Daughters and Mothers and Truth and Love
I was listening to the Audible version of Judith Blackstone’s book The Realization Process and doing an exercise in investigating restrictions in the body when I realized something: my mother and I, even after she was dead, could not fully exist as ourselves together in a room.
Could not is the wrong phrase: did not. Perhaps even do not.
I know my mother could not fully exist as herself with me in the room because I read my mother’s journals after she died and I saw what I had always suspected: she was not presenting the real story of herself and her life to me. I read about her secret life. I read about her thoughts of running away. I did not read about her love for me. What I read was AH did not put away the bags after unpacking the groceries.
And if my mother could not be herself with me, there was no way for me to know it was safe to be myself with her.
Mind you, I did not read her journals in the way you might think—I did not go into her office and open a drawer that had always been marked private. I received via the postal service the softened notebooks that smelled like depths of a closet my mother’s good friend who lived half a country away. My mother was an extremely private person, a person who had burned her childhood journals that had been stored in my grandmother’s attic after I had found them and teased her about the phrase “back to the grindstone.” I didn’t understand why she had kept these journals that talked about things I’d suspected but never had confirmed. I didn’t understand why she’d given them to her friend for safekeeping. I didn’t understand why her friend thought it was a good idea to send them to me. I could have asked. I still could ask, but I don’t want to know. I’m afraid my mother’s friend will tell me my mother wanted me to have these journals after she was dead because then I will feel rage.
What good is the information now?
I wanted to know my mother. I wanted her to drop her mask and let me see her. I saw her get angry, saw her fall apart, saw her get sick, but I did not see someone who was entirely there before me, whole, someone who wasn’t distracted by the yearning for a cigarette, by money worries, by the feeling she should be doing something else, should be someone else, should get supper started because soon it would be dinner time.
I wrote that paragraph about my mother, but if you replaced cigarette with caffeine it could just have well been written by my daughter about me. That stops me in my tracks, as it should. The James Wright poem comes to mind, the line I have wasted my life.
I think my mother was a wonderful person. I didn’t like when she told stories about being careless, especially the story about leaving me outside in the pram when she went into the New York Public Library to return some books, but I loved that she loved me. I loved the yearning I felt for her, a version of the way I felt when eating a fudgesicle where it almost tasted amazing, where I had the feeling that if I just kept licking, the chocolate taste would finally open up and I’d have a mouthful of delicious.
I waited for the delicious with my mom. I’m still waiting, and she’s gone to dust. I knew it was there as a child, as a teenager, as an adult, because she was my mom and I loved her more than I loved anyone (until, of course, I had my daughter). My heart knew the taste it wanted because it was the blood rich taste of itself, and it waited, and waited, and then it learned to ask for less, to settle for less; it learned that the heart of the world for some reason did not extend its deepest gifts to it, for if my mother could not present herself to my heart fully, why would anything else? My heart beat, stayed present to keep me alive, but the hurt traveled up my body, looking for a place to reside and settled in my throat, in the space between feeling and thinking. My throat, the muscles in my throat and attached to my throat: my diaphragm, my sternocleidomastoid, my scalenes, grew tighter. If I was not seen, then speaking my truth was dangerous, and so it was better to constrict, to hold the best in, to hide, to do what was expected rather than truly respond to what was felt.
What would it have been like if I’d walked into the kitchen as a child, now!, and found my mother standing there, herself, washed of should-be and could-be and if-only, and what if she had looked me in the eyes and I had seen the love in her heart, the love she had for herself, for the world around her and therefor for me? What would have happened to my body? To my mind?
I would have bloomed.
We would have been two daisies in a room, breathing in the light.
My reading of the Presence Process continues. I can learn to release my neck. I can learn to rewire my brain. I can learn to exist fully, to be fully present. I love you, Mom. I miss you. I wish you were here, but I think you had to go so I could do this work.
Learn more about Judith Blackstone here: https://realizationprocess.org
I learned about Judith Blackstone on the podcast Bliss and Grit: http://www.blissandgrit.com/blog/judith-blackstone-2
Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.