18. And Now We Are Love

18. And Now We Are Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

And Now We Are Love

The decision to forgive touches you to your very core, to who you are as a human being.

~Robert Enright, Ph.D.

It is her birthday today and I think of her with love and tenderness, but it was not always so. At six years old I decided I would never need anyone again, and mostly that meant her. And I watched, as if from another plane, as my life careered from one emotional upheaval to another.

At four years old I had tried to tell her that Daddy was “doing things.” She called me a dirty little liar. As an adult, long after I had escaped to distant shores in a far-off land the recriminations continued. In letters scrawled in haste she would write: “You always were a daydreamer,” “You always had fantasies.” Sometimes she used the “lie” word.

Years passed. My career was successful; it was where I poured everything. But I was like an egg, a brittle shell on the outside and soft and runny on the inside. Most people only saw and knew the shell. They said things about me and to me that hurt, but I never answered back. I simply retreated further.

She was old now. The ache got bigger, the hatred deeper. Worse, I despised her. She hadn’t protected me, she hadn’t saved me, she hadn’t stopped it. She was the real reason I lived a life of pain.

The social workers at work told me to discuss it with her and would watch me freeze and recoil in horror. “What’s wrong, scared she’ll have a heart attack?” I would nod numbly, tears filling my eyes as I closed off more.

In my forties and when she was much older, I moved back across the globe to a place that was in reachable distance, but not too close. At some stage I read Eleanor Roosevelt’s perceptive words: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The idea of consenting to the ways in which we are treated finally gave me the impetus I needed to sit up and take notice. The right therapist helped. For two decades I had searched for her and she appeared when my work life went belly up.

I extended love and friendship to my mother. Despite the views of the social workers in the antipodes, I decided not to discuss my childhood with someone who was increasingly frail. Instead, we did things together—walked on beaches, attended church, talked about our beliefs, discovered, to my astonishment, and no doubt hers, that we had much in common.

There wasn’t much time. She had dementia. Her short-term memory was fading fast, and the rest of her memories faded in and out. Once she tried to hit me and I calmed her by rocking her back and forth in my arms. Once in tears she looked at me and asked why she couldn’t remember things anymore. Her body heaved as she sobbed in my arms.

The daughter who had loathed her mother for so much of her life opened her heart and let in a frail old lady. I cooed, stroked her hair, we talked into the wee hours and, calm at last, she slept.

I sat, looking at my shaking hands, and thought of all the dreadful and negative energy I had wasted over the years in the hatred I had felt for her. People don’t understand, of course. They don’t understand that the reactions we have about the person who was supposed to protect us can be as strong as those we feel toward the actual perpetrators.

We came close to having the conversation only once. We had taken the train for a day trip to the beach when her mind was still bright. Suddenly, she looked at me and sounding very emotional said, “I sometimes think I should have been more affectionate with your father.” She stared at me, her blue eyes willing me to say something. This was my chance; this was the moment. Her eyes sparkled with tears as she waited. I watched as every part of her body tensed.

Instead, I leaned toward her and patting her knee said, “I am sure you were affectionate enough.” I saw thanks in her eyes. Her body relaxed, and she nodded. I felt bathed in the love she felt and had always felt for me. And I knew, as I should have always known, that the only real way to deal with pain or tragedy or abuse is with love. At that moment I loved her back in ways I had never felt before.

These days, more than a decade after she passed over, she still visits me. Sometimes I hear her soft Scottish brogue; sometimes I feel her touch; sometimes something moves; sometimes when I walk in nature I know she is with me.

And now we are love.

~Susan E. Méra

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