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far more beautiful places

far more beautiful places

by Andrea
July 1, 2013

After my last post, "another small victory for love", one of our readers (and a close personal friend) told me that she didn't want to stop reading it, that she didn't want it to end. She wanted to read more about my own process of letting go. "Another small victory for love" was about the letting go that I witnessed in my mother as my mother aged, and the softening and sweetening that emerged as she let go of her need to control her life (and the lives of others!). I realized that my friend was right, that there is more to say about my side of this story. And so in response to this, there are two stories to tell. One from 38 years ago (the topic of this post), and the other more recent (to be the topic of a future post)—both to do with my own letting go of control in relationship to my mother. And both are fundamental to why I wanted to start this blog site.

The mother daughter relationship can be a complex one, and there is an enormous amount written on this topic. Most of us have our stories. I could write a lot about this, about the hardships, the dramas, and the frustrations throughout the years. But what I find most interesting at this point in my life are not so much the dramas, etc., but rather those times when something was liberated in the midst of it all, where a letting go happened, and when life changed course in a way that could never have been predicted. My relationship with my mother took one of these turns when I was about 18 years old (above pic). It was an unexpected opening through the back door. Through it I learned that facing a difficult truth can open a new world, and that how we grow has everything to do with how we respond to what may at times feel impossible.

I was a sophomore in college, living away at school in Vermont. Through my own fault, my mother read something which was not meant for her eyes. After visiting home for the weekend, I called home and asked if I left my green English notebook in my room. In my mother's diligence, she searched until she did finally find a green notebook, buried deep in one of my desk drawers. That notebook unfortunately was not my English notebook (which by that time I found and didn't call to let my mother know) but was a journal I had written when I was 15. The first page opened with: "This is my journal of truth—meant only for me—and no stone will remain unturned." I wrote a lot in those days, to help with the confusion of adolescent life. When my mother opened the journal she landed on a page about her. This was not something any daughter would want her mother to read. This was not meant to happen. It was not meant for her, only for me. But once seen, there was no turning back.

I came home a week later, unaware of her finding my journal. When my mother opened the door, I felt a chill run through my body. Not her usual warmth. Hm, I wondered. The stress of my dad's cancer...? But in my room a few minutes later I found my green notebook in an unexpected place. I dismissed the thought "what's this doing here?" and curiously opened it up. As I lay on the floor to relive a chapter in my life which was long gone and felt like decades ago, my mother opened the door. "I read that" she said, and in that moment I understood the chill I felt at the door.

It was a defining moment. Only to be saved by my best friend, Patti who was honking her car horn in front of the house. Spared of having to respond to my mother in that moment, I went out, not knowing if I would ever go home again. In a heart to heart with my best friend there were only two options. Buy a one way ticket west, or go home and face this. With the help and good reason of a true friend, I chose the path that felt more frightening and unknown.

At midnight, I went home. When my mother opened the door this time, I didn't hesitate. "Mom everything you read in that journal was true. It was how I felt then. I can't change that, as much as I wish I could. But it's not how I feel now, and it's not who I am now." I don't remember the details of what happened after that, only that we sat in the kitchen until morning. I think we released unknown hurts from unknown places, buried in each of us from this lifetime or others. I think in that moment I learned what real love with a mother could be. Facing and owning that both of us are far from perfect, we didn't have to pretend anymore. The masks we didn't even know we were wearing melted away. Our sobs turned into laughter, and when the sun came up, we were living in a different world. Our relationship was never the same after that. I felt I could always see more deeply into places in her life that others could not see. Far more beautiful places.


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