Moving Mountains: Making Peace with Your Mother
(excerpt from Elli’s book, The Story Doesn’t Matter )
“With Love and Patience Nothing is Impossible” ~ Daisuke Ikeda
We all have something in our lives that we perceive to being an insurmountable challenge. Curing cancer, finding the right spouse, solo free climbing El Capitain, or even getting to work on time. One of the challenges for me was my relationship with my mother. And as things go it was not a neatly contained issue, but one that spread to every relationship in my life creating a huge mountain which cast a great shadow on every aspect of my life.
So how did it become my business to move mountains??
Please note that the following story is told from my reality, as I perceived and lived it then. That is not to say that everyone who participated in this story doesn’t have their own version and learning points that ensued from it. None of the accounts being more accurate or truthful than another, for each of us finds and creates our own truth within the experiences we have.
This is my story.
The Perfect Storm
In 2000 something big shifted the course of my life. Becoming a mother and having my mother move into our house were only two of the ingredients that set up the conditions for the “perfect storm” . A storm whose seeds I’ve carried for all my life, but gained momentum in 2000. Officially taking shape in 2008 and finally tearing apart my entire understanding of life in 2009.
That spring, all the puzzle pieces that I had taken such care to arrange for years: being an highly educated, spiritual woman, a supportive wife, dedicated mother, sister, friend and a respectful, loving, forgiving and accepting member of our family, and society, all lay tattered in infinite pieces around me.
Everything that I *thought* I was, was no more.
Two years after my mom had moved into our house, creating a daily war-zone of words and emotions or sometimes cold-war type silence, my husband announced that he was leaving me and taking our kids to live somewhere else. The noxious relationship that I had developed with my mother was contaminating everyone, everything and every moment of our lives. Even the cat died of a tumor that year!
At this moment I had infinite choices, but a few of the ones that crossed my mind were:
1) Let hubby go, work things out with mom
2) Let hubby and mom go, and go solo
3) Let mom go, and work things out with hubby
As odd as it may seem, I felt fearless in making this decision. I knew each option had certain “consequences” associated with it, all of which were completely beyond my wildest imagination at that point. Though I had lost touch with much of my intuitive side in the previous years, a small voice pointed me to:
door #3: work things out with husband.
So I sent an email to my mother, who was enroute to Australia to visit my sister, that upon her return she had 30 days to move out of our house… or else! (this wasn’t the first expulsion from our lives, but certainly the severest and most urgent one). We even sought legal counsel, should she choose not to comply with our demand to move and get our of our life. It was surreal.
Upon my mother’s return, my husband, kids and I went undercover for 6 weeks, living at a friend’s house in our small town, keeping our whereabouts top secret in knowing that if my mother found us, it would re-engage the old patterns and activate emotional buttons within all of us, but especially the kids, who had at times turned into complete basket-cases in response to our family turmoil.
We left clear instructions about when my mom was allowed at the house to clean out her belongings. We alerted the kids’ school that she was not allowed to visit or see them, and we returned none of her plea-filled phone calls, to reconcile, patch things up or even to answer general questions about joint household items. This was the most drastic thing I had ever done in my peace-loving life!
I jokingly describe this time as “the divorce” I had with my mother,
which according to Merriam-Webster is the “the complete separation of two things”. I know nowadays that separation is just part of the illusory game of duality, but it certainly felt like, and had all the elements of a divorce, right down to a shared bank account!
The Dark Night of the Soul
Though I chose to stay with my husband and kids, our relationship was tenuous. To say the least, it felt as if everything I ever had a reference point for, including my idea of spirituality was vaporized. I was left standing in a great Void of nothingness, and all I remember was crying, physically, mentally and from the depth of my being:
“Please help me”, “What is the Truth” and “Who am I”…
It felt as if everything that had ever made any “sense” to me until then was erased, and so my life very well could have ceased existing… the thought of death evoked no feelings or fear, though interestingly enough the thought of suicide never crossed my mind.
Yes, this is what some people call a “Dark Night of the Soul” experience!
As one of my favorite author’s Eckart Tolle so elegantly describes it in his 2011 Newsletter:
“The Dark Night of the Soul (aka coming to Jesus Moment) is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness… Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything… and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.
What has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it, this results in a dark place.
People who go into that, have the possibility of emerging out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain.
They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind.
A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who’ve gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.”
So this is what I was experiencing, without know it at the time!
I went about my daily duties, though a Jetson’s-type robot could easily have taken over my daily activities of scooting around the house, cooking, doing laundry and picking the kids up from school. I was a mom-shell, feeling quite hollow and empty inside.
The first week of living in the void was extraordinary. Out of the blue people that I had never or rarely ever heard from, called and emailed me telling me bits and pieces of “truth” about my life, though they were encoded.
Here are two of these messages that came through:
#1 “Your mother told us, you don’t love your kids”.
(deeper implication and meaning when I decoded it)
This statement reflected my own feelings of inadequacy as a mother.
Through the years, I gave away all of my power, by believing that I was never enough!
Remember that one of our fundamental fears associated with our human experience is just that? Not being enough?
This allowed my mom to “trump” me, by criticizing, questioning, and measuring my parental decisions. This allowed her to “love” my kids more, understand them, and provide “better” for them, than I could…. or so it seemed! This was beyond anything I had ever encountered in my peer group, even among friends who had notoriously “controlling” mothers.
People who witnessed my parenting in those years would find this notion incredulous, to the point of ridiculous. However, that is the message I believed (through the interactions with my mom) and lived out on a daily basis. I systematically avoided her phone calls, and even took extra long detours, 1-2 hours on foot, on my way home, when I knew that she was “waiting” for us to get back to the house. (at this point we lived in separate houses but the same neighborhood).
The energy behind this message even gave me nightmares in which I became physically aggressive, like a pitbull in a dogfight for life or death.
Having these dreams night after night scared me, because I didn’t know that I harbored so much hatred in my heart for my mom. A born actor, I had always been able to hide my feelings extraordinarily well. However, these dreams allowed a deeper part of me to surface, an anger that I did not know what to do with.
Though powerful and emotionally stirring this first message was, the second message really capsized my boat and understanding of life.
#2 “She’s been talking bad about you behind your back for years”.
For the uninitiated, this may seem benign in comparison to the first statement. But let me explain the implications:
A feeling of complete and utter deception !
I had had the feeling that there was a knife in my back for years, but every time I confronted my mother about my feelings, she denied them, even commending my parental prowess and overall brilliance at those times.
Finally hearing the validation of my complete deception and ongoing behind-my-back destruction by my own mother was probably the deepest inner pain I have ever felt.
Everything that I had learned and upheld as the sacred roles and duties of motherhood were destroyed (to protect, support, guide, nurture and unconditionally love your offspring).
At that moment I lost and erased my earthly mother.
For the first time in my life, I prayed to the Divine Mother to love and help me, for I felt forsaken by my own.
Not only did I feel deceived, but my trust in myself (my intuition) was destroyed through these encounters. I had no “true north”, no place for peace, no still small voice to trust, because for years I had overridden the intuitive information I was getting about my mother. I flat out denied my inner voice which told me that my mother was talking in unkind ways behind my back.
These two messages were the tip of the metaphorical iceberg in my “dark night of the soul” experience.
Thus ensued a 3 year period of complete silence between my mother, siblings and I. (My father passed in 1996 after a fairly short experience with Lou Gehrig’s Disease) My siblings did not at first understand that this retreat was not to punish the family or my mother, as much as a profound desire and need to find and embrace my true radiant Self!
The Mountain (Inofficial Diagnosis)
As the storm clouds receded into the distance, and my life “calmed” down without my mother in it, I clearly saw the mountain before me. The mountain that had been built around my relationship with my mother, it was big and I didn’t want it in my life anymore.
In sharing my story with one of my dearest friends, she pulled up a page in her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- IV), on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. This is called “splitting.”
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
(Just to name a few…)
Had my mom’s name appeared on that page as a “classic case study” it wouldn’t have surprised me! There in black and white was the story of my life. It was strangely relieving to know that there were others walking around on eggshells like me, impacted by similarly intense relationships.
Now, please don’t put this book down until you have reached the end of this chapter, because I promise you an amazing ending with life transforming insights.
This new revelation prompted me to seek counseling as I felt completely helpless in dealing with this situation on my own. Although there is one scientific research study which touts a 40% “recovery” in BPD patients after 10-20 years of psychotherapy, most of what I read was more along the nebulous lines of “group and individual psychotherapy are partially effective”.
What kind of a prognosis is this? Doesn’t this kind of information sounds vaguely like someone being partially pregnant ?! Apart from the fact that my mother wouldn’t go near psychotherapy with a 100 foot pole, and certainly not 2 decades of it!
In many ways I was grateful for this new found scientifically proven understanding of my situation, however, I vacillated between believing the psychology, and scientific evidence that with no uncertainty pointed to this diagnosis, while on the other hand, something inside told me, “there is more.”
At that point I could have chosen to do what many people do with their problems, avoid or navigate around them. However, I had already tried that, only to be sucked into the storm that created the dark night of my soul experience. I felt that the heaviness of this mountain as well as its shadow affected my inner kingdom, and I was done not being able to travel and move freely in my world.
Apparently I was gearing up to move mountains, and the name of that first mountain was Borderline Personality Disorder
Even though I believe in and have witnessed instant transformation, it took me about four years after that “dark night of the soul” experience to get to the source of the patterns that had created this mountain in my life, and to dissolve the anger, hatred, frustration and pain associated with these patterns.
So free, that I sometimes even have difficulty drawing up memories from those years. Its not that I can’t, but I have no more energy in these thoughts, such that it feels more like trying to remember a distant story, like a fairy tale a few lifetimes away.
I would love to tell you that my fairy godmother (of which I do have one) squiggled her magic on me and I was on my way to a gradual transformation, or that I popped an insto-presto-enlightenment pill, but my journey was and continues to be an ever expanding patchwork of people/guides, books and experiences. Many of the insights and tools of transformation which I have shared with you throughout this book.
Though there was not one point, or one thing I did or experienced that was the lynchpin to dissolving the underlying patterns which manifested in this crazy mother-daughter relationship, I do remember that something very big shifted the moment that I understood and took 100% responsibility for my life.
** Key: A huge part of the mountain dissolved when I shifted from being a powerless victim, to recognizing that I had unconsciously asked and created this insane relationship, for my own learning.
Instead of looking at my mother as the perpetrator, I saw a teacher. I saw someone who took on a really difficult role in my “play” my “story” so that I could remember who I was.
For the first time in my adult life, I was filled with unconditional love and gratitude for her!
Making Peace with Your (no My) Mother
By reaching this far in the book, I hope that you realize how powerful you are, and that things are not always as they seem! The people and events in your life are just pointers, portals to your underlying patterns.
Concluding this section of the book, let me share the key insights that I gained from my story, which ultimately allowed me to make peace with my mother, and write this book. These insights are applicable to all stories in life, not just the ones around your mother!
Thank you Mama for giving me an opportunity to find myself, I love you!
- Take 100% responsibility for every aspect of your story.
- Be filled with gratitude for your mother for mirroring the deepest patterns of your mind, which kept you separate from realizing your true radiant Self
- Reclaim your personal power by remembering that your are the director of your life. You are one with Source/Divinity.
- Choose to no longer play the role of a victim or a perpetrator
- There is nothing but unconditional love, even if it looks like pain, hatred and anger in your life’s story
In accordance with the title of this book, I recognize that I found some very deep underlying fears, and mental constructs in my life through my mother and her supposed BPD, but my awakening could very well have happened through my husband, my neighbor, boss, one of my siblings, children, a disease or any kind of traumatic life event, because the Story Doesn’t Matter!
The mountain could be called cancer, adultery, depression, or identity theft! I could have been hit by lightening, by a car or a hockey puck. Metaphorically speaking 99.99% of us have a mountain in our lives, at least one, that we get to face and dissolve in this lifetime.
I am now at peace with my mother. Her “BPD” is no more, the shame, guilt and blame are gone, the secrecy, pain, competition and judgment are dissolved. I am at peace.
“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives,
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
then we are One.”