The Other Relationship With My Mother

Gem Fire Air
The Other Relationship With My Mother

by marty kleva

June 10, 2006

Preface: The three scenes below are ones that surfaced in a writing project one day, a few years ago, as I explored my relationship with my mother. These began as WildWrites, and they unearthed some surprising revelations.

If you have read my "About Marty Kleva" blurb, you see that my graduate and post-graduate work is in psychology, however not psychology in the typically clinical sense. I have always been more interested in the innate nature of mankind, rather than the pathological labels designed to make a human being ‘wrong’ and to imprison him/her into some outpost molded by those who happen to rule with their own questionable criteria.

Because of this belief in an organic truth beneath all things, my personal life is always moving, shifting and changing as I come to further and deeper understanding and insights about my own personal patterns in relationships.

I happen to believe that investigating the relationship with our mother is tantamount to panning for gold regardless of our gender.

This article is not shared haphazardly, or in a frivolous way, because I deeply revere what I have experienced with my mother even as it was not full of the kind of things I would prefer.

Earlier, I wrote a Tribute To My Mother and relayed many life experiences I had with her that were very nice and which one could almost say painted a very rosy picture of my childhood. All that I said there is true and happened as I have written it.

Much of our culture is based on always stating only the positive and not mentioning the things that have caused us pain. Although I am not bent on hanging out any dirty laundry, my intent here is to bring to light that there is never only one side to life and if we think there is, that is the illusion.

Here is my personal process of resolving the differences I have had with my mother. I am not making her wrong her for anything, but am dealing with how I experienced things between us as a child, and demonstrating here how children cannot know what an adult is working through as a parent, and unknowingly, yet naturally
out of love for that parent, try to help the parent through what the child sees as a problem.

Perhaps you can associate with some of this and pick out how it connects with your relationships too. And as always, I invite your remarks or questions with an e-mail

con amore,

- mek

My Relationship With Mother

As I watch other women friends, and witness their frustrations with their mothers who are in later life, I remember my own difficulties with mine. My complaints of, “ . . . mother not wanting to help herself, not getting out, not making new friends, forgetting to turn off the burner, not doing anything productive with her life.”

In anger and frustration I lash out and demand why she doesn’t ask a friend for dinner or join a new club. It is so hard to watch her dwindle her life down to nothing; frightening to see it happening in front of my eyes — losing her connection to living.

I am afraid, and along with my fear is anger. Somewhere I must realize that I have carried this bag of Mother’s Burden with the hope of giving her the opportunity to take hold of her life. And now I am forced with the probability that this is not going to happen, and with a subconscious realization I may have carried this for naught. How dare she back away from life when I have been holding this in order for her to step into life!

So what has my life been for then if I (she) can’t pull this off? And who am I if not my Mother’s Burden any longer?

The other day I came to see with full realization that I was so entrenched in identifying with her burden that what began as me carrying it to relieve her, turned into me becoming it, it becoming me — self-identification, being completely taken over by it so that who I have become is my Mother’s Burden. I can no longer distinguish myself from it — from deification to demonization, and neither has worked for me. Until now, I have just not seen it so clearly.

Carrying Mother

Carrying Mother inside me for so long, I do not even — cannot distinguish it from myself. How can I when there is no realization that I still carry her burden with me — being that child within me who only wishes to help and please her as a way of loving her. I am strong — I can help her.

And soon, that is all I do — help take her burden from her — and soon that IS who I am — I know nothing different. What begins as my expression of a child’s love, turns into an expression of self-revulsion and unknowing self-degradation.

I do it so well and feel at least I can DO something for her. Through time passing, I lose the sense of my Self and I am no longer me — I am my mother’s burden that I have so lovingly taken on — have tried to relieve her of. I become it!

She is the embodiment of a repressed sense of outrage that dares not be expressed by a woman and simultaneously expect to be listened to. The denial sets in after so many attempts to disengage — she leaves my father numerous times in feeble attempts to break free of what she must feel is pulling her down. Perhaps it is just her own inadequacy she probably thinks, and tries harder. I try harder and lose more sense of my Self as I allow her burden to sink deeper within my psyche.

Outwardly, I become stalwart, stoically determined not to repeat her history of relationship.

It is only years later with the dissolution of my own marriage that I realize I have in fact repeated the cycle — my own dwindling happiness, which I thought had flowered in my early 20’s, and meeting a partner I felt attuned with. Within a year, my own happy face shifted and was clouded over by an unknown visitor — feeling I was being dragged down, down, down, but not really understanding what was happening.

I was exploding like a time-release capsule of my mother into the reality of my life. Who was this person I walked around as?

Too many tragic incidents occurring in my own early married life to relate here — happening in cycles and within in a period of six years. Incidents not handled emotionally or psychologically — buried deep — or so I had thought — until my mother re-visited me and my family in the flesh, and I knew then somewhere as my anger began to seep toward the surface and emanate from me like escaping steam that I was not through with her, and that I could no longer carry her anger, her burden within me.

Even then however, I did not really understand — I knew only that I was angry all the time I was around her, I found myself going out into the yard and just screaming — or having intolerable conversations in the car alone with myself, venting my frustrations.

Aspects of My Mother

. . . that I have glimpses of and have many questions about:

The beautiful woman I see in the picture is having a wonderful time with her friends, sisters and boy friends, she is dressed to the hilt in fashion and her hair is long and gorgeous, and she has a wonderfully free sense about her.

She is enjoying herself here and I wonder why I have never seen her — this woman in the photo — have never seen my mother that carefree and fun-loving. Where has she gone and why is she hiding?

I wonder for all the years that we have shared that there is something very alive missing between us. As a very intuitive child, I know she is holding back some vibrant and powerfully present part of herself from me and I am angry with her for withholding it. I am angry at her for withholding that person from me to enjoy and love, and to be loved by.

It’s as if I have looked for her all my life and have never been able to find her, except for in those intriguing pictures with her cohorts before she was married. To spend my life angry at her for this, something I surely do not understand I am doing, has created a huge unspoken chasm between us — one that gets carried out in many different ways which I never understand — like the always present yet unspoken questions, “Why can’t we talk?” “Why do I feel like I can’t trust you?”

The hidden woman she keeps secreted is like a shadow between us.

Anger for me has always been a very hidden and elusive emotion. Until I hit my 40’s, I had no conscious experience of anger until one day in early June and I was driving east toward Philadelphia on Rt 70. Both sides of the rustic two-lane highway were strewn with wildly blooming azaleas and rhododendrons of every hue. It was breathtaking, and in just that one moment of awareness, I felt my shoulders on fire and realized that this was anger emanating from my body — my first true understanding that I knew anger.

I have no idea what precipitated that episode, however from that moment on, I kept exploring my anger and how it showed itself to me somatically within my body. Soon I felt it — the deep burning in my belly and the tight clenching of my throat.

It was the time of my mother coming to stay with my family and me to recover from a serious illness, something with which we felt we could help her with and positively affect her.

Fortunately, I had no idea of the repercussions, or I may not have done it. It had last been when I was 17, when I had moved away from home and entered college, that I had lived with my mother. Now years later, I was not prepared to meet what would unfold between us.

She was very needy which I expected, but I was not prepared for a woman who was not interested in forming her own life or relationships as she got better. My mother was depressed, not from anything concerning my family, or me but because she had always been depressed, even when I was a child, and in retrospect, I now understand that I really never truly realized that, nor did any of my siblings. We saw what we wished to see, a woman who was Mother, and in our illusions someone who was here to nurture us even as we grew older.

I was not equipped to take on her unhappiness, being overwhelmed with my own that I was so desperately attempting to deny. How could I deal with it when she was in my face, and I kept thinking, “Isn’t she supposed to be content with her life as she gets older?”

“Why is she so unhappy and not willing to do anything to help herself?” And, “Why am I so angry at her?” So angry that I treat her as I would a naughty child! I am so angry about the fact that she cannot find her own happiness!

Looking back now, a few years later and with much greater perspective, I can detect, and pinpoint the fact, that within the first six years, she made a decision to stay with my father in a marriage that she felt imprisoned by for many reasons, namely her children. I remember her saying to us that she had determined she would make it through marriage “ . . . even if it kills me!”

Therefore, I never once saw my mother as a person who was content in any way with her life. I never saw her truly happy! And that really is such a miserable message to send to children.

As a child, and not knowing, I am sure I took on her unhappiness, I tried everything in my power to help her. I’m sure my siblings all have their own version of how they did also. Finally, in my teens, something inside me snapped and I decided “no more” — it was there one eventful day that my mother demanded, in her undemanding way, that I do something which would require me to back down about a problem, and for which in the first time in my life, I said “No” — it just came out, “No!” I had never before denied her anything that I had until that moment. For some reason, I just did not have anything left to give and I said “No”.

She was so shocked — only one half as much as I — that I could see it upset her terribly and she, with as much courage as she could muster, and with tears in her eyes as she realized that something devastatingly important has just occurred, and that things between us would never be the same, backed off as I stomped away.

I had taken an irretrievable step and we both knew it.

It was then that I knew anger towards my mother. The woman who in just moments before, I loved, adored and respected — thought of her as a saint. And now, in this one moment, on the other side of it, I had lost all that for her and it was replaced with revulsion and contempt.

Now, here she was, in my face years later. All of the buried and unresolved contempt and revulsion surfaced like flotsam on top of the water I am now barely treading in my own life.

My frustration to not be like my mother, — not be depressed or unhappy is floating up against my face and it is dark and dirty and shaming. How could I be here in the same place as she? Am I not more educated and am I not a thoroughly modern woman? My shame, embarrassment, and frustration of being in the exact same place overwhelmed me. The years of “work” denying and judging to avoid repeating her mistakes, reveal I had gone nowhere, but in fact had only circled round to the same place, ground zero.

Ah, yes, I wish so much that my mother could have somehow lived out that other life that she appeared to be happy with before I ever knew her. I would wish “that” for her and I wish that for myself now.

Now, years later and with a great deal of personal work undertaken, I am seeing more and more of who I — that child was, and I have been able to assist that child’s differentiation and development furthering my own adult individuation.

Now I can still know that some of “my” anger is my mother’s anger that I agreed to carry for her. When it comes forth there is an understanding that I am granting that child of mine to release some of her burdened sack of my mother’s frustrations and dashed hopes.

In my own attempt to engage in other relationships, the one with myself must still come first as I continue to realize the difference between that which is “me”, and that which is not.

I see who I have thought myself to be, and it no longer fits for me to be that. So I lift the mantle of my Mother’s burden like a yoke, returning it from where I took it — humbly asking for forgiveness from her and all which I have affected, by taking what was never mine to take in the first place.

At the same time I enlist all my compassion for the child I was and which still resides within me who was only doing what she knew how to do out of her love for her mother.