From Shrinking to Shining
Part one: Shrinking
I’m living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a while. There’s a writers’ conference and in one of the workshops I write this:
She was the best of mothers. She was the worst of mothers.
I was born shrinking inside. It seems as if I could feel her anger and fierceness even before I was born. Shrinking in the womb.
She only wanted two children. I was the fourth. Not only the fourth, but the fourth girl. She, a person of great intelligence, a person desperate for control, spent her days cooking and cleaning and trying to hold together the lives of five people. There was no time to hold together her own life.
There was only seven years between the oldest and the youngest. The next up from me was just sixteen months old when I was born. Oh was I ever an accident. Two in elementary school, one barely a toddler, and a new-born, with the toddler and new-born both still in diapers.
There was no such thing as disposable diapers. Heck, in her world there was no such thing as a washing machine. She washed all the clothes for six people, including the stinky diapers for two babies, by hand, at a washboard in the laundry tub.
She was angry. With her father who was a cruel man, but mostly with where her life had come to. I was yet another thing she had to deal with.
Control was the issue. If she could only control her life, if she could only control all of us maybe, just maybe she could stay sane.
The days and years rolled by. We all learned very young to do as we were told, to be tidy, to do our chores, to be good. I learned to be the goodest! I was known as Good Bear. Don’t make a noise. Be still. Be silent. Shrink. And that way maybe, just maybe I’d escape the volcanic burst of anger that would erupt without notice.
It didn’t work. We never knew what would trigger it. And each time I would shrink a little more.
At the same time I was told that I was too shy, too sensitive. I learned that who I am is of no value, and of no interest to others. My father, working full-time and studying part-time, was barely present. My two oldest sisters were living their own lives. The one closest in age, though now the one I’m most deeply connected with, was, as a child, the one I was most estranged from. She made it clear from my youngest memories that she wanted nothing to do with me. We were too different.
This I learned: no one is interested in who I am. I am of no value. The way I am is wrong. Shrinking seemed the only obvious thing to do.
I am fourteen years old. I am standing at the sink washing dishes. My mother is at the kitchen table cooking something. We are alone. I quietly mumble. I don’t know what prompts me. You’d think I would know by now that to reveal myself is not safe. I quietly mumble I’m in love with Peter.
There’s not even a second for this statement to hang in the air. Quick as a flash she snaps Oh what nonsense! It’s like a rifle shot across the room. I am dismissed. I shrink. I vow never again will I share with her who I really am.
She’s been gone fourteen years now. I used to weep for all the pain she caused me. Now I weep for all the pain her father caused her, and that she caused herself. And I weep for the pain that I caused her. I weep for the wasted suffering. I weep for love.
Part two: More therapy
In San Miguel de Allende I’m seeing a spiritual therapist a couple of times a week. We talk. She challenges me. A lot. She makes me face all the painful stuff, the ways in which I limit myself and hurt myself, the ways in which I create suffering and how it’s reflected in my body. She makes me look directly into the face of my denial. I hate it but I need it. Then I lie on her massage table and she moves the trapped energy.
All my adult life, since reading Seth Speaks in my early thirties, I’ve understood that physical pain is a reflection of unfelt emotional pain. I’m in a lot of pain. I’m working with the therapist (one of many over the years) to dislodge the buried emotional pain. It almost all comes down to my relationship with my mother.
San Miguel is a long dark tunnel. I swim around in the inner murky depths of my psyche for three months dealing with worthiness issues. I hardly sleep. Among other things I finally heal my fractured relationship with my dear mother fourteen years after her death.
I’m lying on a massage table. This time with a regular massage therapist. It’s a deep gentle massage and I’m drifting in and out of consciousness. Suddenly a vision! It is not an imagining, it is a vision. It is my mother’s face. She is about thirty years old. She is at peace. She looks beatific. Beautiful. Serene. The vision holds and then fades. It feels like freedom. For both of us.
Part three: Re writing the story
But it is still not over. Several years later I’m playing The Transformation Game with a group of friends. It’s a powerful game in which one comes face to face with inner truth, going as deeply as one desires or is able. My relationship with my mother comes up again. I thought it was healed but no, there is yet more. What becomes clear is that it is time for me to rewrite the story.
The story I carried for years was that I was unwanted, unloved, unworthy, uncelebrated, a burden. But what if it’s not true? For the first time I choose to believe that my mother wanted and loved me. It’s revelatory. I choose to imagine her holding me with love rather than out of necessity. I am undone by the idea. It brings tears to my eyes. Is it the truth? Is any of what I believed before or now the truth? Who knows? Who cares? What I know for sure is that I am free from the suffering caused by my beliefs about the past. I am here, and I am whole, and when I think of my mother my heart is filled with love.
What a beautiful dance we did together.
I’m closer to seventy than sixty and have lived my life about as far outside the box as you can get. It’s been a lifetime of inner and outer journeying. From my early twenties I was concerned with and committed to inner healing. I just wanted to be happy damn it! And I knew it was up to me. What grace to be given that little piece of wisdom and not look for it outside of myself. I have also always had an equal passion for travelling and travelled a lot in my 20’s and 30’s. In our 60’s my husband and I sold or gave away all we owned and spent nearly six years as homeless nomads travelling the world. I’m still travelling – both inner and outer. I probably always will be.
My blog, Adventures in Wonderland, http://alisonanddon.com, is all about the journeys.
Written for the From Darkness to Light event. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Alison know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Adventures in Wonderland when you’re done.