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.

mom 4

(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…

mom 6

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…

mom 7

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

mom 23

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…

mom 22

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.

mom 8

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

mom 18

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…

mom 20

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.

mom 2

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.

mom 21

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…

mom 19

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!

mom 10

So, Mom,

mom 1

For everything.

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

And for teaching me, by default, that…

mom 13

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

21 comments on “Love Is Complicated

  1. Well, I’m crying. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kaitlin. Quite the journey. I’m inspired and grateful. Warmly, Marianna Cacciatore

    • Thank you Marianna–I’m so happy to share my journey and feel the love and solace of our little Creative Cottage tribe. May we continue to grace each other with our stories and healing paths together. Gratitude from Kaitlin

  2. Kaitlin,

    This is so touching – I still have tears in my eyes. You are such an inspiration to have become the positive, upbeat, helpful to others person that you are, after such a difficult beginning. You are so loved by many and a hero in my eyes! I hope we see you soon –

    With All Sincerity – love, kathy


    • Thank you so much Kathy! You are such a shining light yourself and have been so kind to me. I appreciate all the love you poured into TKMA and appreciate so much your work on Broad Perspectives for KXCI. Your light shines brightly in this world and your spirit soars. May you always feel blessings and light, Kaitlin

  3. I, like you and many others, share a similar story.  My mother chose to check out early, unable to bear her own depression.  I hated her, then after her death learned to forgive her, to love her and then forgive myself.  Such is humanity.  I’ll share another Mary Oliver excerpt with you:

    to love what is mortal;to hold itagainst your bones knowingyour own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to     let itgo,to let it go. from “In Blackwater Woods”, ‘Wild Geese’ Love yourself for the gift that you are!

    • Thank you so much for your comments–I’m sorry you suffered the mother wound too! Thanks you for sharing your story of forgiveness. May we continue to use the Cottage and our tribal sharings to speak of such things and help each other heal. Blessings to you, Kaitlin

  4. Whew, wow, sympathies, hugs and blessings! I’ve never know your story in much detail. I am so sorry it was what you have so vividly described. I am hard pressed to understand how a woman who practiced yoga for 40 years, loved plants, especially roses and lavender, loved her dogs, etc. was incapable of loving her own child. Guess we shall never know what tangled wires she had. True, it has made you strong, and shaped you in ways that a different environment would not have. It likely made you more loving, giving and kind. You’ve certainly done a ton of good in the world, working with the dying, the downtrodden and those young girls at risk. You know them like many others can’t. Glad you feel like it’s time to let go of the dream. You know it can’t happen in this lifetime so bless it and let it fly with the wild geese. I’m so glad you have found so much love with Albert. That you and Kim have reconnected and share the knowledge that y’all got stiffed in the loving mother department….you weren’t mistaken, it wasn’t only you, she was badly broken somewhere and for whatever strange and unusual reason was not able to nurture her own children. At least ya got some good Irish blood in your veins! Peace, love and blessings, dear Kaitlin! Truly….Kim


    • As you know, my friend, the struggle has been, and will be, on going, but your kindness and many thoughtful conversations we have shared certainly helps me process and release. Hope to see you soon to continue the dialogue. Love to you from Kaitlin

    • Thank you dear Kim–it’s helped so much to hear your own story and realize others have shared complicated relationships with their parents and still managed to evolve into beautiful beings who make the world a better place every day.You are a very special person and I love that we can share both our vulnerabilities and our strengths together. love to you from Kaitie

  5. Dear Kaitlin,
    Wow, I am so sorry to hear what a difficult childhood you had. You are so loveable!!
    Your mother missed out and so did you. I find it amazing what an incredible talented ,giving ,intelligent, funny, creative and loving person you are. You did not learn by example.
    I love the pictures you chose to make a happy story of your life.
    I always love what you write but this one is a keeper. I was very moved and want to pass it on to a few people that I think it will help them.
    Love you xxoo, Audrey

    • Thank you soooo much Audrey–it means a lot coming from such a lovely person as you are. The love and encouragement from women like you has made my life a very happy one and I thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. Blessings to you! love Kait

  6. Wow…very powerful. I am sorry for your loss but I see by your art that you found an incredible way to express all of your emotions, bringing beauty and joy to so many. ( I poured my emotions into my flute growing up, but still an artist-wanna-be). I found you via Pinterest and so glad I did. Sadly I don’t live near you. If I did, I’d be taking every one of your great classes. I may just have to take a trip!! You have given me much inspiration. Your work is beautiful and it seems that you are, too. Thank you for sharing this and I wish you continued peace.

    • What a lovely surprise Karen–thank you so much for your thoughtfulness! You have just become a member of my extended tribe and are always welcome to come sit in circle with us (in spirit or in fact) as we make art and share our lives. Keep creating–it’s a wonderful way of self-healing and learning to express (rather than repress) our feelings. Blessing to you and write any time…I love knowing you’re out there! (P.S. where are you from?) Hugs from Kaitlin

  7. Kaitlin. so sorry to hear of your losing your mother. You are so right about 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. "
    I feel so fortunate to be included in your group of caring friends….It was a good time in September when you were on the coast & you got to visit us here at "Windsong Gardens" know that you are loved and thought of often. So happy that you came into our lives….Give Albert big hugs from us….Ski & Sandi

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