Love Is Complicated

heart milagros

My Mom passed away earlier this week. She was 93 and in very poor health. We knew it was coming. Sometimes we even prayed it would come soon because she was in so much pain. But, still, it was a jolt. And there is grief. And there is relief. And there is the tangled muddle of emotions that come from unresolved relationships.

Love is complicated.

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(image above: a dying star creates a flower in space)

My mother never really liked me. She found it impossible to love or accept me. I was her first born. She was young. My Dad was a difficult man. Her own life before I came along was hard and she had many old woundings that she could never share with me, or anyone else it seems.

My Mom never knew me or had any conception of who I was. At the time of her death, we had not seen each other in over 32 years–though at one time we lived only a few hundred of miles apart. In recent years, we sent each other brief, cheerful emails once a month and occasional greeting cards, but she never knew any of my friends or lovers, never met my beloved husband, never wanted to know about my family or grand kids…She had no idea what I did in my life or what I dreamed of doing, and never expressed an interest in knowing. It was painful. It was confusing. It was sad.

Love is complicated.

In order to cope, instead of the sad, lonely, fractured life we actually lived, I created an imaginary family in my head. I found these old pictures in a bin at an antique shop that symbolized the mother love I so much craved…

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and I made up a happy story that my Mom and Dad were once madly in love and having fun at the beach before I came along…

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and that my siblings and I were close and shared many happy memories together.

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Love is complicated.

Because she was very secretive and often told conflicting stories, I never knew my Mom. We never shared anything faintly resembling a mother/daughter relationship. She would have been appalled if I ever confided in her or asked her for help. It would never have occurred to her to attend my college graduation, my wedding, or any other significant event in my life. I have no memory of my Mom ever hugging me or being affectionate with me in any but the most perfunctory of ways. But it all made me who I am…

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Love is complicated.

Please don’t get me wrong. My Mom was a lovely person in many ways. She loved her gardens–especially roses & lavender, she adored her dogs, she loved tea parties, she was a good cook who early on got interested in organic foods & simple living. She practiced yoga for over 40 years, volunteered at the hospital thrift store, and was tremendously proud of her Irish heritage. By all accounts, she was a good person and had a small community of “ladies” she knew from the Garden Club and the yoga studio.

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She loved the artist and illustrator Tasha Tudor and wanted nothing in life so much as to live as she did–in a tiny cottage, in a sea of flowers, simply and without artifice.

She collected spoons and music boxes. She was happiest pouring over spring seed catalogs and sharing cuttings from her garden.

But alcoholism, violence, secrets, and an ever present tension lived in our home. There was judgement and criticism. There were no family vacations or festive outings. We never really knew our aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents as people.

Yet, that difficult childhood made me who I am…and helped me realize that

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Love is complicated.

Last Spring, my dear sister Kim and I (who I reconnected with after almost 30 year apart!) were attending a workshop with a woman who had recently lost her own Mom. She played “Motherless Children Have A Hard Time” by Roseanne Cash and we each burst into tears, clutching each other’s hands, because, though our Mom was alive at the time, we both felt all of our lives like motherless children. It helped me to know that my sister felt as I did…that we had to grow up on our own and that the sadness and confusion of that childhood had tainted our judgement about what love was in our own lives and complicated our relationships for decades. But my sister and I are finally learning that…

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Love is complicated.

So, with my Mom’s death, I am letting go of all of those old soul injuries, releasing the sadness of never being worthy of my Mom’s love, jettisoning the dream I’ve had all my life that somehow, someday we could heal the space between us.

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I have been so lucky to be loved and healed by other mothers in my life. My best friend Allan’s mother Manetta embraced me as her daughter when I was 18 and her sweetness, her unconditional affection, and her loving support and appreciation of me helped me understand what a Mom could be. My dear friend/mentor Mari Stitt helped me to understand that¬† my Mom did the best she could with the life she was dealt. My sister/friend Sandi helped me celebrate my own gifts and have confidence in my own grace. And Pimm, my renegade side-kick, who had a terribly sad, complicated relationship with her own Mom, is teaching me that sometimes you never get the answers you need and that hurt feelings are okay.

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Love is complicated.

At 72, I now feel completely loved and accepted in my life. I am blessed to have the most extraordinarily loving life-mate. I am surrounded by deeply caring friends and my Cottage tribe continually uplifts me. My sister and I are closer than ever.

The message I share with anyone going through difficulties is…

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With my Mom’s death, I must let go of the wish I have nurtured all my life, that one day, somehow, some way, my Mom would love me, SEE me, & embrace me exactly as I am.

It’s a new day, and I am ready for it!

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So, Mom,

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For everything.

Mostly, for bringing me into the world when you didn’t want to.

And for teaching me, by default, that…

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Love IS complicated…

but beautiful and scary and worth every ounce of energy we put into it.

I love you Mom.

I wish you safe passage to someplace that is pain free and full of blooming lavender and romping dogs.

Rest In Peace.

Love Kait

©Copyright, Kaitlin Meadows. All Rights Reserved.

 

By Kaitlin Meadows