Loving the not-so-lovable mother

Holidays drive a lot of us nuts.

Or at least I want to

Or at least I want to

The fantasy of the happy family around the table at Thanksgiving, the joyful family at Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), the loving couple on Valentine’s day. Gaaak! For many of us–maybe most of us–these lovey-dovey holidays just make us feel less loved and less lovable.

Especially Mothers Day. For those of us who were not exactly the apple of our mothers’ eyes, the greeting card image of the devoted mother and child makes us wince. Yesterday I watched the adorable video of Kelly Corrigan’s mom rearranging Kelly’s books in her local Borders so no one can miss them. Kelly said, “That’s what mothers do.” I thought, “Oh yeah? Not my mother!”

I had a prize-winning mother. She scared the bejesus out of all my friends, especially boys. They would cower in the doorway feeling her frosty judgement from twenty feet away. They couldn’t get “Good night, Mrs Conner,” out fast enough.

But here I am approaching another Mothers Day feeling love–and nothing but love. Mind you, not because of anything my mother said. Not because of a deathbed declaration of devotion. (Never got that.) Not because of anything my mother did. I stand in a pool of love because of something I did.

When my mother began her death march through dementia, I picked up a pen and had the first of many long, intense, soulful conversations with the Voice about Laurene and about our feet-on-broken-glass relationship. I laid our story out on the page, episode after episode, wound after wound, slight after slight, asking hard questions as I went. One of the richest was “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Well, ask and ye shall receive, right? The page filled with an array of precious gifts from relentless focus (I can sit at the computer till midnight), to reliance on prayer (don’t get me started, I love prayer in all its forms), to the image of a woman as a writer. Although, I didn’t agree with a single word my mother wrote. (Her obsession was saving the Catholic Church from the evils of all that wasn’t orthodox. She even reviewed papal encyclicals for how well they toed the line.) But at seven, I watched her chain smoke and pound the typewriter, and that image of “woman as writer” (without the cigarettes, thank god!) cemented itself into a possibility–and eventually a reality–for me. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

So, if this Sunday, Mothers Day, is not your idea of a delightful holiday, if you shake your head when you think of your mother, if you dread the thought of another brunch of cold food and artificial smiles, tell the Voice. Tell the Voice in full-throated cry and three-dimensional color, but then, ask. Ask the hard questions. Ask the painful questions. And at some point, ask: “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Then, write fast. So fast that you can’t read what’s coming out. Let the words flow on their own. The gifts will cascade onto the page, even–or especially–the “bad” ones. From this rich soil, you grew. Perhaps, you had to grow yourself, but you grew.

And that, is your soul’s true story. You simply could not be who you are, where you are, and headed in the direction you’re headed without that wacky, cold, judgemental (pick an adjective!) woman. So, say Thank You!

For me, I say, Happy Mothers Day, Laurene! And thank you for your many, many gifts.

Want more? Here are two of the UPI columns I wrote about the gifts from my mother. If you want the whole series, send me an email at janet@writingdownyoursoul.com.

Your best birthday gift, unwrapped
Oh no, we really are one!

9 Comments on “Loving the not-so-lovable mother”

  1. Jean Maurie says:

    Janet, just read your mother’s day blog. Funny I feel like the mother who hasn’t given her son what I “think” he needed because of my own dysfunction. He is almost 50. He sent me a birthday card and a mothers day card that I got today and the mother’s day card made me cry. I turned 73 yesterday and today I was in gut ache all day. I just finished writing and it seems as if I had an argument with the voice..

    I just finished writing tonight and actually had an argument with the voice. I told it that I was 73 and when would this pain end. They said you are 733 soul years and eternal so stop measuring things by my age. I said big whoop how do i feel better now. They said with patience and that I am releasing with the pain today. They said to be more gentle with myself and more patient. I didn’t like the patient part. They said it was hard to talk to me because i was wrapped in fear and pain and that it was hard for them to get through this. I am not sure I really was talking to them. I quit for tonight.

    This writing every night sure is interesting. So was your blog.

    Big hugs, Jean

  2. Janet Conner says:

    Jean Maurie: Based on how others describe the Voice, I’d say that was definitely the Voice. Kind, loving, wise. Telling you to be kind to yourself, reminding you to think bigger. THAT’S exactly how you know it’s the voice and not you.
    “Be gentle with yourself.” What lovely and loving advice. If we could all just do that! Happy birthday and happy mothers day. we are all doing the best we can. And heaven is pleased and blessing us. Of this I am sure. Janet

  3. Jean Maurie says:

    Dear Janet, Thank you for this response. I must have hooked up to the “voice” sooner than I expected. I love your book. I’ve read up to about the middle of the book. I read it very slow so I can absorb it. I am also on a 40 day EFT tapping routine, writing my soul and meditating. A lot of growth here. Good for the start of a new year, huh. 🙂

    Thanks for the birthday wish and happy Mother’s Day to you. We are blessed for sure.

    ^i^ angel hugs to you dear soul, Jean Maurie

  4. Janet Conner says:

    I’m so glad you are loving the book. I had the opportunity to teach the Intro to Writing Down Your Soul workshop several times in the last two weeks and every time I am so moved by people’s reactions to the power of deep soul writing. I am delighted to be the messenger for this sweet practice. Is the Thirty-Day Guide to Writing Down Your Soul turning out to be helpful? Love to hear your experiences with it.

  5. Anita Trojnar says:

    Wow. Now that I don’t take “signs” as coincidences, I’m intrigued by this one! I haven’t spoken to my mother in seven years. I’ve been in therapy off and on for years–finally last year I found a woman who really helped me. But there was one more piece, and I found it when I typed in “spiritual leader + Palm Harbor, FL.” That’s when Unity Church of Palm Harbor popped up. One click later: “Janet Conner’s Writing Down Your Soul Workshop.” Well, as a a woman who went to college for creative writing–a decision which, for the life of me, I could never explain–I knew this was SENT to me. And it started the next day! I desperately called you and asked if you had any spots left. I told Patti she HAD to come with me. And the elephant in the room throughout the writing down your soul process has been my relationship with my mother. I have found out that I chose to be with my mother because it was how I’d best learn to mother my own children (and myself, for that matter). I’ve learned what being my mother’s daughter has meant for who I am, and I am grateful in many ways. There is ongoing work to be done, but I think (considering the trouble I’ve had dealing with the broken relationship) it’s not just a coincidence that you, someone I trust, wasn’t reared by Mom of the Century either : )

    • janetconner says:

      Anita: I love your insight: that we choose “bad” mothers to learn how to be “good” mothers via the contrast. I did exactly that. I’ve raised my son diametrically opposite the way I was raised. And both he and I are all the better for it. If we ran a poll, I’ll bet most would say they didn’t have the Mom of the Century. But just think of all the “gifts” we received from them!

  6. Jennifer Aldrich says:

    Janet, I really enjoyed this. I just spent five days with my Mom at St. Pete Beach with my sisters. We had great conversations especially one on one. I talked about the “negative programs” that she inherited from her mother, father, and grandparents. It gave me great insight to the things that I inherited in which hold me back, such as lack of self worth, abandonment, etc. It is up to me to break these patterns from the matriarchs of my family. And so I appreciated her sharing her past with me and appreciating her incredible strength she has to get through the past misgivings. I also realized that she is slowly deteriorating before my eyes and therefore seeing her once a year is simply not enough. So thank you for this wonderful message about your experience.

  7. srdiane says:

    Just discovered you through the blog, and love what I’m reading. I strive to have a relationship with my mother that doesn’t focus around resentment, arguments and tears. I have long recognized some of the gifts I recived from Mum, such as lifelong learning (she got her pilots license at 40), some took living on my own to appreciate (fresh fruits and veggies from the garden) but the hardest to come to terms with is her expectations of me that I feel but she doesn’t understand, which cause most of the arguments.

    How do you explain to your mother so she understands though that I really do thank her for some things, when they’re not the things she seems to like about you? Money is frivioulus, hate and anger are wasted emotions, and there’s so much more joy in spreading love.

    • janetconner says:

      So glad you found me and the blog. You might also enjoy learning more about Writing Down Your Soul at the website, http:www.writingdownyoursoul.com.

      I wish I had a perfect answer for you. The problem is we can only manage our own reactions and thoughts, not the other guys. (darn!) So there is no magic way to penetrate someone else’s psyche and get them to see life the way we see it. I had a big aha in a hypnosis experience about the block to my prosperity. I saw the block as a wall and as I watched the wall turned into my mother’s face. WOW. I realized instantly that I had inherited or taken on her fears about money. But they were HERS, not mine. Which meant I could (and should) let them go. Still working on that.

      Here are a few thoughts: simply don’t have conversations on subjects you both know are hopeless. Or when they come up, say, you know, mom, we don’t agree on that so let’s talk about something else. Or ask your mom if she’d be willing to hear your take on the topic (but leave out the recriminations). Of course, my number one way to solve this or any problem, is to take it to the page, ask the Voice why this is an issue and how to handle it. Write very very fast and you’ll be astonished at the wisdom that appears. Do let us all know what happens!

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