One of the things I hope for at mid-life is to finally get over the issues I’ve been working through for, oh, 44 years now. What’s the truth of who I was born to be?
In Bird by Bird, Anne LaMott writes:
“But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We dont have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go into. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in–then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.”
I’ve spent my whole life looking for the mother I didn’t have. That didn’t change when I came to understand my mother better, or even when I met my birth mother. I still felt the lack of someone who would simply love me unconditionally, someone who would give me what I have given my children: a love that acknowledges our individual peculiarities and deficits and embraces them right along with the giftedness and wondrousness.
In this family, we’re pretty open about naming and embracing both ends of the spectrum. I don’t know how unusual that is. I just know that in my both my growing-up family and in my much more limited experience of my birth family, the accepted practice is to ignore or deny the characteristics we don’t like for as long as possible, and to jettison the person who is trouble when necessary.
I’m not a sandbag on the side of a hot-air balloon. A hot-air balloon is a pretty poor model for family living. It’s too fragile, too easily upset. A family needs a vehicle that is more grounded. A person needs a vehicle that is more earthed.
Being adopted, or more particularly my relationship with my birth mother, has been a touchy subject for some years now. At Christmas I decided to write her a letter; it had taken me a year to respond to her letter of the year before, a letter that came over two years after I wrote to tell her Pure Luck and I were getting married. As soon as I put it in the mail, I knew I had begun it the wrong way; trying to use humor in reference to myself and probably setting the wrong tone by seeming to criticize the time it took her to last respond.
I can’t seem to do it right. And seeing that about myself, I want to–
you guessed it, didn’t you?
Jettison the weight that is upsetting the emotional balance.
I was in Jungian Analysis for many years with a wonderful Italian woman. Whenever we got too close to the mother stuff, I would run away.
Yesterday in my mentoring group, the retired pastor who leads us spoke of those times when we feel we need our mothers, when we just want to be loved exactly as we are. Oh, God! That’s the last time I want my mother, either of them. The last time.
I remember in analysis how I had so many dreams about my inner masculine, so many romantic dreams. I remember being told that the important thing was to heal the inner breach, not to paste over it by attracting a real life man to fill the emptiness.
The truth is, I can’t go back and get a new mother. It’s a little late for that. I have to find that all-loving mother in myself, give that love to myself.
Why is that so hard? How do I let go of disappointment instead of ignoring, denying or jettisoning what is difficult?
On Sunday, during our time of Sharing Joys and Concerns, a church member asked us to pray for a co-worker who just adopted a baby. When we prayed, I did something I haven’t done before. It surprised me to hear the words coming out of my mouth. I prayed for the adoping mother and the new baby, and then I prayed for the mother who had surrendered her child.
I’m still grappling with this. Would it have been better, almost twenty years ago, not to contact my birth mother? After all, I started it. Would it have been better to confine her to the role I ascribed to the birth mother we prayed for on Sunday? That role is loving enough to give away what we cannot care for ourselves, or at least that’s how I named it.
But it seems like whichever mother had raised me, even if it had turned out differently, I would have had a mother who wanted me to conform to an image, a pattern, a form that had nothing to do with who I actually am.
I have been so in love with each of my children~their beauties, their oddities; I can’t help wishing someone had been as besotted with me.