Tonight at rehearsal I was grateful for something. Then when I got home I was reading aimlessly through past blogs and re-read a post back in April of 2007 about my mom. And I realized there is a singular experience had with that woman that I have not shared.
My mother and I have spoken to each other with raised voices more often than not. Throughout my life, I saw my mother as an exposed wire, as a broken version of herself, as something less. From the time I was fourteen, I have vivid memories of three things in regard to my mother: Her singing.
Her bearing her testimony.
And yelling at/with her.
To illustrate I offer a story: When I was about sixteen, there was a Saturday when I wanted to go somewhere. The house was a mess. It's possible that I had been asked to clean it, I can't recall. As my mother and I were yelling at each other, she forcefully strode to her room and I called after her, "But we love you mom!" and she answered, "Then SHOW me." and slammed the door in my face.
I felt her to be the biggest jerk of all time. Why couldn't she just take my word for it? Why weren't my words enough . . . and so on.
My triggers were if my mother discussed, or even mentioned,
People treating her poorly.
Whenever she would express negative emotions about ANY given situation.
I found that my responses generally were to defend the other party, and tell my mother how to fix her broken self. I was always hoping to say that one thing that would open her eyes and heal her or cause her to change! I felt that she was never looking at everything. Honestly. I said prayers to the effect of, "Help me know what to say to help my mother see . . ." yada yada yada.
My husband, bless his dear sweet soul, often asked my why I would even GO to my parents house or design to spend time with this woman, my mother, when it was obvious that we didn't get along. And I always came home with heavy emotional scarring and baggage. WHY? And the answer, "She's my mom," was wearing thin on us both.
Then. Ah then, this past January it finally happened. I learned the answer.
We were downstairs. We were in my fathers office. Yelling. Yelling as if by doing so we could bring about world peace. The gusto, the lung power the sheer mass of our feelings filled the room and shook the walls. That is the capacity of us two women when got together and riled up.
I believe the conversation (and I use the term loosely) was sparked by a combination of topics like money, my father and her theatrical business endeavor. I had long felt abandoned and brushed aside by this focus of her life.
At the very apex of our spewing, my mother burst forth in magnificent glory by saying, "I got you kids up at 6 am to read the scriptures for three years before your father finally got the picture that it was important! I made orange juice every morning! I made your meals for eighteen years! I washed all your clothes! I went to every damn soccer game and performance! I signed you up for those soccer games and other ****. I DID! And what do you kids remember? You remember the times DAD woke you up for scriptures. You remember when DAD made you breakfast. You remember DAD going to your stuff. You remember DAD talking about Wyoming!"
And it was here that my brain ripped apart. The blinders I had worn my whole life were removed. It was as though Heavenly Father literally opened the set of eyes I had had closed before. And I saw every memory of my childhood differently.
Suddenly, my mother was there. She was present, ever present. All that she had listed, and more, flooded like fire and light into my awareness and I realized with a great pain in my head and my heart that my mother needed no fixing.
My mother was not broken.
My mother desired, above all else one thing: RESPECT. and when she had not gotten it as she needed it from her children or her ward she had turned to this Theatrical business. And although she continued to suffer, she was also being vastly rewarded.
And I had not seen any of that.
I began crying and stopped her tyraid with, "You're right."
Her defenses went up immediately, as she heard the words that were so often said to patronize her before.
But then she saw the tears in my eyes and fell into a shocked and wary silence.
As my mind raced through all my memories, trying to make sense of what I had done over my twenty four years of being a crappy daughter, the tears fell from my eyes, sobs racked my body and I found I could only say two things:
"You're right." and "I'm so sorry."
And oh how I meant it.
All the times. All those myriad of times when what my mother did went unnoticed, unappreciated . . . Now I understand that sort of thing is to be expected in motherhood. But what I had done was so much worse. Because I didn't just overlook her contributions, I gave the entirety of my credit, love and loyalty to someone else. Like she never even existed.
I didn't know that's what I was doing. It wasn't on purpose.
And the arrogance! I looked at this woman - without seeing her - and thought, "I know what will make her better."
Judgement. Pride. Betrayal. Conditional love. Truth out of context. I stood guilty of all these.
Because deep down I knew my mother was marvelous. And on the surface I treated her like an untrained mutt. Sure it has potential, but if you don't kick it, how will it learn?
The shame! The bitter taste my past words left in my mouth! I went to her and hugged her, all the while sobbing and repeating my new mantra, "I'm so sorry. I understand now. You are right!"
My mother didn't hug me back. She was in a sort of calm awe. As my mind was reeling, hers finally stood calm. And only one thought, one feeling permeated her: "Someone understands?" And inside, her soul relaxed.
That was six months ago. We have not fought since.
Because now I understand.
My mother had often tried to tell me that I was her daughter, while confiding in me like a friend or sister. I had abused that relationship in the most heinous way. Mostly because I didn't understand respect.
This lesson reflects deeply on my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Over the years I have grown lax. And the major ingredient I lack in regard to them is respect.
It is an uncomfortable awareness to suddenly know that I don't understand the meaning of a few basic words. Hope. Faith. Respect. Peace. Love.
And how wonderful to finally be able to answer the old question, "Why did you spend so much time with a woman you always fought with?" It was so I could one day be prepared to really SEE my mother. To truly be her advocate. To truly be her daughter. And I am sincerely blessed to be her daughter. To be her child has taught me so much. This experience . . . I am grateful she was willing to go through it, too. Because wow.
The experience I had tonight was what we have now. I can be the advocate she always knew I could be. Because I see and understand the woman that she is.
And I love that woman dearly.