It’s spring. Pink and white Azalea flowers are blooming all around me, and spring-cleaning is in the air inspiring me to take a deeper look at my life. ‘Growing’ and ‘blossoming’ are two words that I really love. So I want to look at where I am blossoming and where weeds are suffocating new growth. And to take this analogy further, I want to look at the first person who aided my growth from baby to girl to woman: my mother.
Surprisingly, I’ve never done an actual evaluation of my relationship with my mother. I do write regularly in my journal, and I’ve come to think of myself as a deeply introspective person. So I certainly have looked back at my life with the desire to understand it. But what I have not done is look at my parents and make an actual evaluation, a definitive conclusion of things as they were and as they stand. Now that I think about it, I’ve stayed away from this kind of black-and-white evaluation because it can be painful in its stark honesty.
When a friend of mine did an evaluation of her life, I clearly recall the impact it had on me. While she didn’t look at her relationships with her mom as I intend to do, she was brutally honest in all other aspects of her life. I was amazed at her objectivity, cataloging the dissolution of her marriage, her finances, her school-debts. Although it was heavy stuff, the silver-lining throughout her sharing was this triumphant spirit. Having fully acknowledged what burdened her, my friend stood strong and hopeful about the future. Like I said, I was awestruck. I was in no way ready to be that honest. But as my mother and I are growing closer, I want to understand and accept my feelings for her, complex as they are. I often feel like I’m looking at her through cracked glasses. Are we really seeing each other at all?
Like most children, I spent the first ten years of my life absorbed in my mother’s love. My mom, or mamma, as we say in Sweden was the most important person in my life. I would tell her often that I wanted to stay with her forever, even when I was grown-up. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so worried that she wouldn’t come with me once I was grown up and got married. She continued to be the central person in my life until I became a teenager. When I turned 14, however, everything changed and we became strangers for over ten years. I moved to Florida to attend a boarding school and she stayed in Sweden. When finally she moved to America when I was twenty, I moved to India. Since the age of 14, I’ve seen my mom about once a year, sometimes less. Being a stranger to the person I loved the most, has been a strange, twisted experience, the workings of which I’m only beginning to understand.
Throughout these ten years of estrangement, I’ve unknowingly carried heavy feelings of abandonment, resentment, and a conviction that my mom didn’t care about me. I was bombarded by these subterranean feelings and as a result, I didn’t have space for my mom as a person, her struggles, her thoughts. Whenever I met my mom during this time, I mostly didn’t want to be near her. I was too angry and disappointed without fully knowing why. It was all-too natural to vent my inner feelings by being dismissive, sarcastic, and emotionally unavailable. It was almost a tit-for-tat feeling – you left me when I was a kid so now you don’t deserve my love.
The more I see my mom as just a person, I’ve started realizing that I played a part in our estrangement too. Even though I was “sent away” the fact is that I actually wanted to go. Really, it was my own desire that opened all these doors for me to leave Sweden, ill-equipped as I might have been at 14. Then onward, I decided to hold on to my conviction that I didn’t matter, and I didn’t want my mom’s “empty” apologies or attempts at reconciliation. So my part as a grown woman is that I’m holding on to my anger and pain. As a daughter, I’m constantly aware of everything my mom has done for me, what her sacrifices have been, and so I’m resistant to pointing out where she lacked, where she hurt me, where it wasn’t enough. Because wasn’t she trying her best? I do believe she was. Still, just as I’m eager to be fair to her, I need to be fair to my own feelings and accept that I didn’t feel supported by her.
I’m not actually striving to return to the innocence and sweetness of the mother-daughter love I had as a child, but I do want to have a clean, clear, and open-hearted relationship with my mom. She is a strong presence in my life now, and for that I’m grateful. Yet I sense that I need to accept all my feelings towards her, and I’ve attempted to come closer to such an acceptance in this evaluation. I’m in the process of uprooting the past, clearing out the weeds that she planted within me, and inviting her back into the garden of my heart.