Sometimes a cold slap in the face from a loving friend is exactly the healing balm a soul needs. It’s not unlike pouring alcohol on a lethal wound: you know that painful sting will save you in the end. I have such a friend, and she is a godsend.
I’ve been in a reclusive hell the past several weeks, licking my lethal wounds. It began when a long-time friend jolted my consciousness with some tough love. I had phoned her in state of emotional torment, the result of layers of painful incidents in the near and distance past – the accumulation of trauma and heartbreak that brings you to your knees when you dare acknowledge it.
Ronnie and I have a dear friend who has been in intensive care for 19 days, fighting for his life. We were both reeling from having been used by family members in yet another recent situation, and had not had the chance to address our own healing. Sometimes the urgency of a friend in need must take precedence over one’s own pain.
But, it all adds up, and the floodgates can be triggered by something as simple as a letter. My Aunt told me that my mother and brother were saying that I was the problem, telling lies suggesting I suffered from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, sociopathy – and stating that my mother was never proven to be unfit. This is untrue, and is documented and verifiable. They were threatening to disown my Aunt if she continued to have a relationship with me. Such coercion underscores their deceit.
So, I called my friend to vent, and that was when I got the wake-up call. She told me I needed to forgive my mother for abusing me, abandoning me emotionally, never loving me, lying about me and never really being a mother to me. She told me I needed to pray and turn it over to God and get that anger and hate for my mother out of my heart. WOW, how could I ever possibly do that!? My mother was horrible, and she betrayed me from the moment I was born. We ended our phone conversation. My stomach ached and my head was pounding. The thought of forgiving her made me nauseous and escalated my anxiety to a “10.” I popped a Xanax, collapsed on my bed, and took a long nap.
I woke up with scrambled thoughts of God and read some passages in the Bible that my friend suggested might offer some comfort. Then, I read some of the Dali Lama’s inspirational quotes on love and forgiveness. I researched forgiveness on the Internet, desperately seeking a solution relevant to my situation. I called my biological Dad — the one my mother falsely claimed had raped her and impregnated her with me. The one she married. The husband she truly loved who cheated on her. Then he went to jail for 6 months and made her more angry and more bitter toward me, the infant child who represented him. Dad and I had a really, really good talk. He does not like talking about this stuff and he is hurt knowing that she lied to me about him. I pushed some topics with Dad, and he truthfully answered my questions. The crazy thing is, Dad never has a bad word to say about my mother. He feels pity for her. Dad always tells me how much he loved her and that he is sorry for going to jail for a mere 6 months and allowing my stepfather to adopt me. It’s sad. I cried on the phone and thanked my Dad for being honest, and assured him how much I loved him — even with all his flaws.
There is not much in life I really need or “have to have.” If you are close to me and know me well, I like to get a manicure and pedicure at the salon every two weeks, and my hair colored and cut every month. I love contemporary art. I like my lawn to be clean and green. My house to be spotless, my clothes ironed, and my favorite thing is the sun and water. I love both, and that is why I have traveled to Hawaii 9 times in the last 10 years, Arizona 3 times and a took couple quick trips to California. I love the pool in my backyard and sitting peacefully in it with the sun on my face. I adore and love my husband and my cat. I am a good friend and would give you the shirt off my back. I don’t require much materially. I have had it all, lost it, bought it all again, worked hard for what I have and played even harder. I have truly enjoyed most of my adult life and have been blessed in many ways. My children have been estranged, but they all have been successful and self-sufficient. They have great jobs — all long term and stable. For that, I am thankful.
I actually forgave Luis for stabbing me. Somehow, it was easy to forgive him. I forgave Sperm Donor for his betrayal and crimes. That, as well, was effortless and true forgiveness.
But what I have been lacking is peace — inner peace — my entire life because of my anger toward my abusive mother. I can’t find the words to describe the pain she caused me. I needed and wanted a mother more than any vacation, material possession or love from any other human being. I desperately wanted her to like me and care for me. The pain has been deep. I did not understand her hate for me, and that has destroyed me for years.
Then I received another pivotal phone call – this time from an old friend of my mother. I had reached out to her months ago, remembering how my mother always talked about her. I found her on a classmates website and sent her a message with my phone number and email. My mother’s friend called me. I had forgotten that I’d even reached out to her.
My mother’s friend confirmed almost everything my Dad had told me. She even said that my mother got jealous of some woman that expressed interest in my dad, and wanted this friend to go with her to threaten the “other woman” to stay away from my Dad. She told me my mother was pursuing my Dad and secretly meeting him without my grandparents’ knowledge while my mom was still in high school. She told me my mom loved my Dad. She told me it was a case of the goodie-two-shoes girl trying to tame the handsome James Dean. She told me she even lied for my mother to my grandparents, saying my mom was with her when my Dad and mom had their rendezvous.
Then my mom’s former classmate and longtime friend said everything changed when my Dad got in trouble with the law. She told me, “I don’t know why, but your mother changed. She drastically changed.” She told me my mom was embarrassed and wanted to move out of town. She told me that, when my grandfather died months before my birth, my mom was devastated and felt like she caused his death by becoming pregnant with me and making him worry. We both cried on the phone, and I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to share what I felt would never be told to me honestly by my mother. I told her she had just sealed the pain and repaired my heart for the first time in my life. She apologized for all that I had to deal with, and said she remembered me as a baby in my grandma Mary’s arms in Earlville, Illinois, sitting with my grandma on the front porch.
This morning I woke up at 4:30am when Ronnie left for work. I laid in bed for a few minutes listening to Ronnie leave in his vehicle. Then I broke down sobbing, a deep, painful, heart-wrenching sob. My body trembled and I buried my head in my pillow and cried and cried. My childhood raced through my mind like watching a movie in fast-forward. I cried for myself — and then I started crying for my mother. I cried to God and today, while flailing in my bed and sobbing like I had never sobbed, I forgave my mother. I truly forgave my mother. I forgave what I always had felt was unforgivable. I hope that one day she will acknowledge her wrongdoings to me and forgive herself.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.