Karen C.L. Anderson, author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters, has written a new blog post on how to find your inner gift and your purpose in life, take a look.
A few days ago I shared a meme on Facebook about ADHD (which I’ve never been formally diagnosed with, but I suspect it’s part of what makes me me). A lively discussion ensued in which being gifted, experiencing childhood trauma, and being sensitive were discussed as often going along with a diagnosis of ADHD. I responded that I was never considered gifted* but had experienced early childhood trauma (emotional and physical)** and consider myself to be sensitive. I added that I didn’t think schools were noticing giftedness when I was young. There was no awareness, either, of ADHD (I was born in 1962).
[*Not only did I not think I could or would ever be considered gifted, for most of my life I thought I was was below-average…an under-achiever.]
[**I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t experienced some form of trauma and the sooner we can normalize that, the better. Normalizing it means we don’t see it as something to pity or feel sorry for…something that forever keeps us wounded and less-than.] A friend replied and said: “I am not sure when they started the (gifted) program in my public school district, but I started in 1981 while in elementary school, but some of my older cousins closer to your age were never tested and they clearly are gifted. There are many people born in the 1940s-1970s who are obviously gifted and I would not be surprised if you are one. For one thing, you survived and broke free.” Another friend: “You would not have been considered gifted perhaps as a child, but take it from those who know you and follow you. YOU = GIFTED + BRILLIANT + ON PURPOSE.” Me: “Agree” Me in my head: “Wait, what? Oh! Yes! I FUCKING AGREE!”
No pushing it away. No self-deprecating comment. No “thank you, but…”
In between that conversation and writing this Love Note, I had a visit with my mother.
She had reached out a few weeks ago and asked if we’d come help her with some chores around the house they couldn’t do on their own (we live about 300 miles from each other).
The last time I had seen her was two years ago when she visited us (you may remember this: What Getting Bonked On The Head With An Iron Taught Me About Telling The Truth With Kindness and this: Practicing What I Preach: Boundaries Edition).
Prior to that, we visited in 2017. You can read what I wrote about that visit here: The Exact Things I Do When I Am Practicing What I Preach (password: practice)
And it was in 2015 that I saw her for the first time since the end of 2010 (when I cut ties with her thinking I’d never see or speak to her again).
With each and every visit and interaction, I can see my evolution.
My boundaries went from being non-existent to being defensive and awkward to being truly energetic (and kind and fierce).
I went from feeling chronic shame and rage, like a pathetic woman-child who didn’t know who the fuck she was separate from her mother, to being a grown-ass mature woman with her own ideas and values. I became more solid and grounded in her presence. I went from thinking I need to protect to myself to having my own back, from feeling pathetic to feeling proud.
Whenever I’ve shared my process and progress, someone inevitably responds and asks: “Wouldn’t it have been easier to cut her out of your life completely?”
Would it be easier? Perhaps.
But somewhere along the line I decided I didn’t want it to be easier. I wanted my relationship with her to be catalyst for my own growth and wisdom. I want to be an example of what is possible.
I did it this way not for her, but for me (and this is something that many women don’t quite get).
The choices I make might not be the choices you want to make. If you chose to cut your mother out of your life completely it doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow. I’ve been on both sides and I’ve grown on both sides.
I have intentionally chosen to do uncomfortable things with grace and respect for myself. My life is richer, fuller, more interesting, and in some ways, easier. I know and love myself more deeply and that means I feel more deeply.
~~~ As I have done after every visit with my mother, I’ve been processing. It’s been both enlightening and uncomfortable, both life-affirming and grief-provoking. I’ve felt the whole range of emotions. I see what I’ve done to get myself to this place. I see when I’m in resistance. I see when I’m trying to prove something. I see when I’m avoiding my feelings. I see my humanity. I see when I feel triggered by something she says. So far, my mother appears to be invested in seeing me as less-than because who I am, what I do, and how I do it doesn’t fit her view of what’s acceptable, successful, okay, right, good, etc. She’d scoff at the idea that I have ADHD and would, instead, say I’m lazy and unmotivated. I spent so many years believing my mother and seeing myself the same way. Thinking I am a pathetic loser and living with the shame of that identity. I suspect that deep down inside, she literally feels threatened and so she protects herself by seeing me this way.
And that’s okay.
There’s also a part of me that wants to sit her down and say, “Your pathetic, less-than daughter is the author of six books, one of which is a bonafide international best-seller. She’s helped thousands of women all over the world. She’s now considered a subject matter expert and has been interviewed for articles in the New York Times and Toronto Sun and many other news outlets and podcasts. She has more than replaced her now-retired husband’s salary with income from her business. She has successful, famous, highly educated clients. All of whom struggle with feeling good about themselves because they have mothers like you.“
Whew! That felt good to write. I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face because I’m feeling that weird and delicious mix of clean grief and compassion, combined with a mature, fierce mama bear anger and a whole bunch of unconditional love.
All of that can exist within me (and you) at the same time. What makes it powerful (and not blaming or victim-y) is a willingness to choose it and take responsibility for it.
I’m no longer trying to hurt her, and I’m no longer willing to hurt myself. This is what healing, re-mothering, resilience, and mature anger looks like.
Much, much love,
A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration (Narcissistic Mother or Borderline Personality Disorder, Mother Daughter Relationship Book)
Difficult mother? The best news on the planet is that your mother doesn’t have to change in order for you to be happy. In fact, author Karen C.L. Anderson will take it a step further and say, your difficult mother doesn’t have to change in order for you to be free, peaceful, content, and joyful.