every child craves a loving and nurturing relationship with the person who carried them in her womb and gave them life. Yet, as no two mothers are alike, we may fit somewhere in the spectrum from almost never to almost always having our needs to be loved and cherished met and satisfied.

If we were truly blessed, we grew up feeling treasured, respected, and adored. We knew we could come to our parents, and for the purposes of this article, our moms, for anything and she was always there for us. She listened, she dried our tears, offered encouragement, and was our champion along the path.

Yet many people had a mother who was unable to go beyond her own wounds to show affection and may have unwittingly projected her fear and anger onto her children instead. Children do not know that the way they are treated has nothing to do with them. They only know how painful it to be ignored or ridiculed or something else that causes hurt or shame.

Fast forward to adulthood

If you were one of those children who was left to your own devices to figure out how to feel safe in the world, it’s likely, if you have not healed your heartbreak, you could still be harbouring feelings of regret, hurt and confusion. You may feel angry and tired, depressed or empty. And you may be projecting those unhealed wounds onto your own children or in other relationships in your life. I hope not, but you will know if this rings true for you.

There is a strong correlation between the way we feel about ourselves and behave in the world and the way we were raised.

Choose change before the universe chooses it for you!

Sometimes, it’s not until life becomes unbearable that we either open ourselves up to change, or in many cases, life circumstances force us to. I know that was certainly true for me. After being in psychiatric hospitals time and again because of circumstances related to my bi-polar illness, I decided not to let that spoil my life. Specifically, I did not want the labels attached to my name to identify who I am. I knew I would have to re-write that story of mental illness if I were to go on and have a meaningful, productive life.

What it could cost not to change

It was my desperate need to stop the drama, my willingness to reach out, and my earnest wish to heal the pain from the past, no matter what that took, that brought me to the teachers that helped me transform my life in healthy ways. I instinctively knew what it would cost me if I didn’t do whatever it took to turn things around. It was simple, really. I saw myself remaining in unhealthy relationships, making poor choices, being in and out of psychiatric wards, having to start all over again, feeling hopeless and unworthy of love.

Thankfully, I listened to the voice of my inner spirit, even though it was only a whisper, and even though my ego was loud and enticing. I chose a path of inner peace. And when I stumble and fall, I know how to find my way back. I simply brush myself off and keep going, but with more insight in my toolkit.

Living a life you love

Today, and for many years, I have been living a life that I love. I also no longer regret the past. Those stories not only shaped me, but offered gifts of strength, insight and wisdom that I couldn’t have learned any other way. This allows me to confidently and compassionately share what I have learned with others.

I am not stating that it was a picnic climbing the ladder. It was bloody hard at times. I wanted to give up and did many times. The hardest story to find peace with was the one with my mother.

Back to mothers

My mother, Minnie, and me at my sister Barbara's wedding in 1991.
My mother, Minnie, and me at my sister Barbara’s wedding in 1991.

I know my mother loved me. She showed me time and time again with hugs and kisses, with loving talks and was my number one champion when my bi-polar illness took hold. Unfortunately, she also shared my illness but was undiagnosed. So I grew up in a home where we never knew if mom was going to be in one of her loving moods or raging ones.

In my path of healing, I forgave my mother long ago. In fact, I love her to pieces and tell her so often, even though she passed away seven years ago. I was able to remove the label and role of “mother” and see her as a woman on her own path, often a heartbreaking one, and she did not have the know-how to make it better. That still saddens me. It hurts me to the core. She was an amazing woman, but she just didn’t know it. Her insecurities, which she used as ammunition sometimes, simply didn’t allow her to go beyond the camouflage of comfort she hid behind.

I feel like telling again, right now. Mom, if you can hear me from Heaven, I love you to the moon and back and I pray that you are at peace.

Your turn

Folks, soon it will be Mother’s Day. Let your mom know how much you love her. If she wasn’t or isn’t the kind of mom you would have asked for, take the high road anyway. She deserves more love, not less. And so do you. Find it in your heart to forgive her for any transgressions and make this the happiest Mother’s day you have had up until now.

Writing Prompt

What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.

Feature Stories

Today I am featuring two women whose stories are in my book, Re-Write Your Life. You will be touched as you read the stories of their inner journeys with their mothers in the most poignant, real, and beautiful ways.

quillThe Legacy,
by Judy McIllmoyl

When I heard of our topic for this writing, I knew I had to write of you. I don’t even know your name. My eyes have never been blessed by the sight of your face. I long to know you—a longing deeper perhaps than I have an understanding of. You are my link to the past. To the love that brought me into being. You have a legacy that I will never know. What made you dance with joy? What were you most passionate about? What did you fear most, in the depths of your despair? When you awakened in the morning what were your first thoughts? When you caught your reflection in a shop window, did you ever catch your breath and think of me?

Many years went by when I did not let my thoughts come to rest on you. That wasn’t allowed. Everything was as it should be. I was with parents who loved me. Enough said. But was it enough? While never given permission to mourn the loss of the living you, you were lost to me. Where were you when I was so alone and so afraid? Is my fear your legacy to me? Is it my gifts, my deep love for nature and all things delicate and tender and easily broken?

As time leaves its etchings on me, I look in my eyes and wonder who you are. I do long to know you…as one soul knows another; not by name or even a shared past, but by an honouring of each other’s presence here on earth. You gave me life. I was once a part of you and I still am; as you are still a part of me, even though I don’t even know your name.

quillMasks, by Sharon Pocock

I step out of the shower and do the things that women do. Towel dry, moisturize, put products in my hair that promise the Hollywood look and god knows it could do with a little help. Wash my face, then comes toner and more moisturizer. Do I really believe I need a separate cream or gel for under my eyes? I’ve no idea but the package was cute and the jar looks elegant on the washstand, promising its own patented fountain of youth. I dry my hair and then the real work begins.

Concealer, just a touch under the eyes and hey, if I need it there, it kind of suggests the eye cream is the snake oil I always suspected. A little foundation, not all over, just on the bits that need it. Hmm, maybe it should be all over. A little eyeliner, maybe olive, or grey, or burgundy, or black if I’m in a Dusty Springfield mood. A little blush, just a touch, a suggestion of heat and then the final touch – lipstick. When I was younger it was bold colours, making a statement in a too pale face, but now in my more somber, if not more sober years, I’m safe in natural, and taupe, and suede and all the other names the marketing men created to mean the same shade of dull. It’s taken me years to hone these skills. To know which colour to hide behind, what creates the desired mask of the moment. But it wasn’t always the case.

I think back to a small, shy girl, tongue-tied in the face of boys. More at home on horseback than at a teenage party. I didn’t know the code words. Couldn’t crack the body language and the secret handshakes that make the closed world of a popular teenager go round. I remember standing, self-conscious in a pair of sage green dungarees that I’d coveted for the longest time. I thought I was the bee’s knees. I thought I was the kick. I walked into the party and thought that I would die.

The room was wall to wall with tight jeans and tighter tops. With hair styled within an inch of its life and lipstick in every rainbow colour. I stood there in my token flash of blue eyeshadow, clutching at my coke and wondering if I could pluck up the nerve to speak to the boy I liked. Finally I took my courage in both hands and made the move and he smiled and talked about our homework and then he walked away, leaving me stranded in the middle of the floor. I know that people watched and people whispered and probably laughed, but I didn’t hear them as I stood frozen, locked in my own humiliation. But I didn’t blame him. He was a teenage boy and that’s how they were. I blamed you.

I blamed you for not teaching me the language, not teaching me the code I would need to open this new door. I blamed you for not talking about lipstick and blush, powder and eyeliner. I blamed you for letting me think that my prized dungarees were suitable armour for a teenage party. I blamed you for all these things – for not giving me the weapons I needed to survive in shark infested waters. I was your daughter and you were my mum and I loved you so much, but I blamed you for not helping me become a woman. For not helping me understand.

I made so many mistakes in those black years; fell over my feet in so many ways. I look back and shiver and think of the deep pools I almost drowned in – putting myself in positions where the worst might have happened because I didn’t understand the subtext.

That was then and I grieve for the skinny girl, so unsure in her own skin, desperate to understand and be understood. Desperate for entrée into this adult world of sophistication and sexual knowledge. But this is now and I finally see the girl for what she was. And I see you in the same blinding light.

I was fifteen when he went away and you were drowning, clutching at straws to keep you afloat and I was your anchor in that long turbulent year. Your love had turned his back and found new pastures and my brother didn’t want to know. What nineteen-year-old boy wants to admit that the father he worshipped had feet of clay? So he withdrew into the strange dark world that teenage boys inhabit and left us two to cope.

We floated in our homemade life raft, keeping each other warm. I cooked and cleaned and I shopped and played housekeeper and counsellor and nursemaid. And by default you became the child in that time and I became the adult. I put away childish things and entered the adult world. The year passed and after more false starts than I can count, he came back, cap in hand and you finally smiled again. But I continued to cook and shop and be your sounding board because I was now an equal in your eyes.

Looking back, that was the root of the problem. In that long year I grew up, concentrating on the mundane struggle of getting through the day. At the end I had crossed the Rubicon and couldn’t cross back. My childhood, my teenage years of growth and learning and experimentation had gone—disappeared without ever really being explored, every unanswered question buried in a shallow grave with a sprig of rue on top.

I couldn’t go back, so I walked forward into life, ill-equipped to deal with the nuances of this strange, new world. But it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t realize that I hadn’t asked the questions. You’d been lost and I bridged the gap and when you looked again you saw a woman, an adult and I allowed you the deception.

So I stand here and look in the mirror. Picking up cleanser and tissues I start to wipe away the mask. Stroke by stroke, bit by bit, the walls come down and then tissue is dirty with beige and red and black. I stand and stare into the mirror, my face clean and bare and finally, I see myself with all my flaws and faults and I’m happy with the reflection. And as I look, I see you too. I finally see the person—not the mother or the wife, but I see the woman, with all your fears and insecurities and joys. I see you and know you did the best you could and I don’t blame you anymore.

 

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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junie@junieswadron.com | 250.813.0183