New: A Solemn & Ordinary Life. #Self-Care in Living with Depression

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profile_36488479_75sq_1396225512on one level, her day-to-day life had become solemn and ordinary;

awkwardly commonplace, when

{self-care} is at the top of her To Do.

she thinks.

what kind of person needs that to do?

a person that deep down disgusts herself. she starves herself all day long until her hungry body confused enough to relentlessly hoard calories. a person that starts smoking in her forties then quit overnight. in the not too distant past was a falling down drunk. she does not remember much of childhood.

her daily heartache now is that she cannot remember details of her baby’s early days

when she was addicted to work, driven. Still, three babies sucking at her breasts for six years were fed by a body starving itself. staying home to be with Them she became unrecognizable to herself, depressed and before long, a decade was gone.

she was a missionary’s kid, a girl that went numb. living in denial of all the fear and heartache at home, her superpower was discovered early, invisibility. a middle child, the peacemaker, and the “sensitive one.” she pretended. always hiding from The Rager, they were all concealers and secret keepers.  Mother was ill. it was not a conscious choice to slowly evaporate.

she finds herself intensely staring down forty-eight;

the Rager is dead and gone. now she is a care giver to her elderly, addled mother and those precious children grown into teenagers.

she is unable to remember how—sitting at her kitchen table which never holds hot meals,

classical music is jangly and bombastic,

strong, hot coffee,

the summer rain falling outside the bay window is cold.

She writes

To do:

1. self-care. 

 

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{I Lost the Month of May: A poem} by Melody Harrison Hanson

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I lost the month of May
somewhere between watching my mother
suffer extreme pain and mental confusion.

I felt her pass by heavily; Time,
slowed to a crawl
as I was watching.
And now, the month of May is gone.

Time lost cannot be retrieved.
I know this as my friend’s cancer roars in wildly.
This third time more persistent.
And I am heavy with awareness that the months and days of her reprieve, I spent

weighed down with my life.

Gone is the month of May
on bursts of sudden energy, then

languishing in the dark.
Being strong and capable,

as my heart leaked lost time.

I watched the hours tick by at my mother’s bedside.

Time lost forever?
or time spent on forever.

Knowing forever is such a long time.

Friend love stretches on forever.
Mother-daughter love lasts forever too.

Each, a lifetime of forevers found,
to be savored. Still,
the month of May is spent,

costly. On loving.
Or is it simply lost and gone?

We are all lost and found.
I am a friend and daughter.
Love is here, there,
and gone.

As I sit here thinking
my heart is leaking
forever time.

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{rough thoughts on love and mortality in the middle years}

I have no business writing when I need to be packing, preparing, paying bills, picking up prescriptions, cleaning house, and washing laundry, readying myself and the family for me to leave town.  These are very drafty thoughts on aging parents, ailing friends, launching teenagers, and being human.  

 016-20120504_0189.NEF

Love and Mortality in the Middle Years

Our middle years—carry

the work of tending to ailing parents

and sometimes losing,

nursing them respectfully and without impatience.

That is love of a child.

 //

Our middle years—rambling side by side with good friends,

you and I, fighting illness and the frailty of being human.

Growing into who we were going to become.

That is the love of a partner and friend.

 //

The human toll of ageing all the while launching

children to fly! The human ache of

watching lives unfold.

Let them fly, let them flail.  Breathing hope into their

youthful lungs. Speaking truth all the while

shaking your head as they roll their eyes in disgust. Wobbly legs

running out and away.  Knowing this

is what they are meant to do.

That is the love of a parent.

 //

We all need wisdom, grace upon grace and more joy (oh, for more joy!).

In the midst of relentless sorrow and loss,

your doorway remains open.

In this middle space of anticipation, of letting go

in more ways than is reasonable or comfortable,

all of which is profoundly difficult

and is the principle achievement of being human.

 //

Middle years: Caring and holding,

loving and letting go.

All this is the Life and Death of the middle years.

This is love and mortality

in the middle years.

Life is not Pass or Fail: A Mother’s Day Remembrance

020-20120504_0185I have always seen “weakness” as a defect and here on this blog I say a lot about what I consider to be my own weaknesses – the narrative playing in my head and here on these pages for years has been a fear that I am too broken and weak to be useful at all.

This story starts with what has been and where I came from.

My mother has suffered most of her life.  I know this intellectually and because as her children we hurt alongside her in my father’s home.

For most of my life I thought she was weak to stay with him.  I resented her sticking in there with him.  Looking back, I hated the way she propped him up, when his fragile ego quaked and he wanted to quit this or that ministry, or when he felt betrayed by someone, or was sure that so and so was out to get him or them. She was the strong woman behind the ministry “leader.”  Only back then, she didn’t look strong to me.

After being angry at her for most of my life (and receiving a lot of therapy) I now see that she was strong all those years, and is, today.  I can see how much she loved my father and was loyal and faithful and good to him.  I see that she thought that she was helping us all by propping up the ego maniacal and abusive man that was my father sometimes.

But you see it wasn’t that simple.  He was a beloved man who did many incredibly good and important things.  He served well and long, and loyally. He loved his family. He sincerely wanted to please God.  He loved his few close friends deeply. I can see this looking back, even though he came home and took out his internal demons on a fragile and devoted woman, his wife and my mom and on his daughters. 

Apparently, he was only physically abusive to Mother once.  So the restraint he showed to never hit my mother again was … commendable?   And yet she lived with that intimidation and threat for forty-five years, knowing what he was capable of doing she was faithful to him.

Today a woman would have packed her bag the night that, in a fit of rage, he put her head through a wall.  Here’s the thing. Once you do something like that your household is always terrified, no matter how you promise, regret, or apologize.

And he did often, after a fit of raging, make promises and express sorrowful regret.  We experienced his rages.  Things “the public” never knew.  Things you wouldn’t quite believe possible from a man who could also be tender and gentle, who so often eloquently expressed his faith and devotion to God.  Perhaps she should have left him.  I used to think so.  And I would have, I frequently thought to myself in my twenties and thirties as I was learning about feminism and independence.   Though I never did choose to leave him and I even went to work for him for nearly a decade.

She stayed and so did we.

It was complex and codependent.  How he longed to be perfected by God but in his lifetime this never happened.  This skewed my view of men, of fathers, and especially of a Father God, for a long time.

But this is about my mother, who was loyal and strong; yes strong even though all my life I looked at her and thought of her as weak.

What kind of strength is required to endure the unyielding shouting and frequent berating over years,

and years,

and years?

Her depression was not obvious to me then but now, of course, palpable and understandable.  Frequently in poor health, she stayed in bed and that became her place of refuge from the strain and stress of our home.  She internalized his anger and used her illnesses to escape.   She had very few if any personal friends.  Abused women are often very isolated. And, she withdrew from her children emotionally. We got very little physical comfort growing up, though I’m sure there was much she wanted to say and do. She just didn’t.

Or couldn’t.

She’s apologetic now, at seventy-five and expresses openly her love, physically and emotionally, and her regrets which are many. Now that he’s dead, she has chosen to make her life incredibly simple.  She likes her condo, and her health remedies, and baseball or basketball on the television. She plays memory games on her hand-held game.

She’s chosen this unassuming, even guileless life.  This makes sense to me considering that my father dragged her all over the world for most of their married life; as it turns out most of the moves we made (two or three dozen) she didn’t even want to make.  Today her life consists of getting a message or her nails done.  She does energy work.  Much of it I don’t understand completely, but I respect the obvious need for self-care and lack of relational complexity in her life, still.

I’m grateful that she is quick check in on me, if she thinks I’m disappointed or angry with her.   I’m glad that she’s finally content with her life, set up just the way she likes it.  And I respect her for these choices, even if I wouldn’t choose them.   She’s seventy-five and is finishing life in a way she seems to like – justifiably simple and safe.

This Mother’s Day I honor my mother for surviving. I honor her for her quiet internal strength.

I honor her for her loyalty and commitment, even when I didn’t understand it.

As children we watch our parents and want them to be our idea of perfect.  Each time they supposedly fail we have a choice, to be disappointed or to accept knowingly that life is made up of hundreds of these choices.

Life isn’t pass or fail. 

Life is to be examined carefully and closely, to be lived openly and yet with great care for the people in it.

You never know why someone chooses a certain path. 

And in the end, you can only live your own life, embracing your apparent weaknesses as well as strengths, knowing that each one makes you who you are today.

Life is fragile. Love is unimaginably complicated. Parenting is by example but no one is perfected in their lifetime. 

I think life’s purpose is found in how we take the journey, in the small and seemingly innocuous choices that become important along the way.

I honor my mother this Mother’s Day for being both strong and weak – for being human.

MHH

Other Posts about my parents:

Remembering Daddy, Ten Thousand Tears, A Message From my Dead Father, Forgiving is a Miracle, My Father is Dead, When Did you First Believe God is Male, A Good Day Is, Watching My Father Die, Lessons From a Monastery, On Parenting Deeply & Well, On Putting the Dark & the Light Together, Strongest in the Broken Places, Who Needs a Heart When a Heart Can Be Broken?, Parenting by Free Fall, What Kind of  A Mother, A New Way to Be Human, Forgiveness: Expect Miracles, A World Of Possibilities, My Mother.

Why So Silent? (And My New Superpower)

I have a super power — Invisibility.

I’m having a difficult time sorting things  knowing that I want to be writing, but accepting life, which includes very little time for creativity. My camera has fallen silent and well as this blog.

I have done a little writing, including a piece for my church on the Eat This Book challenge this year, which I will share a link to soon. It’s a beautiful little magazine, entitled Illuminate and I’ve written and offered my photography for it often.

These days our lives are all topsy-turvy; more than you could know.  I cannot write everything.  I can barely process it myself, before the next day begins and we do it all over again, sometimes worse, sometimes with a little reprieve. It seems it has been this way for months and I do not know when things will end. Some days I feel as if I might break in a thousand pieces of sorrow.

And then a dear friend gets cancer and I’m thrown into a whole new perspective — at least we have our health, at least we have one another.

There are some stories that are not mine to tell. Somehow telling my story (or the impact of my dead father on me, which I have done a lot of) is okay. But writing about my kids is complicated and I wonder whether I even have the right?  I want to protect them – to make life safe and to not talk about them.  But their needs are necessitating that I write less, work a part-time job, schedule and attend a million appointments for their academic and emotional and physical travails.

I feel invisible sometimes. I live now for my children and I don’t know if that’s right?  It doesn’t feel entirely right, but I know no other way to do all this, for now.  I just don’t want to become invisible. (This setting aside of my dreams feels decidedly unfeminist, to say the least.)

All the while, my mother is aging and I am helping her, more and more.  A widow, she lives independently and happily on her own but she doesn’t want to go to doctor by herself.  It falls to me, the daughter who is close by and doesn’t have a “career.”  I don’t mind.  My relationship with my mother has never been all that strong so I am grateful that I know her better than I ever have.  Her stories, her endless remembering which once annoyed me, are treasures to be stored away.  It’s a gift to be here for her.

In the meantime, I’m having a hard time being disciplined.  I haven’t gone for a run in two weeks, or is it three and it’s not just because the cold of early winter has set in. It’s because I’m exhausted and confused.  I’m crying a lot which is so ironic because for years I longed for the ability to cry.  It was shut off by emotional pain, medication, and God knows what else.  Now I just hope I don’t embarrass myself with the level of emotions that are bombarding me, flowing free for the first time in my life.

I’m sleeping very little which makes me certifiably crazy!

And in the midst of this I hunger for and lean into God; depending on and knowing the unknowable God better than at any time in my life.  I pray for deep belief, evidenced through my actions, through my life.  Belief in the Holy One’s faithfulness, love and peace.

But I’m so tired. And honestly I’m just surviving.

I’ve alluded to some of the challenges in recent weeks, but I cannot say specifically what we are dealing with. Not just to protect others, but I don’t want this to be a place of emotional vomiting.  I want it to offer the hope that I depend on, and to express my dependence on the Holy One.

One day I will find the moments, enough hours in the day (or night) to tell my stories and put them in a manuscript, one day. One day I will become a solid form for others to know and read.  But not today.

These days are about invisibility — mostly silent, these days are serving and giving.  And in many ways about receiving (learning to do so) from the amazing community of people we have in our lives.

In the meantime, thank you for being faithful readers and friends, for your occasional comments and for staying with me through a busy and mostly silent summer and fall. As I learn I become more visible, prodded by the Spirit and growing.  And I hope to have the energy to share it all with you.

{Blue Devils}

I live in a place of morbidity, where death
hangs round, a constant companion.  When you have lost
a parent you are constantly aware. Each moment, even pointless ones, are fraught with weighty meaning because

there may be no more.

And yet there has been so much pain,
roads traveled, days endured
the blue devils of hell traversed together.

Why do you call her MOTHER?
my daughter asks me, it’s cold and distant.
Because that is her name and that is what she has always been
[to me.]

Back again to knowledge.

The realization that this could be our last
conversation.  Life is always heavy, for I am daughter, caregiver, confidant, even adviser and she is
always,
will be
Mother.

Even when she is gone.

MHH


blue devils

pl n

1. a fit of depression or melancholy
2. an attack of delirium tremens

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Step On A Crack {A poem about Living}

She drank coffee

at 4:29 in the afternoon but knew it won’t do the job on a soul that’s stopped dead.

And no amount of caffeine

is going to wake it.

It happened a long time ago, so far back in time

she can’t see

it, certainly can’t remember when a little girl of puddles and jumping, cartwheels

and skinned knees stopped dreaming. Mistrust

became more real to her than hope. Forever

uncertain, she lost

Wonder.

Step on a crack, break your Mamma’s back. Did she do that?

When mamma’s don’t dream children are left

to the Monsters — imagined enemies

everywhere. This little girl got scared, petrified and turned to

Stone, too afraid to live. Now she’s the Mamma she’s got to get up,

Dance in the rain, again! See

this is real, the bad dreams are gone.

Find courage.

Live.

I Never Wanted to be Like My Mother

I never wanted to be like my mother.

My mother stayed for more than 40 years in a marriage that broke her heart.  She admits now that she was afraid.

She married in the late fifties, when women couldn’t even have a bank account in their name.  She was a teacher and worked to put my father through college.  In the first year of their marriage, in a rage my father put her head through the wall.  He promised to never do it again.  And to my knowledge he kept that promise.  But  that was the beginning of being manipulated.  He threatened and he yelled.

The man could rage.

The smallest thing would set him off.

I never wanted to be like my mother, because all those years, I thought she was weak.  Weak for staying.

Or so I thought, for many years, until I became a mother.  And when that happened I began over time to see that she did it all for us. 

My mother is strong.  She stayed for us.  She was the buffer all those years between us and my father’s angry raging.  She took it more than we did. (And we took it a lot.)

And in later years as the weight of it became more than she could bear, she began to find comfort in the bottle.  I never wanted to be like my mother, but I became an alcoholic too.  I buried my fears for years in the numbing relief of alcohol.  As is often the case in a family with addiction, I carried it on.  And in the end I realized, I am very like my mother. I hide my pain even now, though I have been sober for almost five years.

I am strong and would do anything for my kids, just like my mother.

I never wanted to be like my mother, but I am.

I am strong, loyal and sober.

Happy Mother’s Day, 2012

Melody

I’ve written about my alcoholism here.

I’ve written about my Dad here

MOTHER [a poem about a parent aging]


Something shifted in the cosmos today as I became a giver, her One.

The one who thinks like a pastor, fondly listening inside to her heart which is lonely.
The one who touches like a nurse, open to the clues, simple hints about pain.
The one who creates food to share, serving the body and soul.

Daughter became caregiver to Mother.

And altered who I am.

Only, she isn’t frail, broken down or helpless — not just yet but it’s coming.  Even so she asks and I answer, and I tag along.  In case something is missed, she says.

Even so she still bails me out and listens as my heart bursts open, pooling over the edges of my day.  The “middle school” years, I am tender, raw with anguish.

Oh yes, she is still Mother, but today something in the cosmos shifted, and I became a Giver.

I became her One.

MHH

Other Poems.

Lessons from the Monastery: Part Two (Sixty Year Old Memories of Sensible Shoes)

Part Two in a series: Lessons from the Monastery.

I don’t find it hard to confess that dissatisfaction comes easily to me, along with the admission that my life has disappointed me. Disillusionment too, as my life is not what I thought it would be. I can admit this is true.

Well, that’s not exactly right – I had no plan.  No grand scheme.  I didn’t have any idea what I would do with my life as a youngster.

One thing I knew.

From that moment when I was swiftly rescued, “healed” in an only God could have done it miraculous sort of way.  As I grew up, I was told the stories over and over.

I was “the peanut baby.”  The miracle was something of God, everyone said so. And for whatever reason I began to believe that God had something special planned for me – for my life.  Eighteen months old I was choking on a peanut. I should have died. I will have to get my mother to retell the story because even as I ponder it now, there is much I cannot remember.  I don’t want to lose the details.

I have no memory of it.  In fact I have very few memories of childhood at all.

They are all gone, stuffed somewhere safe.  I haven’t in all these years of healing been able to find the key to unlock that precious girl’s life.

My life. My memories.

I’ve been going to the monastery with my mother.  Being with my mother is startling and even as I learn to trust her, I am afraid.  She’s a blurter.  And she has for memory everything, and more, that I don’t.  Her brain is iron clad; she is a beast of remembering.  And her stories come out at the oddest, least opportune moments; like the shock of ice-cold water.

So much so, that sometimes I cannot bear to be with her, sometimes.  I am learning to not be so afraid.

But today her memories were of her childhood.  A controlling father “much like your father” she said.  “Only mine was around less often, which was perhaps less damaging …” her thoughts trailing off.  In my mind, I too found I was wandering back to my dad’s controlling ways.  She’s remembering that her dad made her wear ugly shoes, because she was “hard on shoes.” Even though her sisters got any kind they wanted.

Those are sixty year old memories about sensible shoes.  Her father long dead and yet still, she remembers it today. 

God save me from bitter memories I say, not to her but inside to myself and to the ghosts.  Perhaps that’s why I keep them all locked up safe, because I don’t want to be bitter.

Today the speaker at the monastery spoke of stability and the descent into darkness as a way of becoming comfortable with uncertainty; a willingness to explore our pain.  Moving down into it and facing it.

No way!  I thought immediately.  This is simply nuts.

Then I remembered…

all the ways I learned to numb my pain, to forget.  And in that moment saw my progress – over time, over years.  A decade flashed.

I used to work hard at my job, to do really well and I received tons of praise and it was never enough.  I was never happy about it.  I was always afraid – of being unmasked, shown for the farce that I was.

The speaker spoke of learning to live deeply in the monotony of life, as do the Benedictines, monks, others – shall l I just say it?  The stay-at-home mom’s life was the epitome of mundane to me.

I see now that is was because I was running.

I couldn’t run fast enough from my internal demons.  Michael Casey, the Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia, says that distraction seeks to avoid and that we need to accept life as it is given to us. 

Ten years.  More than a decade of running.  Looking back I can see progress.  My heart was full of self-deception.  I couldn’t feel my feelings for many years and I numbed my feelings with alcohol, work, shopping, obsessive busyness, Christian service, action and movement of every kind.

And now I attempt to live in this moment — to see what’s in front of my nose. 

The speaker asked: Where do you find sources of stability in direct opposition to the running?  What does life look like when you need some stability? How do you know when you’re running? What prompts our perpetual running? What stops it, for you?

I was able to see, today that I have come a long way.   There are still moments of grievous disappointment in myself, but I lay that aside knowing that life is a long, long path for which I am only partway there.  It felt good, even divine, to gaze backward seeing the timeline of the years to appreciate that I am altered – different  – shifting and less flustered and more resolved.

I am able now to go unhurried into the future.  And I can now appreciate the dailies of life. I look forward to remembering, when it comes.

The deep monotony is good, in order to simply be.

MHH

Inspired by Stability and Balance in Relationships and Prayer led by Carole Kretschman at the Holy Wisdom Monastery, March 7, 2012

Three Simple Words

I am broken.  I’ll be quick to admit that about myself. It is no use trying to hide it.  And that is in some part what my blog is about — hoping that I can help someone else.

Most of my adult life has been spent sorting out my broken heart while trying not to let everything fall to pieces.

Eighteen years we’ve been married — I am his second wife.  They’ve been beautiful, and hard, and just yesterday he held my hand, rubbing it tenderly.  And said, “I want you.”  Even so — sitting in the car today with my fingers drumming on the steering wheel, while I wait for the red light to change, — as she says those three simple words my heart hurts.  And my head is spinning.  I knew it!

“Grandma misses Mary.”

His mom.  His ex-wife.  My daughter, innocently trying to sort out who loves whom.  “Do you like Mary, Mom?”

I am quiet.

“Are you mad?”

“Thoughtful.” I say after carefully considering my words, “No, not mad.”  Because I am more than that simply mad, or even shocked — It is so complicated.  My daughter has no idea.  She says, “I always thought I wasn’t supposed to like Mary.”  And, “Molly did too.”  And then I am angry.  Enraged at what feels so unfair. — I tried so hard to be a “good” step-mom.

And I wasn’t.  Good at it – being a step- an other.  I was petty. And fearful. And controlling.  Today, I know how lucky we are, that my step-daughter, Molly, loves me anyway.

But there is nothing step- about her.  She is all mineMy child.  And yet she is Mary’s child too.

Now Molly is an adult, and these scary and awkward moments that used to invade life with such regularity rarely come up.

Loyalties and love — who’s supposed to love whom — I just try not to think about it.  But, there it was.  The words spoken.  What I knew.  I just knew my mother-in-law still loved Mary.  And misses her.

And why does that hurt so badly? Should it? No.

I felt the air sucked out of my lungs. My heart ached, physically.  I was once again afraid of what it all means.  I know that I am so poor at loving others.  I don’t know what they need.  I fear rejection and fear others’ apathy toward me.  And so, I become apathetic.  I pretend there are no feelings.

I don’t call my husband’s parents.  I don’t initiate in any way.

I don’t even know how to love my own mother and sisters, and mostly do that all wrong; much less know how to love my husband’s parents, since after all I am their second daughter-in-law.  I know they still love her.

I don’t know how to love them, except perhaps to love him.  And love their grandchildren.  Even that — I fearI know, I don’t do very well.

I am broken.  And yet, still — I — know — I am loved.  Religious people questioned why Jesus would hang out with the people that he did and he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Jesus, I need you.  I am sick.  Help me to love everyone in my life, just as you love me.

Growing Old is so Uncool!

Over the last five years

my life story has been full of tension and some might say tragedy.  The process has been grueling and traumatic.  My parents have made a problematic imprint on my life.  I am working toward the days when I can celebrate again the good people that they are, but I must work through our family legacy, parts of which I must reject.

Often, I have found myself focused on the negative ways that my father especially has affected me.  I rarely talk about my mother, in part because she is still alive and that story is not complete.    Something happened recently between us that I feel is worth remembering here.

My mother

is a strange mix of strength and weakness that constantly perplexes me.  I have been devastated at times by our relationship, which is strange and erratic.  Both emotionally and  mentally agonizing, but at times we have moments of tremendous truthfulness.  I do not trust her and yet I deeply wish for her understanding.    I love her and yet I want to live my life without her (at times) because she has an uncanny way of being able to hurt me.  This frightens me.  It would be easier to walk away.  So far, I haven’t chosen that path.

My mother, seventy-two years old,  is the daughter of a southern philanderer for a father and a mother who raised five children by herself washing and ironing clothes.  She grew up in poverty, but my mother is bright, with a photographic memory to compensate for her dyslexia.  She was the first in her family to go to college where she trained to be teacher and supported my father through college and graduate studies.  They went to the mission field in 1966 to be teachers.

Today, sitting in her condo with the air conditioner running and the Red Sox playing, she is a far cry from the woman who trekked through the jungles of Papua New Guinea pregnant with me and holding a toddler.  She is a complicated person.

So Mom showed up the other day,

sitting, chatting about nothing important (something she hasn’t done for at least a year.)   I said “Stay and hang out while I feed the kids lunch.”  She was on a fast of some sort, or I would have offered her the PB&J I was feeding the children.

And she blurted out that she wanted to be my friend.

… Heavy    silence    ensued …

I felt in a moment, as she threw out those words, that time stood still.  And as she waited for my response it took

f o r e v e r.

She threw down her wishes as if everything, the past, had just magically disappeared.

A whirlwind of panic blew into my kitchen and was swirling around in my stomach, and heart, and head.   Many things were going through my head.  I am afraid of my mother —  that she’ll need me too much.  And I am afraid that she will reject me.  I am frightened by her power over me.  Should I be ecstatic that she wants to be my friend?  Remember the not small part of the equation where she is constantly forgetting important things?  Not telling me about a mother’s day lunch out with my sister.  Her calling and turning me down on one of the kid’s concerts at the last-minute.  Feeling too tired to come to my photography exhibit.  Forgetting the Artist Showcase at my church where I had things on display.  There are hundreds of occasions like these which I try to forget because it hurts.  Over and over it hurts and I tell myself  “Do not care.  Again.”  These things are unimportant in the larger scheme of life and yet they are a part of why I am so afraid of her.

I’m afraid and I somehow convey this to her as we sit there at my kitchen table.  Then tears slowly begin to slip down her face.  And as they start to really flow she says something that utterly blows me away.

“It is so difficult to get old.”  She continues that it’s frightening.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s simply hard to face going places alone, not knowing if she’ll find handicapped parking and be forced to walk a long distance.  And at times this completely overwhelms her and she can’t face it.  So she cancels.

I cannot express adequately to you now how huge this is for me. I have taken her actions as personal rejection of me, as her daughter.  Her absences.  Cancellations and no shows.  And rather than tell me the truth she’s used sickness and fatigue as the excuse.   Why?  Why do these things ever happen?  We are all a strange mixture of motives, fears and desires.   She hates that she’s getting old.  She’s afraid.  She lives alone and what if we decide she can’t handle that any more.  What if she decides she can’t?  What will it mean for her independence?  For all of us?  As she sits in her condo, comfortable and safe it’s just easier to not go out.

Growing old is hard on one’s ego.  And so uncool don’t you think?  The loss of privacy.  Dignity.  Independence.  God help us all as we walk toward this with our parents.  May we love them and listen well.  Take enough time to ask the right questions and have discernment as we move ahead.

I have felt that my mom doesn’t want to me in her life, not really.  This comes out of my dysfunction certainly but has been based on actual events.

And it turns out that she just needs a ride. This is a  new place for us to travel to in our relationship — a place of dependence and fragility — but a step closer to one another.