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where did that barrier go?

where did that barrier go?

by Andrea
August 15, 2013

I was speaking with a new friend/colleague yesterday. He is someone who works in the field of Dementia and Alzheimer’s research, and who reached out to me recently to redesign his organization’s website (which is what I do for work). Whenever we get together for our meetings, we often share a little about what’s happening in our lives. Almost immediately we are in a conversation that we never could have predicted, the depth and subtlety of which is always a surprise. He quickly sees into and beyond what I am saying, and unlocks new perceptions. And it works the other way around as well. It is like little sound bites of life experience that turn into gold, and leave a deep impression. It is like little sound bites of life experience that turn into gold, and leave a deep impression.

So it was when we met yesterday. I shared with him that I had just come from seeing my mother, and how sometimes the sweetness between us is almost unbearable. I was saying how I never imagined this kind of relationship happening with my mother as she has become elderly, and how grateful I feel for it (and why of course I write about it). I told him that when I went to see my mother yesterday, I noticed how deeply and instantly she relaxed as soon as she saw me walk in the dining room where she was having dinner with her lovely dinner-mates. How her eyes lit up with surprise, even though she knew (but probably forgot) that I was coming. She grabbed and kissed my hand—and proudly re-introduced me to her friends, who by now I know very well. But it’s always so sweet how my mother does this. Later that night when she was tired and I was rubbing her back she purred like a cat with happiness and would say things like “I’m so happy you’re here” and “I feel so lucky that we are this close.” She then drifted off to sleep, and I sat for a few more minutes contemplating the pure sweetness of this moment with her. 

My friend/colleague listened with enlivened interest, the kind that pulls more out of you than you realize you even have in you. He responded by saying that what my mother and I have is rare and that we have “broken the barrier.” That mother-daughter barrier (or parent-child barrier) that keeps the mother on the one side and the daughter on the other. He said that for many people that barrier is only broken in the last 10 minutes of the parent’s life, if at all. He even shared for himself that it is not yet broken with his own parents.

This response was completely unexpected. How amazing to hear his words, how precisely he cut to the point. So simple. And I saw right away that it was true. There is no longer a barrier between my mother and me. It is just not there anymore. I even forgot that it was ever there at all, until he mentioned it. And then I remembered. I remembered that feeling of a thin veil between us at times. Maybe sometimes a wall—and the inexplicable inability to get closer than close, and to give and receive with ease. What happened? Where did that barrier go? 

As I look back and reflect on this, what I see is so simple. The barrier seemed to go away when I stopped having expectations about how this relationship with my mother should be. I stopped imposing on it, catering to it, idealizing it, or wanting anything from it. I stopped pushing or pulling even in subtle ways. I just let it be, kept my eyes open, and listened deeply (and between the words). Then the heart took over.

What remains is this almost unbearable sweetness. Still me, still my mother, but beyond the barrier.


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