My mom had me when she had just turned seventeen. For most of my life, we benefited from a very close relationship. More like sisters than mother and daughter. She instilled independence, self-sufficiency, and a strong sense of personal responsibility in me. I wanted nothing more in life than to please her, and I did a stellar job of it.
Until I left my husband three years ago.
It took me quite by surprise to feel her subtle influence to go back to him. I couldn’t figure out why she would want that for me if I clearly wasn’t happy. It began to appear to me that she valued my stability more than my truth. Distance and tension began to seep into our relationship.
One of the most challenging aspects of my journey the last three years has been navigating the relationship with my mother. I have realized that she raised me to be the “good girl” and as I shed that identity to become a sovereign woman, our relationship has been tested.
Her right to worry about me, as my mother. My right to create a life that is meaningful to me, even if it is unconventional.
Her desire for me to be happy. My desire for freedom and truth over happiness.
Her need for me to have certainty and safety. My need to follow the path of my soul, risking certainty and safety.
For the first time in my life, I have felt the need to create clear boundaries with her. She claims that she doesn’t know who I am anymore. And she is right. I am shedding the conditioning she and society placed on me to find out what is underneath.
I told her that I believe that is the reason we incarnate into this world: to experience the conditioning and then to shed it to discover who we truly are and what we are meant to do.
She told me recently that when her mom, my grandmother, died, she just felt relieved. She said she doesn’t want that for us. And yet, she’s not sure what to do because she also realizes that she is becoming her mother.
That felt like truth to me. It hurt me to feel that happen to my mom, and it felt true. It feels as though she is shrinking as she ages, her once expansive courage wilting into fear. I could hear her crying on the other end of our call.
“Mom, I love you, and I really wish that you could not hide behind your role as my mom to excuse behavior that hurts me. I know it’s asking a lot, but I wish we had a relationship as equals. Equals who trust the capability of each other to handle their lives as they see fit. I don’t know if that is possible. If not, we’ll just have to stay superficial, which I don’t think either of us want.”
Then I suddenly remembered our brief work together with a mother/daughter counselor. I had been visiting my mom to escape my life in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We had a fight, something that rarely happened between us, and feeling so overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle it, we enlisted help.
One of my biggest realizations from that work was that my mom’s life was her own, and her choices were also her own. I had felt betrayed by her choice to continue smoking, knowing it would take her away from me prematurely. I finally chose to accept that she would live her life as she chose, and I had to make peace with that if I wanted to continue to be in relationship with her.
“Mom, remember when we worked with our counselor?” I asked. “One of the biggest takeaways for me was realizing that your life is your own, and that I have to make peace that your choices might take you away from me prematurely. Remember that?”
“Yes, I do,” she replied.
“Well, now I think it’s your turn. To make peace that my choices are my own.”
So far, our love for each other has inspired us to keep trying to understand each other, to keep reaching across the growing abyss that separates our worldviews. We both push our own edges of speaking truth and receiving the other’s truth.
I have no idea what will happen, but I do know that the effort is a testament of the deepest kind of love. And I know that is why I’m here.