Definition of Forgive
1: to give up resentment
2: to grant relief from payment
3: to cease to feel resentment
I have had such difficulty writing this piece. I wanted to give all of you something perfect and shiny and bright. I wanted to wrap up my story with silver ribbon and a blue box from Tiffany’s.
Instead you are getting my truth which is not wrapped with a bow but in yesterday’s newspaper, and I didn’t even use the cartoon section for the wrapping, but the obits.
The greatest sorrow of my life has been my relationship with my mother. My first days of life were spent in an incubator in the ICU department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal, where my mother abandoned me for a business trip with my father to Québec City –
” Why would I have stayed with you in the hospital? said my mother
The nurses were there!”
Late this summer when I told my mother I needed to stay with her for two months due to my untimely exit from the apartment I had shared with my now ex – partner Lorraine, her response was less than enthusiastic. I ignored her non response, and proceeded to annihilate what was left of my fantasy mother by asking her to come back with me to Toronto so that she could help me deal with the unpleasantness brought on by my exit from my aforementioned apartment.
“You know I’m not good with that stuff!” said my mom.
“Mommy!!! I need you!! I need you now!!!!” said desperate me
“I need you mommy!” was now looped through my brain and played non stop throughout my day, like an itchy ear worm.
I couldn’t stop myself. I understood intellectually that I did not win the good mother lottery prize but emotionally I was still just four years old, begging my mommy to come to my tea party. She never came and my Barbie’s had to drink their tea with just Ken and me for company.
In my desperation I called a psychic I saw advertised on my Facebook feed. Rachel told me I needed to forgive my mother before I can move forward. Really? This is what I paid five dollars for? ( It was a special offer.)
How do I forgive? According to the Miriam Webster – I need to stop feeling anger toward the person who wronged me.
I have tried repeatedly to do just that. I really have. I have gone to therapy for years with hopes that I could come to some type of peace with my mother. I have talked incessantly about my situation with Jodee, my long time therapist. I thought I was making slow but steady progress, but in Montréal all healing went to hell in a hand basket. I felt unhinged, as if I literally was coming apart. I was desperate for my mother to take my face in her hands and say –
” Don’t worry Katharine, I got you”
I so wanted my mother to create a safe space for me in Montréal, even though that had never happened on the thousand trips I had made to Montréal previously. I didn’t think I was asking for much, just a drawer to put my clothes in, and an acknowledgment that this was indeed a scary and difficult time for me.
As a child, I did not enjoy Halloween, as dressing up in costume made me anxious. I lived with parents that put on masks every day when they went outside our home. Just like the parents who caution their children to use their inside voices during school and synagogue; my parents used their inside face with me, and their outside face with others. The mask they showed to others was so radically different than the one they showed to me at home, that I am still disturbed by masks of any kind, knowing what danger can lurk beneath.
I tried this time, I really tried to make believe that I could calm this frightened fragmented inner child of mine, but I, like my mother before me, threw baby Katharine out to the wolves. I could not console her and I let her rage at being abandoned take me over.
I so wanted my mother to come to my rescue, just this once.
I kept on repeating:
” Mom, you can redeem yourself for all the damage that you have done before, all I ask is that you create a safe place here for me to rest and recoup until my new apartment becomes available in November.”
And each time I begged and each time I pleaded, I lost a little bit of my soul and a lot of my dignity but I could not help myself, so desperate was I to be seen. To make matters worse, as a retired psychotherapist, I understood intellectually that my mother was not ever going to give me what I needed, and in fact took pleasure in seeing her former jappy princess daughter reduced to sleeping on her not so comfy couch, but I was not able to make my brain meet my heart.
Weeks passed in this way, and then my birthday happened, or didn’t happen, to be more accurate.
I had spent the weekend before my birthday celebrating with my close friend Marcus and his family. Before meeting Marcus I had an idea of what familial love should feel like, but did not have a body memory to go with it. Thanks to Marcus and his family, I have experienced love as a felt sense. To celebrate my birthday, they surprised me with a weekend at the splendid Hovey Manor, located in the Eastern Townships.
When I came back I made the mistake of sharing my joy with my mother. If any of you here tonight are familiar with the reality TV show Survivor, whenever the winner of a reward challenge gloats about her reward, the people left behind become angry. I came home so happy, I forget my own rule about keeping my joy contained so as not to risk my mother’s wrath.
Now I was to be punished, and since the punishment level was in line with my joy, the punishment was extreme. My mother decided to banish me from her kingdom which meant that my birthday would not be acknowledged.
No birthday cake. No birthday card.
” But I’m sixty, Mommy!! See me! Celebrate me!”
And my shame at my bottomless need to be seen by her, obfuscated my otherwise sound judgment.
And still.. and still.
I’m now back in Toronto, safely ensconced in my new cozy apartment. Every morning before I get out of bed, and every night before I go to sleep, this agnostic Jew prays to the Divine Mother and my Guardian Angels and anyone else I can think of, saying my prayers out loud because I don’t want to take any chances on any unseen helpers not hearing my forgiveness plea.
“I release you mother, and the hold you have on my heart. I am going to do my best to stop blaming you for not being the mother I so desperately wanted, and to try my best to live a life unencumbered by my old friends shame and blame. Please dear Mother God send me your love and healing and if you’re feeling really generous, please send me my Beloved. I am ready to receive her now!”
Hopefully these prayers will help me this month when Chanukah comes around, so that when I light my Chanukah candles sans Maman, I can take comfort in knowing that like the Maccabees before me, I have won the battle even though I have lost the war.