Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Posts tagged ‘family’

Memories Stored On Calendars

Memories Give Us Pause

Every year at this time, I write a post of remembrance, but this year is a little different. On September 10th, I began thinking about all the dates on the calendar which make me stop for a moment and remember, not necessarily what is good and right in my world, but what I’ve lost, and how it has impacted the woman I am today.

March 12th was my mother’s birthday. She would be 84.

December 27th was the day she took her life. It will be 25 years this December.

September 28th was my father’s birthday. He would have been 87 this year.

And September 11th—for most people, the day we remember when terrorists took down the World Trade Center with a passenger plane full of people, and targeted the Pentagon with another. But for me and my daughters, the memory is quite different, and far more painful because for us, it’s personal.

Our Personal Sadness

On September 11, 2003, my father wrote a note to his girlfriend, smoked one last cigarette, put a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. His girlfriend and best friend found him a couple of hours later when he missed the daily check-in call from the girlfriend and wasn’t answering her increasingly frantic voice mails.

Some people read my words and assure me the anger will pass, and that diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer he received 2 days before his death meant he wasn’t in his right mind. To them, I can honestly say, my anger over him leaving without saying goodbye to me, my daughters, my sister and my nephew has long passed. I understand why he did it. The only time I ever saw my father cry was after the long ordeal of watching his mother die of the same disease. In his position, I can’t say I’d have made a different choice.

At the time, I was less angry about the act, and more with the fact that it was just under 10 years since my mom had also checked out by her own hand. Her reasons have never really been as clear-cut as dad’s, but I’ve accepted the fact that she, too had her reasons. I’ve had nearly 25 years to learn, and at this point, probably millions of words I’ve penned to facilitate the healing process.

Time Heals, But Brings Clarity With It

My anger with my father takes a different direction now, and yet, it too is tempered with understanding. https://www.flickr.com/photos/14778685@N00/5620269958/in/photolist-9yDmsb-9wLFJL-psqyLM-9eAGhb-8JDGi-22seJFb-eSRPY9-iPbhs5-nG8C4Y-ar7VdX-5cMaFn-enkvir-bqUWhr-5cMehe-5cRtPA-5cMbV6-7JBXyM-9NcXFu-akjnB4-f24BV3-Y4j9hL-C7FKVi-VTy9k3-8kdguW-4rv5oP-bJ1Fkv-8nE69a-f3h27J-4uSagZ-coUiM3-NioBNY-8r29ho-6Tj8Fy-6sU9p1-dRZwBZ-UWF6WG-8nMjbJ-dY99M6-oFhtwA-f32MKz-RtLuuB-9gdY6g-8n6qjK-iebqgz-dS9hDW-UUq24S-bt2EvL-LynnF6-nUg6Ge-auC2dzI know he did the best he could with what he had and where he came from. In truth, I’m angrier with myself for playing his warped and twisted game for so long.

For most of my life, I was certain my dad not only loved me, but favored me over my sister. Maybe he did, but if so, it was for all the wrong reasons. My sister was wise to his manipulative games decades before I ever figured it out, and went her own way. She understood him better than I as she’s the one who is more like him. I mistakenly believed she favored mom until recently.

Both she and dad wore their cold, hard exteriors like armor, and used sarcasm as a shield. But there was (and in my sister’s case, probably still is) a level of bitterness beneath the armor which further shields from honest, messy emotions. As I’ve learned, though, it also shields from the good stuff; the love, joy, compassion, and empathy I’ve come to appreciate in myself.

Mom wore her heart on her sleeve, though she tried very hard to cover it up. Her efforts to belong, to fit in, to be accepted were often heartbreaking to watch. I hardened my own heart so I wouldn’t have to watch hers break over and over again. Maybe Dad did too?

A Conglomeration of All Who Came Before

As time goes on and the dates come and go bringing memories and new insights, I realize I’m a little like both of my parents, and a lot like neither. Much of the deviation though, has occurred in the last 10 years. Until then, I held everything in and stumbled through life with my feelings treated as unwelcome guests. That’s the way I was brought up, and the only way I knew.

But when I started writing; when the feelings I’d held in check at great cost came tumbling out onto the computer screen, I found a part of myself that resembled not only neither parent, but none of the family I’d once been close to either. I became an enigma, not because I had always been different, but because I was the first and maybe the only one to break out of the mold into which we’d all been cast.

I let go of the blame, the bitterness, and the need to hold a grudge. I forgave and learned to recognize the need to forgive myself most of all. Even now when I drag out old feelings and find they were buried in lies, I allow them to flow, then forgive all over again.

Letting My Pen Lance the Boils of My Hidden Emotions

https://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_rogers/32072645186/in/photolist-QS9G29-7jFGWM-jSSXTn-gWnnAn-7jKzg7-k1Q3Ez-49HGS-JaXYoH-6HUNQF-7jFHgR-nQzqNh-fzUL6w-hx2nML-a4N44-Z3xc8b-6ef9HF-aEXdio-m2HqQt-bBKzg2-kbdf3P-5Db73z-b7AkyD-6zJzQw-7dEU9V-ZDftY1-fY9zv8-7pBPUc-bmfwto-7eXMSj-9NdNPm-8EVVBC-6JNLK8-6nNaux-c28A2C-9atUf8-7oMuuJ-9YvpG-vdJj7-ecCm-8LJzww-eEd6oi-BQX1p-XZKjij-k1Q1px-E6Miuc-6zrveY-j2kDUf-7vaq24-7fnH1m-dDHfZsThe revelation about my relationship with Dad came during a free-writing session which began with a writing prompt. An otherwise benign prompt became a tear- and anger-filled rant about how badly he’d treated me all my life. It churned and boiled inside me for a little while. Now I realize he not only behaved as he’d been taught, but loved me as best he could. He made me strong and independent, maybe in the extreme. It has been up to me to find the balance. I had no good example to follow.

I’ve hypothesized I come from a long line of Empaths who closed themselves off rather than feel everything that bombarded them. The choice was made more from fear and lack of understanding than a lack of desire or inability to embrace the sensitivity and accept the responsibility this sometimes dubious gift requires.  More and more, I’m convinced that’s true. I’m certain Dad would have been a wreck trying to deal with all the angst I had as a teenager, or the misery I tried to hide during my marriage and divorce. He already knew how to close himself off, and used it to good purpose to protect his own delicate psyche. Mom spent her whole lifetime trying to fit in, yet always sensing negative thoughts and feelings, especially those directed at her personally.

Lack of understanding and an inability to filter out the negativity and even anger emitting from her close family must have been painful in the extreme. The alternate spirituality she tried to turn to and draw my sister into as well makes more sense as I continue clearing the muck from my own mind. In her own way she sought what I found when I learned, first to shield with outward facing mirrors, and later to filter with elemental assistance. My own early extreme shielding gives evidence to my early need to shut the outside voices and emotions off completely until I learned how to be selective about it.

Remembrance and Healing

The dates bring an upsurge of feelings and thoughts. But more than that, they bring opportunities for more healing, more understanding, and more forgiving. My parents weren’t perfect. Nobody’s are. But they weren’t horrific either. In some ways, they might have been ignorant to what they were doing to their offspring, but again, I think most parents are to some degree. They all do the best they can with what they’re given, and both of mine weren’t given a full toolbox in the first place. There were more empty spaces than full ones, and I don’t think they had a clue what was missing or how to find it. You can’t miss what you don’t know exists in the first place, right?

I’ve gone, in the last decade from angry to compassionate, to understanding to resigned, and a bunch of other things in between along the way. My journey won’t be done until I lay my own head down for the final sleep. That, too is as it should be.

We learn, we grow, we become stronger, and we become lighter Beings because of the experiences we have and how we learn to adapt and thrive from each one. When we allow the journey to continue unthwarted and to share what we’ve learned along the way, no matter how painful, we shine a light for others to follow, and perhaps learn and grow themselves. Throwing up walls as I did for so many years put the process on hold, and perhaps even gave me additional barriers to cross and lessons to learn.

I don’t regret any of the challenges life has thrown me. I don’t think I’d have ever come out from behind my walls without the gigantic kick in the pants my parents’ suicides gave me. I was lodged pretty solidly and needed what amounted to a volcanic eruption to get out of my own way. It wasn’t pretty, but then, most eruptions aren’t. It was exactly what I needed to become the person I was meant to be.

No regrets, no anger, no blame, and no illusions.

Infinitely Grateful For What I’ve Been Given; The Good, The Bad, and The Horrific

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve been given; the easy and the painful, they all made me grow.
  2. I am grateful I can take what I’ve learned and share it with others who might need to hear what I have to say.
  3. I am grateful for understanding friends, and even virtual strangers who find value in the sharing of my own life’s convoluted path.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to write at length on things which at one time (and sometimes still do) reduce me to a puddle of tears and misery. Only by continually wading through the emotional swamp can I clear it and make the land clean and ready for fresh growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; caring friends, loving children, a life that’s as people-y or non-people-y as I want it to be, days of quiet contemplation, joy, time spent with friends where love flows, and sadness is shared, inspiration, motivation, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward.

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Peace Makers in a Volatile World

Keeping the Peace Behind the Scenes

My personal peace makerThere are people in our lives who willingly accept the role of peace maker. They’re the ones who seemingly sit quietly in the background, stepping in to extend a gentle hand when our emotional campfire threatens to explode into a full-fledged forest fire. They bury their own needs in favor of those of the people around them just to avoid arguments.

Most of the time we don’t even recognize what they’re doing, much less appreciate it. We don’t see how often their own wants and needs aren’t met just so they can keep everyone else happy. Worst of all, we don’t see what it costs them to consistently occupy this place in our lives.

It isn’t that they wouldn’t like to have things their way once in a while. They just value peace and quiet more. They’re typically extremely sensitive so arguments and unrest upset them terribly.

So they allow a sibling or friend to have it their way all the time. They back down from an argument though they know they’re in the right. They agree when they’d rather stand up to someone and make their point without being shouted down. Yet deep inside, the resentment and frustration build to what we’d consider staggering levels; levels we’d not tolerate in ourselves, yet silently expect them to endure all the time.

Peace Makers in Volatile Families

I don’t think my daughters ever knew a time when there wasn’t some kind of tension in our household. At first, it was between their father and me, but eventually, my daughter Jenni and I filled in the gap when he was no longer a part of our lives. Meanwhile, Heather did her best to stay in the background, letting Jenni have the limelight and make all the choices I asked them to make together. Jenni learned Heather would give way rather than risk the wrath of her red-headed virago of a twin. That left me to manage the explosions. In hindsight, the kindest thing I did was to give them separate bedrooms when they were about 11. It gave Heather the sanctuary she desperately needed, even if it was just a thin door between herself and the near-constant volatility of our household.

As children do, my girls grew up—Jenni still believing creating a category 5 storm would make us bend to her will, and Heather allowing her resentment towards her sister to surface and grow. I regret to say she fed my own annoyance with my youngest child until it no longer hurt to sever the relationship.

The truth is, both of my girls are hard-headed and stubborn. They’re both quick to anger but Heather lets hers go more quickly. Jenni seems to hold her anger close like a security blanket. As if as long as she gets her way, she’ll be happy, and yet, I don’t think she is. I think she’d like to have her real family back, but believes she’s gone too far to come back.

Releasing Pent-up Anger and Resentment

On the bright side, since Jenni chose to remove herself from our lives, Heather and I have grown closer. But better than our closeness, she’s learned to release some of the anger and frustration that built up throughout her childhood. She’s no longer living in the shadow of a sister who’d willingly throw her under the bus if it meant someone would like her. I often wonder if she sacrificed her relationship with her sister for nothing. Nobody ever thought better of her for turning her back on her sister. People remember her for her bright red hair, but they remember Heather for her kindness and helpfulness.

Every group dynamic has at least one peace maker. It might be you or someone else. Whoever takes on the role sacrifices a great deal of themselves in order to fulfill the weighty obligations it entails. Some may hold the role for a lifetime while others will find a way to allow their own wants and needs to be met.

Sadly, the resentment which builds up is often left to fester, unspoken and without release. It might manifest itself as broken families like ours, or as health issues, or even interpersonal ones. A peace makers ability to love and be loved is thwarted and misguided by constantly subverting their own needs for the sake of peace in their environment.

Being a Peace Maker Whether We Like it or Not

I also believe that we are all the peace maker at some point in our lives. We all find ourselves in situations where it’s better to just keep silent and go along because someone else is so desperate to be right that they simply shout the rest of the world down. I can think of several occasions where I worked for someone like that and in my own way, became the peace maker. However, as it was so contrary to my normal state of being, the silence with which I tolerated the situation was anything but peaceful inside myself.

The unrest and resentment I carried around while exposed to what I realize were merely desperately insecure narcissists is really what made me realize what the real peace makers must be carrying around inside. Well, that and what I’ve seen break loose in my daughter, Heather since the split with her sister. That resentment hurts my heart, but I know anything I do or so would, if anything, just make matters worse. Like the place I hold for Jenni should she decide to re-establish our relationship on more mutually satisfying terms, I hold the same place for both girls to reach some kind of understanding and acceptance. They are very different people with divergent values, they share a bond of twin-ship only another twin would understand.

Give your Peace Makers a Break

My purpose behind writing this article is to raise awareness of the people around us who keep life on a more even keel. But it’s also to acknowledge those of you who have taken on the role yourselves. The peace makers need and deserve to be heard. They have opinions and a unique perspective which just might bring solutions we’ve never even considered. They also need to be allowed to step away from the role, whether forced on them or self-imposed. They carry a lot of our tension and stress so we can function as reasonably normal human beings. It isn’t an easy job and is often a thankless one as well.

It’s time we acknowledged our peace makers and helped them drop their burden. It’s time to allow them to shine unencumbered by everyone else’s shit.

Remembering to be Grateful

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am grateful for the peace makers who have made my life easier, and who have shouldered my crap at those times when I neither noticed nor appreciated their sacrifices.
  2. I am grateful for the outpouring of love I’m getting while trying to figure out what’s ailing my sweet boy, Toby.
  3. I am grateful for the gift of writing which has helped me work through the challenges in my life pretty much since the time I was able to write complete sentences.
  4. I am grateful for the understanding I’m getting from my more outspoken friends as I quietly break my silence over our current political climate. There will be no soapboxes. I’m still a behind-the-scenes kind of girl.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, beauty, communication, joy. inspiration, new clients, lessons, challenges, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

You can find the original video about peace makers here.

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

Empaths as Outcasts: Why Misery Loves Company

New Inspiration from an Old Source

You can find the Facebook Live Video which goes with this post here

Today’s blog topic didn’t come, as has been common, from my morning pages, but from my meditation. As I snuggled on the couch with my two furry girls who love the meditative energy, my mind was processing a discussion about the latest suicide of a famous figure.

As my overly active brain processed, connected, and analyzed, it landed on my relationships, or lack thereof with my family over the last couple of decades. From comments and questions I’ve fielded recently, it occurred to me my sister hasn’t been the outcast I’ve been allowed (or perhaps allowed myself) to become. Of course, this raised questions in my mind, despite the fact I’d come to the realization quite some time ago that the distance was for the best on all our parts.

Not only did it allow me to heal without interference and accept my parents’ final acts without condemnation, blame, or lifelong guilt, it let me find peace. Knowing my sister still blames my mom for more than I even know, or want to, and knowing she’s ill and angry, I’m starting to understand why the family dynamics are what they are.

Finding Yet Another Commonality With My Mom

Mom was the family outcast and was often criticized and I suspect, ridiculed behind her back. I’ve certainly had my share of missteps and actions which failed to meet with everyone’s approval. The difference between us is that I don’t really care. Mom needed the family’s approval and love. If I had it, I would be grateful, but I have never really needed it. And I am not going to be part of the blame and rehashing of mom’s failings. She was no more or less human than anyone else and as such, was prone to mistakes, both from her own viewpoint and that of others. That she likely beat herself up over them was part of her personality and more, her desperation.

Taking after my dad has been a double-edged sword. Yes, I tend to isolate myself too much, but as an Empath, sometimes isolation is the lesser of two evils. Yes, I find it hard to ask for help, much to my daughter’s annoyance. But as time goes on, I’m learning to be better about letting others do something for me instead of letting assistance be a one-way street. The best lesson I learned from dad, though, was to accept responsibility for my own actions. From that, I’ve learned to also be more understanding of the actions of others.

Don’t Blame Those Who Need to Blame

I may not agree with, nor buy into the idea of blaming mom for decades old perceived misdeeds. I may not agree with continuing to blame her when she’s not here to defend herself. But I accept the fact that my sister and whoever else she talks to has the right to make their own choices. They’re no longer hurting mom with words or deeds anyway. As I’ve learned in my own healing journey, forgiveness truly only helps the forgiver. The forgiven couldn’t care less whether we forgive them or not.

It does explain a lot about why nobody reached out to me after mom took her life, or why the last of the contacts I shared with my parents disappeared from my life after dad took his. I brought nothing to the conversation they wanted to have.

At least now, things have evolved so there are a few tentative attempts to connect. Yet, the commonalities we had 20 years ago, the roads we had traveled together have been covered over by the dust of time. We’ve raised our families, lost loved ones on all sides, seen children marry and start families of their own, and all the things that happen during a lifetime.

Lifetimes Within Lifetimes

I’ve learned that when it comes to families and connections, 20 years is a lifetime. The elderly aunts I remember have all passed on along with a few from their daughters’ generation. We’ve even lost one from my generation during the years of disconnection, and are likely to lose a couple more in the next few years. Frankly, I’m not expecting to be a part of their grieving process any more than they have been part of mine. It is what it is.

I have been an outcast from my own family for most of my adult life and the truth is, more often than not, I’m relieved. A Jewish family who escaped the persecution in Russia and Poland to emigrate to the United States and Canada carries a lot of angst. In many members of my family, that angst is embedded in their very souls and passed on from generation to generation. The fact that I’ve learned to release much of my share essentially severed my connection. Without intending to, I’ve torn myself loose from the fabric which weaves the family into a single piece of cloth. By necessity, they rewove that fabric to hide the hole I’d left, perhaps using my sister as the thread which would most efficiently cover the gap.

Empaths Create Their Own Rules

I believe the story has unfolded for a reason. I was given the sometimes dubious gift of Empathy for a reason. Despite being born into a family with a long history of trauma and upheaval, I had to learn how to manage my gift or go quietly insane. I chose the former and am learning how to use it to help others. My personal traumas have been the best teachers.

I savor the connections which have been tentatively re-established, but know I will always be one of the family outcasts. That is the role I came here to assume. Sometimes, breaking free is the first step in healing a wound that stretches back many generations. I may not have chosen the easiest path. I may have even chosen the loneliest one. But I believe the path I chose is the most rewarding one of all.

With Love and Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to my family for giving me the space I needed to find my own way.
  2. I am grateful that I’ve learned to let go of blame, anger, bitterness, and resentment to love and accept the people who gave me life, no matter what direction their lives or actions might have taken them.
  3. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve faced which allow me to be an advocate not only for those who’ve lost someone to suicide, but for those who chose suicide as their exit plan.
  4. I am grateful for the love and support I receive from the family I’ve attracted around me. Though most are not blood, they love and accept me as my blood family aren’t able to because I’m just too different.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; inspiration, love, motivation, support, guidance, allowing, creativity, energy, peace, harmony, health, happiness, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

It’s Not Nice to Neglect the Blog

This is Where the Whole Thing Started

This blog is where it all started. Well, not quite all as I’ve been scribbling for most of my life,but it’s where my online presence really began when the writing of Life After Suicide: Healing and Forgiving stalled. Yet I realized tonight that I’ve been horribly neglecting it lately.

Of course, I have my reasons. I’ve been writing articles for my website as well as sharing a chapter or so of the aforementioned book every week. I’ve attended events and have been helping family members who are going through a crisis. All of those normal life things.

But I’ve also been doing some writing for other sites and even pitching a bit. (I know, that one is hard to believe!) All in all, I’ve been relatively busy, but in all honesty, more lazy than busy about writing something in my poor, neglected, red-headed step-child of a blog.

Tonight, that neglect and abuse ends as I once again give you a little taste of my ADD brain with or without mass quantities of caffeine.

Peaceful Days do not an Interesting Blog Post Make

In a random moment of uncharacteristic calm, I find I have little to really share. Life is chugging along rather splendidly at the moment. My daughter and son-in-law (along with my grandpuppy, Gwennie) have been here for the last few days which means I’ve been running around with them quite a bit. We’ve met some family members we didn’t realize we had, and found them to be amazing, compassionate, kind, loving people. We are so blessed to be able to include them in future holidays, laced liberally with our own particular brand of insanity and fun.

My cats aren’t entirely thrilled about sharing their home with a gasp! dawg! Especially one who, for all of her 45 or 50 pounds, truly believes she’s a cat and can’t for the life of her understand why these cats won’t play and cuddle with her the way her own three felines will.

Pyewacket did get locked in the bedroom with her one night, though he ended up hiding under the bed for most of it. Now, he uses the safety of the closed door to bat at her through the gap at the bottom.

Scrappy is walking around with a bottle brush for a tail from running away from a dog who simply wants to say hello. The older three are somewhat blase about the whole thing. They’ve seen it all before and know that she’s not allowed in my bedroom or the kitchen and there’s always the safety of one of the two cat trees, when all else fails.

At any rate, the household should return to normal in a couple of days, or at least to what passes for normal around here.

Do You Pokemon Go?

And how about that Pokemon Go? I swore I wouldn’t succumb, especially since I never played the game in the first place. But then I saw the potential for getting me out and moving, aka walking the neighborhood looking for those recharging stations where you can get more balls, potions, eggs and more, and for finding the little creatures (I got a Pikachu today and my daughter was NOT happy as she hasn’t found one yet!). Some of their stories are a little out there, and I kept bugging the kids to show me how something worked, but otherwise, I am having a good time with it. And because of our little side trips to find various things, I hit almost 10,000 steps yesterday (I’m writing this after midnight, so I guess it was yesterday now!)

The one thing which bothers me is how it perpetuates the face-down-in-the-cell-phone behavior I’ve come to abhor. However, I also see how it creates a talking point and strangers are chatting and sharing as they chase down more balls with which to capture odd little creatures or find an unusual guy to add to their collection. It also inspires a little healthy competition (I chose the same team as my son-in-law instead of my daughter) but also cooperation.

It makes you wander a little more off the beaten path to find things so you’re moving and exploring. I’m loving the stories of people who find and rescue abandoned animals they found will playing, and look forward to more heart-warming tales as the game continues to grow in popularity.

Do you have a Pokemon story? Please share it! I’d love to know how others are finding this new fad.

There is so Much to be Grateful For. This Barely Scratches the Surface.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for moving and grooving.
2. I am grateful for time well spent with my kids.
3. I am grateful for all of the new people who are coming into my life.
4. I am grateful for positivity in all the forms it is appearing.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, positivity, friendship, family, inspiration, writing jobs, passion, working together, helping others, contributing, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Featured Photo courtesy of Happy Come via Flikr

 

March 15, 2015 How movies trigger our own memories

Gave myself “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood as a treat for getting my work done today.

What I got out of the movie, however, was unexpected and a bit brutal. As I watched the story unfold: the crazy mother who hated her daughter, the daughter who lost the man she loved and had trouble coping with her children and her life, and the daughter who internalizes her mother’s lack of coping skills and blames herself.

But before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me assure you that I did not get a pity party out of the movie. Quite the contrary. I found myself wondering if my mother would have had a better shot had she developed lifelong friendships like Vivi did. If she’d had someone there who truly understood her and had her back, no matter how crazy she behaved, would she have been able to overcome the emotional neglect she experienced from her mother, and, as a result, the rest of the family? Would my dad have spent less time just standing back like Shep did and letting her do whatever she felt she needed to do, and been able to share more time giving her the affection and love she actually needed but never learned to accept?

But the biggest question in my mind as I sit and reflect on the movie is “Would she have grown tired of trying to be loved and finally given it up as a bad deal like she did?”

In spite of outward appearances, Life deals us all an imperfect hand.

It is entirely up to us how we play that hand. But having supportive friends and family along the way can sure help in convincing us to keep at least a couple of the cards we were dealt instead of tossing the whole hand away without a second glance. But Mom was dealt an uglier hand than most and maybe, in her case, striking off on her own might have been a better option. She spent years organizing family gatherings and being the one to call and keep in touch with everyone. It pained me when one of my cousins would say something hateful about her, though it wasn’t until years later that I realized they were only parroting their parents. They’d all been taught that my mom wasn’t worth loving when my grandmother cast her teenaged daughter aside in favor of her new husband and daughter. Shuffling a teenager from one aunt to the next where she had to share the leftovers with the cousins who really belonged had to be a really crappy existence. I can see where it would skew a person’s idea of love.

I know she tried her best to show me she loved me in the only way she knew how, or thought she knew how. She was hypercritical, had high expectations, was oblivious to the fact that her expectations and mine were not the same, and had no clue that criticizing a teenage girl in front of her friends was anything BUT an act of love from the girl’s point of view. In short, I believe she took the attention she got from her mother and the rest of the family as expressions of love, rather than the resentment and dislike that much of it was. She was broken, but didn’t realize that what she’d learned had any flaws. It was simply what she knew.

Sadly, while my cousins grew up with sometimes equally dysfunctional mothers but remained close to them, my sister and I allowed our resentment to build, magnifying my mom’s mistakes until there wasn’t even a relationship left to fix.

It also became clear that her relationships with the rest of her family were equally broken because her death put a label on my sister and I. We lost the tenuous relationships we’d had with our cousins, and to my great sadness, never got to see their kids grow up or form relationships with our kids. To them, we’re simply an offhand comment in a Huffington Post article written by a cousin who never even knew us in spite of the fact that our mothers were, at least by birth, sisters, about her crazy aunt who offed herself.

OK, so maybe there’s a touch of pity party here, but it isn’t for myself. I feel so sorry for my mother who never found the one thing she really needed; unconditional love.

It is a mother’s job to love her kids unconditionally, though, heaven knows, many of us really push the envelope, making it a superhuman achievement when our mothers simply continue to love us. Just as I challenged my mother to love me through all of my acting out, one of my daughters has returned the challenge. Do I stop loving her any more than my mom stopped loving me? Heck no! But just as there were times my mom surely did not like me, there are times I surely do not like, at least, the things my daughter does and the way she treats people. But though we do not have a relationship at this moment in time, I feel certain that, like me and my mom, something will bring us back together at some point, because the single tie which binds us together is my unconditional love for her.

In her mind, my mom always forgave me, no matter how horrifically I’d treated her. The trouble was, I hadn’t learned to forgive myself, and tended to blame her for something I didn’t really understand. I can only hope that I learned from the experience and can help my daughter understand when the time comes to re-ignite our relationship.

This is what happens when you bottle things up because you can’t figure out how to express it without sugar coating

I’ve been trying for several years to express some of these feelings, but stopped myself many times because what I was saying sounded too whiny and too much like I was blaming someone. The truth is, the perpetuated behavior goes back farther than I know. I have no real memory of my great-grandparents and certainly don’t know their personal history. Whether my grandmother’s behavior was learned from them, I’ll never know. Whether it began there or started generations back, I’ll never know either. What I do know is that it is up to me to stop the cycle and try to improve things for my own children and grandchildren. As for the rest of the family, it’s out of my control. The sad truth is, I don’t even know them any more.

On the one hand, I found myself, for awhile, resenting them for abandoning my sister and me during a really horrible time in our lives. But on the other, I am grateful that they stayed away because it meant that I could go through the healing process without feeling the need to defend my mom’s memory, especially when I was so conflicted myself. They went on with their lives while I spent a long time just trying to make sense of mine and raise two beautiful little girls. More is the pity that their family didn’t get to see them grow up!

This post got a lot heavier than I’d intended, but the movie allowed me to take the cap off of a bottle which was beginning to fizz so violently, the only remaining options were to release or explode.

I feel that I’ve experienced a catharsis today, and that the Universe chose this particular moment to put that particular movie in front of me. As I said, I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to express what I was feeling without being ugly, resentful and blaming. Today I realized that the words had to come out, naked and unvarnished. Only then would I find my way clear to let go, to forgive and to heal the rest of the way. Losing my mom to suicide was hideous, but letting go of the guilt over the relief I felt has been the hardest part of all. I’m finally learning to accept that she might make me crazy and drive me over the edge, close to cracking myself, but it really was all she knew, and underneath it all, she loved me and I loved her. R.I.P. Mom. I think I finally get it. I hope I haven’t kept you tied to this world too long.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that I was given a talent for writing. When all is said and done, it is the one thing which has saved me over the years.
2. I am grateful for epiphanies and the triggers which launch them.
3. I am grateful for imperfect hands as they teach us to build a better mousetrap or overcome our challenges.
4. I am grateful for the relationships I have with my daughters, so very different, but so important to my own personal development.
5. I am grateful for abundance: words, thoughts, memories, epiphanies, friendship, love, ideas, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Blessed Be

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