Mojo Messages from Tama

Forgiving Your Mother, Yourself, and Everyone: This is Your Lifetime to Get it Right

This Mother’s Day you have the chance to get it right.

You have the chance to open up to the one of the most significant relationships of your life. (Or moms, same goes with your kids.) My mom left this planet back in 2011. One of the best things I ever did with my life was work on healing my relationship with her. The struggle to love and forgive is a worthy struggle. It’s heroic. And it will affect every other relationship in your life.  And guess what?  For me, it all came down to loving myself. Go figure.

So this is a piece I wrote years ago, while visiting my mother in upstate New York. (I’ve edited it today.) I felt challenged at the time. I wanted to be the perfect daughter. But there’s something about dealing with our families that’s like taking acid. You go on a trip. Things come out of the blue. People grow extra heads. Then you come back and you think-- what was that all about?

“Those who see themselves as whole make no demands,” teaches A Course in Miracles. Well, clearly, those who seem themselves as wild animals act accordingly.

Being with my mother, I can’t believe how quickly I am triggered. I am A Course in Miracles teacher, which if you don’t know is all about forgiveness and choosing love. But as I hide away upstairs in the cutesy, cluttered guest bedroom of my mother’s townhouse, I wonder if the material really only works for my students. Because at the moment I’m foaming at the mouth. That can’t be good.  

The truth is I’m tired. I’m weakened. I don’t have it in me to be conscious and centered. So I have to forgive myself. I am trying. I am daring. I am not saying cruel things, even when I caress the knives in my mind. I am trying. I am daring, I remind myself. I know my intentions are 90% pure.

I’ve entered into the lion’s lair. I’m facing it. I’m not hiding out at 2,000 miles away or in a therapist’s office or sitting cross legged, staring at a guru’s toenails. I’m not in downward dog. Hell, I’m in downward spiral. I’m right here in the middle of it all. This pain is not a concept or a story I tell a safe friend. This pain is sitting across the table from me, telling me stories about people I don’t know, judging wildly, freely, not a politically correct cell in her body or an ounce of self-consciousness. And of course, I am rabidly judging her for judging others.

God, I am so wanting to do this scene in another way, but I can’t yet. The way she chews is getting me, the sucking the teeth motion. I feel like my head is going to hit the ceiling. Is there anything in the Bhagavad Gita or Torah about this? What mantra works for this, I ask you. Oh hell, I am long passed mantras.

Now, she has asked me 3 times about something. I know it’s because she hasn’t understood my answers. She is listening, but she doesn’t know where to put what I say into one of the clearly marked boxes in her mind. She has nowhere to put it, so she doesn’t take it in. It’s not how she sees the world. I have never fit into one of her boxes. Oh how I’ve longed to be seen by her as multifaceted and rich, different in an exotic butterfly kind of way, not an uncomfortable one. Instead, I am an interesting item in a novelty store that you look at for a moment and then pass by. It doesn’t fit in your home. It’s not your style.

But I know it’s not her fault. My mother is a simple person. She devours romance novels. She loves television, particularly the Hallmark channel. She is not searching for meaning. She is searching for the remote.

She is innocent I tell myself a thousand times.
But finally, finally, finally, somewhere I realize, so am I.

It’s okay to be hurt or upset or off balance even though I’ve taught A Course in Miracles for 19 years. (And now 24 years at this point!) Even though I am a coach and I can walk others through their dark woods, at any time of day or night-- it’s okay that I’m human and have red blood and real tears. It’s okay that there is still a child in me who will always want the “mommy of her dreams” who delights in what she delights in and “gets her” and maybe, just sometimes, launches into streams and spasms of praise and adoration.

But then something amazing happens. The more I practice this tender compassion for myself, not mewling self-pity by the way, the axis of the universe changes for me. I just let things be. I stop trying so hard to be the perfect saint-psychoanalyst-miracle-worker daughter and change my mother through the power of my ordained love. I also stop trying to get her to love me, see me, or be me. I also stop trying to get myself to be better, different, other than what I am. And then real forgiveness hits. The feeling that somehow nothing is wrong at all in this scene. Nothing is bad or needs to be changed. It’s changing of itself, the more I accept myself and the way things are with love. It’s becoming fragrant with spirit.

Somehow, I begin to realize that it’s all okay and only the love is real and the planet will spin and my mothers’ love and mine will mingle and my best intentions will join with her best intentions and our higher selves will forgive each other and giggle and run down the path holding hands. And at times, here on this imperfect planet, we will step on each other’s toes, misunderstand each other, do an awkward mismatched, out of harmony dance, but it’s all okay because the stars will align, our hearts will prevail, now, later, or in ten thousand other lives.

I dig deeper into my own self-compassion. I know I’ve done great sometimes with my mother. I’ve nurtured her, encouraged her the way I’ve wanted to be encouraged. But this time, I am tired and hormonal and worried about meetings where I have to be all grown up and I just want comfort, not growth. So my emotional immune system is down. And I’m sad that I’m sad and can’t do this better. Some days, it’s just a royal bitch to be conscious.

But I need to remember the immensity of the task I’m undertaking and give myself credit. It’s like digging your way to China. I am in her home and buried and bombarded with artifacts and emotions. Just like in my childhood, clutter flowers everywhere, dust bunnies, abandonment and sticky need. Earlier, I stared morosely at the multiple sets of salt shakers on the kitchen table, some splattered with stains or bits of food she doesn’t see. I feel ashamed because this is my heritage.  This is the force that imprinted my consciousness, set me up for life, and it’s not exactly Athena, I tell you.  Some days, I fear I will always be overcoming instead of moving forward.

Finally, I go back downstairs to be with my mother. I am stoked up and armed with awareness. I am trying on my own self-love. I remember now that A Course in Miracles teaches that we whenever we feel anger at someone else, we’ve attacked ourselves first. That means somewhere we decided to think less of ourselves. We broke the true connection with ourselves. Then we feel betrayed or frustrated by the person who triggered us into believing that we were anything less than whole and innocent.

So with each step down that staircase, I’m committed to opening up to myself, to paying attention to how I feel and what I need to do. I’m in a moving meditation. I am a swami of presence. And this time, instead of asking myself for perfection, I’m allowing myself to make mistakes. I’m allowing myself to have this experience, whatever it is. I’m proud of myself for daring. I want to love my mother. I want to be at peace. I want my love to reach into all the places within her that never got loved. That really is my highest desire. And that is all that matters.

And now I’m willing to open up to myself. I know I can choose again, every single time. I can screw it up one hundred times, and I can still choose a do-over in the next instant. I can still choose peace. I can drop the war and show up with love. I always have another chance. And you know what? My mother always has another chance. Because I believe in the love and innocence in her, as I believe in the innocence in myself and all of us.

And we are going to get this dance right, somewhere and sometime. That’s a given.

P.S. I did get that dance right in my mother’s lifetime. When she died, I looked upon every room in her townhouse, every extra set of salt shakers with so much love. Everything became precious, illumined, and infused with her and my love of her. I am so grateful I took the steps I could take while she was here. Please use your privileged time with loved ones well.

TAMA: Honors graduate of Harvard Law School turned mojo career catalyst • Best-selling author of This Time I Dance! and also Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!
May 2014
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