One evening during the week I spent in the “Come Alive” program at The Haven we did a guided visualization which took us into our personal “library”. First, we were guided by the facilitator into a relaxed state of mind. She then asked us to enter our library and begin to pull books off the shelf. Inside each book was a memory from our past.
In my first book, there was a memory of afrom childhood. This particular Christmas began as usual; our family was together on Christmas morning, my parents sitting on the couch and my sisters and I on the floor opening our gifts with excitement. However, this year, on the day after Christmas, my mother had suddenly disappeared.
When our mother returned, we were told she had been in Reno with a man other than our father. There was no explaining to my sisters and me why she did it, or how she did not mean to hurt us. There was a sense of entitlement for her actions as she was tired of being a housewife and mother. She thought she deserved this break.
In another book which I pulled from my imaginary library, a more recent memory came up. A year and a half into my journey with cancer I got very ill and weak. My partner, who was helping me up until this point, had left. I thought I could still make it on my own, but the reality was that I was just too weak at the time to be self-sufficient. I was unable to feed myself adequately and was down to a mere 83lbs.
I called my mother and asked if I could stay with her and if she would help feed me so I could get strong enough to get my health back. She accepted my request and I packed up my life in Vancouver and moved back to my hometown. Unfortunately, when I arrived, she informed me that she extended her contract at work and she would be working a demanding schedule. She added that she had to look out for herself; she was tired of helping other people. I was incredibly hurt and frustrated. I felt she did not care if I survived or not since she was no longer willing to help in the way she said she would.
As our visualization concluded, we all came back into the circle. We shared our “books” with the group. Others in the group were a bit appalled at the content of the memories which I had pulled from the shelf. I appreciated that others were empathetic to these events that happened in my life, but I noticed that I did not have the same anger as they had. These were some very hurtful events that occurred in my life, but I didn’t seem to have any strong emotions attached to those memories.
Both memories were of things from a relatively distant past; they did not have the energy of a fresh wound. I had already taken the time to process the pain which came as a result of these events. But I wondered, if I had processed the emotions and hurt associated with these events, why did they come up for me in the visualization? What feelings about these memories were left for me to work through?
What came for me was that I judged the actions of my mother as heartless and that she had never taken accountability for them. To her, she was entitled to act without considering the effect her actions had on others. She had never apologized for either situation or said she had regrets about the way she handled things. I didn’t want an apology necessarily, all I wanted from her was just some acknowledgment that she had acted in a way that was hurtful.
I realized that because she had never taken accountability for her actions, I was keeping myself at a distance when I interacted with her. After not speaking with her for a few months after the more recent event, I did eventually let her back in my life. However, I was unable to fully open to her as I felt she was pretending that nothing had really happened.
Thinking this all through again, I acknowledged that she is loving and does care. I’ve noticed changes in the way she relates to me since that time. She does help me out in life, in the ways she can. I see the sincere efforts she makes and her desire for maintaining a relationship between us. She feels more like a mother to me that she ever has and that is all I really want. And, although she made her mistakes and hasn’t acknowledged them as mistakes with me, that’s ok. I’d much rather have the relationship we have now, then hold back because I am expecting a particular response on her part.
I’ll always have ways in which I would prefer people responded to difficulties in our relationships. I’ve realized though, that holding my breath for what I think I need in order to continue a relationship doesn’t allow more love in. Letting go and opening my heart again to someone who acted in a way that wounded me actually releases that wound. I have to be open to feeling love for those who hurt me, because only when I can offer this, I receive the love that I desire.