But first, let me say that I've been very resistant to write this post because I don't believe in looking back once I've brought up the pain and thoroughly worked through it. A quote I've seen recently is something akin to you're on the right track if you have no desire to look back. However, I believe that the Divine Creator is asking me to write this, as I can't get away from the urging to do so. So here it is. I hope that it will help others who struggle to forgive someone, especially a parent.
I remember at around the age of five or six that I was sure...absolutely positive...that someone took away my real mother and replaced her with a lookalike - a lookalike who wasn't very nice. With the naive mind of a child, I told my mother we should have some sort of password system, so I gave her a secret password to a specific question I would ask. Since we were living in Hawaii at the time, my question was: "Who's the king of Hawaii?" Now that's kind of a silly question, because King Kamehameha was the most famous one, but that was the answer - lol! Plus, if the lookalike had already been switched in, why would I tell her the password, but that's how kids think - or at least how I thought - lol!
Later on, I learned that it was at this time that my mother had an abortion. She aborted twins who were fathered by the love of her life. She had to abort because I was a ward of the State of Nevada where she got a divorce. The love of her life wasn't going to marry her, so she would be an unwed mother, which might make her "unfit" in the eyes of Nevada, and I might be taken away from her. (This was in the early 1970s). So she had to have an abortion.
The thing is, she changed, and I think as a child, I knew that on some level - thus, my thinking that my real mom was kidnapped and replaced with a icky mom. My mother revealed that she named her twin boys. She always loved the father and never got over him. She stayed stuck in that time frame and came to see me as blocking her from being with the love of her life. She never remarried and, from as long as I can remember, never wanted to get close to anyone - whether as a romantic partner, a friend, or family member.
I also looked a lot like my father, and since she hated him, I think she transferred that hate on to me. I wrote about my father previously; unfortunately, it was her version of my dad - the one who would kill me whenever he found me - that I grew up with. He's nothing at all like what she had portrayed. Since I grew up with her and then, as an adult, become more introspective on her behavior, I came to see that she lived/lives in her own tortured reality, where everyone and everything must revolve around her. She blames others for her pain and takes absolutely NO responsibility for any of her choices. I'm sure most of us can relate to that - not only in knowing someone like that, but also behaving like that ourselves at certain times in our lives.
Most of us go through that stage, I think. We'd rather blame others for our misfortunes and pains. They did this to me...that happened...he hurt me...she didn't support me...yada yada yada. When we become aware, it's then time for us to grow up and lay the responsibility at the right person: ourselves. Once we can realize and know that we are responsible for our own choices and lives, then and only then, can we begin to make wiser choices and lead more productive and ooooh so much happier lives.
I grew up with a very verbally abusive mother and maternal grandmother. My grandma...well...I'll write about her later. She was much easier to forgive because the dead are easier to forgive! It's the living who are harder to forgive when you have to have the scab ripped off every time you have contact with them...until you finally forgive them and their actions no longer affect you.
Anyway, my grandmother called me a "good for nothing" for as long as I can remember. She told me life would've been so much better for my mother had I not been born. I shouldn't have been born - I was made to feel that every day of my life, both from my grandmother and mother - both in actions and in words. My mother never stood up for me despite knowing full well how my grandmother was treating me.
I also lived in constant fear because my mother would have these rages and temper tantrums. Any little thing, she would fly off the handle and get on a tear, screaming and raging and blaming life and me for all her problems. I suppose looking like my dad sure didn't help the situation - lol!
She was all about appearances, and so, when I was going into high school, I had to say goodbye to my very best friend, Sandra. Sandra and I were so close that even during summer vacation, we'd write 20 to 30 page letters to one another and then see each other every couple weeks and exchange them. But since Sandra was just a "C" student, and I was on the Honor Roll, my mother said I could no longer be her friend. She felt that high school was all about who you hung out with, so she told me I could not be Sandra's friend any longer. In order to keep the peace at home and not be further bullied, I complied.
Sometimes I would be so afraid to breath, for fear she would remember I was around, that I always tried to be as quiet as possible. I didn't want her remembering I was there and tear off into a rage again.
Kids at school always said I was so quiet. Well, that's why. It was hell if I voiced an opinion...it was hell to be noticed because then I would become someone's scapegoat to everything that went wrong in their lives. It's a tough thing for a toddler to deal with...for a kid to deal with...for a teen to deal with...for an adult to deal with. But we don't have to deal with it once we choose not to, although I don't know if even a child as old as a teenager can consciously choose that yet. They have to be out on their own and not mired in the vicious vitriol that is home in order to see that that is no way to live - to see that there are other choices.
So I'll fast forward to my marriage. Just suffice it to say, I lived in a constant prison of verbal abuse my whole childhood. It's no wonder I married a man like the father my mother portrayed. She told me that the day I said "I do" was the day I signed my death sentence. Since she knew how dangerous my husband was, you'd think she would have supported me when I separated from him. It was far from the case. To illustrate...
My son and I had to move in with my mother for a month or so after the soon to be ex vacated the home we shared. If my mother had paid me the money she owed me, I could've gotten an apartment, but she didn't. However, when my son and I were able to move out, she got a cash advance on her credit card for several thousand dollars and bought a van. (That says something about her priorities right there, eh)? When I separated from my marriage, my son was 15 months old. Being such a wee fellow, he would get knocked down by my mother's big dogs (Russian Wolfhounds, aka Borzois). They weren't being mean, they were just big and wanted to play. I told them "no," never abusing them, but my mother got very mad that I would tell them that. She started complaining that my son and I should move out. She kept her dogs either in her bedroom or outside whenever my son and I were around, so I wouldn't tell her dogs no. She didn't like them being locked up either.
When I first separated, my soon to be ex said that he would change, and to prove it, he was going to enlist in the military. My mother told me to tell him that I would go back to him if he did indeed enlist, so that he would then be assigned somewhere, and my son and I wouldn't have to go. I'd get child support and insurance, and things would be peachy. So I agreed with my mother's plan, though I really didn't like pretending that.
Well, since my mother preferred her dogs over her grandson and me, after a couple weeks she told my soon to be ex that I had no intention of getting back with him and that it was all a ploy! This, mind you, was the man who threatened to kill my son and me on a regular basis. This is the man who heard voices in his head, felt imaginary things crawling and hitting him all the time, saw visions every day of some new way that I or my son and I would be killed. And he'd delight in telling me all these visions every day for the last couple months before our separation.
You can see why it would be very dangerous for my mother to tell him that I lied to him and had no intention of getting back with him!
But her dogs were far more important than her daughter and grandson.
Now I'll skip to several years later. My son and I fled for our lives to another state, and I had to call her weekly and give her the attention she demanded. If not, she'd do things to get my attention. For example, one time my phone service was out of order. Not sure what happened, but in Detroit, there was a class action lawsuit due to hundreds of us (or maybe thousands, I don't know) being without phone service for a few weeks. Because of that, I was able to get free phone service for almost a year. Anyway, I called my mother from work and told her what was going on with the phone and that I couldn't call her for awhile. After a couple weeks of being unable to call her weekly to give her attention, she wrote a letter saying that she saw my ex hanging around her mail box and she thought he might be trying to intercept mail from me to find out where I was from the postmark. Of course, she knew that would send me into a panic and PTSD and call her. She just nonchalantly said, "Oh, I don't think it was him." And that was that. She got her attention, at my emotional expense.
I was in therapy at the time, and thankfully worked through my issues with my mother, though forgiveness came later. I was NOT about to pass on the family tradition of generational abuse to my son. I can't recall what question it was that the therapist asked him, but I vividly remember her and my son on the floor, playing. She asked the question, and my son answered. I burst into tears of happiness because I realized from his answer that I had broken the cycle. The therapist looked up at me, smiling, and said: "You broke the cycle." :)
Another fast forward to around 2005. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable playing the dutiful and loving daughter to such an abusive and unloving mother. I stopped emailing her as much as I used to. Around Christmas time, since I wasn't so quick to respond to her emails, she decided to alert the whole family and said I must be dead on the side of the road. After all, I wasn't responding to her emails right away, so I must be dead.
So the family decided to finally get in touch with me and see how I was doing. Gee, it took my possibly being dead for them to care to email!?! Yep, she's not the only unloving one on her side of the family.
My mother then called my ex-fiance (not the ex-husband), who lived in Detroit and asked if I was dead. He said no and suggested I should probably return my mother's emails a little sooner than a few days so she doesn't have her drama tantrums - lol!
So I called my mother and asked her why she didn't simply pick up the phone and call to see if I was all right, rather than telling everyone I must be dead! She said she didn't want to disturb me.
With her latest shenanigans in mind, when I moved from Inbredville, ND to NY in 2006, I decided to not let her know where we were moving. Given her choice of her dogs over her grandson and me, given her need for constant attention, given her explicitly endangering my son's and my life by revealing to my ex that I wouldn't get back with him if he went into the military, I felt she was a danger. If I didn't give her enough attention, would she let my ex know where we were? It seemed likely, and that was not a risk I was willing to take.
So I wrote her a letter explaining my decision and why, and then I popped it in the mail as we left in our U-Haul. Well, my goodness, her actions again told the mental state she was in.
Now, as a normal mother who loves her child, you'd likely, if you received a letter from your child telling you s/he didn't want contact with you, you'd be very hurt, but you would also email (because she still had my email address) and apologize for any misunderstanding, and say that the door is always open, etc.
Not my mother.
She got on the phone with my ex-fiance (not the paranoid schizophrenic ex husband) to try and cause trouble. Her first tactic was to tell my ex-fiance, who is also a lawyer, that she was going to call the police and report a missing persons report on my son. The lawyer ex said that wouldn't work because he knew where my son was, and so did I. Her next tactic was to try to get me committed into a mental institution cuz clearly I was insane. My lawyer ex said that wouldn't fly cuz he had contact with me, and I was very sane. Her third tactic was to try to get me arrested because I left the state where I got my divorce, and that was probably against the law. Of course, she forgot the fact that she knew this for over ten years, and she also helped me move! (Aiding and abetting, anyone?) I called my divorce attorney and, since I have sole legal custody, she laughed and said I could move anywhere.
So, as you can see, my mother has left me with a lot to forgive!
And forgive, I did. Somehow I found Colin Tipping and his Radical Forgiveness: A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to Heal Relationships, Let Go of Anger and Blame, Find Peace in Any Situation on a free spiritual telesummit. BAM! It was just what I needed, and in that moment, I forgave her. (Note: affiliate link to Colin's book).
So much so, that I tried to contact her again several times, but her email address always came back as undeliverable. I didn't feel safe calling her or snail mailing her cuz then she could see where I was at. Just because I forgave her did not mean I trusted my son's and my safety with her. (By the way, just because you do that whatever code that I can't recall now on your phone before you dial a number doesn't mean the person cannot get your phone number. If they have VOIP or a cell phone, your number WILL show up. So word to the wise...)
Last summer I got my mother's email address through someone on facebook, and I emailed her, telling her that I forgave her and that I hoped she was doing all right. I was a bit shocked - though I shouldn't have been - at her response. It was filled with such venom and hate, saying how she had done nothing to forgive and how it would take her a long time to ever trust me again cuz I'm such a manipulator!
She loved calling me a manipulator ever since we both went to therapy when I was around 16 years old. She told the therapist of how, when I was ten years old, she found me in a closet trying to will myself to die. He called me a manipulator and that's how she views me. (Despite the fact that I wasn't parading around threatening to kill myself. I was hiding in my closet, trying to keep it a secret. Sure, I told her what I was doing when asked, but that's the Aquarian honesty).
Quite frankly, no therapist should've ever said that I was a manipulator, even if I did have patterns of manipulation, which I didn't. And the fact that a child of ten years of age should want to die and have suicidal tendencies means there's something desperately wrong in the home.
So I didn't know how to respond to her email, and I told my son. He said: "Why even respond? She'll twist everything around that you say anyway." So I didn't. A day later, since I didn't jump at her email and answer right away, she was all sweet and wrote something to the effect of "I thought we were going to put everything behind us and have a relationship. I guess I was wrong."
Um...did you not remember the venomous email you wrote!?!
And that was that. There was no point in continuing contact since no matter what I would say, it'd be twisted around to continue to enable her very tortured and sick view of reality. :(
I still continued to choose to forgive her, even though I knew I had, but I wanted to make sure! Especially with the latest contact.
And now, this summer, as I continue my spiritual journey, I have grown to love her unconditionally, so much so that my heart bursts in love for her.
I know now that she lashes out - like many do - because of the torture and pain inside. I can't imagine living life the way she does. As the flip saying goes: "It sucks to be you!" And it would. My heart weeps for the continued pain she puts herself through. I can't imagine hating myself so much that I push everyone away.
She's pushed all of her family away. In fact, I grew up on a steady dose of how much she hates her brother and his third wife, how she hates her cousins and how rich and hoity toity they are. She hates all her "friends," what little of them she has. I always had to hear gossip about them; it never sounded as if she liked anyone. I remember when two of her good friends - a married couple - were having a baby after having two older kids. I think the younger of the two older kids was 12 or 13 when the third came along. My mom told me that when a couple decides to have another child after waiting so long, it means their marriage is a sham and they're only having another kid to try to keep the marriage together. That was the kind of thinking I was exposed to on a constant basis. No one was exempt from her gossip and negativity.
At any rate, as I said, I can't imagine living like that. Can you!?! Can you imagine being that full of fear that you push everyone away, except your dogs!?! Can you imagine!?! It boggles the mind, doesn't it? And it's so very tragic that she has chosen to be this way.
Make no mistake: she has chosen, willfully and consistently, to be this way. Most all of us have had lousy childhoods, or at least some tragedies that have befallen us, but it's what we DO with those tragedies that makes us. It's how we deal with the past that shapes how we are today - how loving we are or how fearful and judgmental and bitter we are.
That's what makes me sad for her. And when I willingly put myself in her position to try to see life the way she does, it helped me to love her all the more because she has never experienced real love before.
I have some fabric in my closet that I recently realized is much like the material of a caftan she used to wear. I look at it every morning, and I smile and think "Good morning, Mom. I love you." And I send her love. Every evening, before bed, I think "Good night, Mom. I hope you can feel my love for you."
So that's my story in a kind of nutshell. I didn't kvetch all this just to get anyone's pity or to rehash some of what went on. I told my story to let others know that I've had a rough childhood, but I got through it and became a loving person. I had a mother that, by all accounts, has done a ton of stuff that was pretty horrid and not worthy of forgiveness. But that's just it. Maybe her actions aren't worthy of forgiveness, but she is. We're all connected through the Divine Creator. If I love her, I love the Divine, and I love me. By forgiving her, I forgive myself. By loving her, I love myself. And so I do because I could place myself in her position.
We are no different, except in the choices that we make on a daily basis.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links).