I heard the words cancer and surgery last summer when my mother was 92 years old. She had finally found the answer to the cause of her “symptoms” that she had been noticing for some months. I was taken by surprise as these symptoms were layered by minimization and her resolve to heal on her own. She often quoted my grandfather who lived 96 years and rarely, if ever went to the doctor. Finally, the bleeding became more serious and she agreed to more investigation. Uterine cancer and a surgical hysterectomy were the outcome shortly after the diagnosis.
We dropped my mother off at the local hospital. My father and husband walked her in. With COVID, that was as far as anyone got. I waited in the car at the entrance watching her gingerly make the short walk inside; then leaving the area with a staff person to the main hospital. There would be no contact until she was discharged. I tried to focus on the present moment in the car, swallow the emotions and hope for the best which fortunately turned out well. She is close to 93 now and has another slice of life to live.
Swallowing emotions has been an automatic through much of my life. It turned out my mother also was anxious and afraid of not surviving the procedure. I assumed she might be given the circumstances, but these emotions went unexpressed. Finding the energy to broach these subjects felt too difficult. The emotions of denial and minimization can be powerful survival defenses which, of course at one time in our early lives we needed. They can also create blind spots and blinders for seeing life fully. “I don’t see what I don’t see, hear or feel.” She expressed to me later that this experience was a wakeup call for her…that she now had the desire to make some changes in her life. She spontaneously came up to me during a recent visit and said, “I love you.” And I want you to know that. I don’t know if I ever really said it.” My heart leaped with joy, but I responded with only a calm cautiousness. “Where is this really coming from?” What I had always longed for was that deep, loving connection with my mother yet reality and the world we come from did not make it easy. I held onto some negative emotions from my past and they have lingered throughout my life.
These negative charges from the emotions we carry can have many consequences. Over the years as a therapist, many people have expressed desire to get rid of these negative feelings so they can be free to do what they really want to do. Emotions have an uncanny way to run the show so to speak. Finding pathways towards emotional freedom is a journey with many rewards. Since energy cannot be “gotten rid of” there is only the path of transforming these negative charges. Some have spent years in therapies trying to find ways to do just that while others lack the awareness that their show has been drastically altered by life’s stress reactions.
“The Angels will come down from heaven in their chariots and carry me away. That will be it.” As a child, I had the images from the Bible doing just that. I think it worked for Moses. My mother rarely thought of her own aging and death and this was not a topic of family conversations. It fell in the categories of sex and finances. Politically, she had crossed that river and was wonderfully open about her thoughts and beliefs. The decision to run for mayor of a small ND town in the early 70’s began her investigation into why things weren’t congruent to what she valued. She had many discoveries to make here. Researching the intricacies of the mother/daughter relationships did not show up and we went into repeat of her own experiences growing up in the 40’s.
In recent years, the toll of her life stage was impacting all aspects of her life. I longed to discuss these events and start a meaningful dialogue with her. I wanted more understanding and clarity on how she wanted to live at this stage and what she needed. Talking around a subject and creating a vague story about something can be confusing and frustrating. It is also another common defense that we as humans can use. I imagined angels in the chariot yet knew that, she was needing to make some practical decisions about her life. I wanted to help but it was not easy. Practicing awareness and taking healthy action steps is easier said than done. I have respect for all these pearls of wisdom now more than ever.
Taking the deep dive for me with my mother is rather daunting especially in a format such as this. However, I believe in it. I believe in the power of sharing a personal story and the ripples created from its creation. I have done the balance sheet so to speak about the gifts and talents she shared as well as the limitation she had to meet my emotional needs. I survived to this beautiful age so one thing is certain – she did the job we were all trained to do in this life. Survive and pass it on. Evolving to the next level requires that. I now begin mother thoughts with the gratefulness of where I sit today.
I remember the feeling of confusion and not having much of a say in my life…not that I knew that I could. There is the memory of me clinging to my favorite babysitter that we had for a couple of years and the deep sadness I felt when she “went away”. I may have lost that trust in my inner voice early on. Being heard. What does that mean? Each child responds uniquely. It is a felt sense…just like the feeling of being loved and being able to give love. Many years passed and I had the opportunity to visit Linda, the childhood babysitter. She showed me the tiny dancers in a case that I had enjoyed looking at as a child. The emotions were overwhelming. I was surprised, put up my old defenses and I pushed them down. A short time after I left, my emotions broke through these defenses and I wept for a long time. This was the connection I had tucked away. The growth part here is that I allowed it to be expressed many years past the original pain.
It is not easy to feel negativity towards a parent. And it was especially difficult for me. This tails back to my mother’s relationship with her mom…. same dynamic, different time. Finding emotional freedom was in my fantasies and dreams.How can our relationships with our loved ones be all they can be now that we have so many more opportunities? The rewards for feeling these deep connections with others are immeasurable as they enrich our health, our emotions and our outlook on life. That has been a question I have been pondering most of my life. Many of us in today’s culture are reluctant to wake up to this great potential called Loving and Being Loved. Now, we find the internet and social media full of opportunities to find and express this love of self and others. There are just as many sites to promote exploitation and immediate gratification. Choices and more.
Navigating the internet is somewhat of a challenge to my mother. She has learned how to use email and Facebook with the help of my brother who lives nearby. These resources are not always realistic for the 90’s. I commonly will “send a link” to others but the mindset here is more of the familiar, the telephone and the visit. Seeing how our generational mindsets are formed reminds me of mine and how essential it is for me to refresh often and keep learning. Retiring to the rocking chair is becoming more of a relic phrase. How can my relationship with my mother be all it can be in the time we have? How will I decide to think and behave within this relationship? Questions are essential to create the relationship you desire. Will I stay with my default mode of calm/irritable detachment or stay awake to the potential that still exists. Make it simple. Finding ways to set a simple love intention…because that is what it is – a step for evolving our love relationships. Default to our past conditioning is a sure bet unless we choose a new and better path. To do this you need to consult your heart. How best to do this? Again, keep it simple. Set the intention for the best outcome for your relationship and keep this in your heart while you keep awake to what shows up for you while going about your daily life.
Prayer and meditation are on the upswing in the world. COVID has been a wake-up call for the soul. Mental and spiritual health is being placed on the front burners where in my opinion needs to be with everyone. Culture has other survival plans. I have done extensive study with meditation and moving meditations in the last 9 months. My life has taken a turn for the highest good!
My mother’s faith has always been an inspiration and value given her husband’s role as a minister. Throughout the barriers and legalities of organized religion she saw the real power of Love and the core of spirituality. Still, I do not think the chariots are planning their glorious trip to her house to whisk her away. I want to be conscious and helpful in these times. How will this play out? I keep my eyes focused on those guiding posts and will experiment not really having healthy templates for this phase of life.
Meanwhile, I will focus on deepening my own self-care and meditation practices. Swallowing emotions is evolving into awareness and expression to myself and to others when needed. Creating joy in these times and putting my Midwest work ethic to work for a higher purpose. We are all given new opportunities to see with new perspectives. Put your potential on the front burner.