Monday, February 28, 2011

An Anniversary to Celebrate or Forget?

This is a photo of me with my mother in 1961--fifty years ago!--on the sidewalk outside her father's stop in Kerrisdale, in Vancouver, the scene of some of my happiest memories. Not long after this was taken our relationship became very difficult to say the least. Some years we had no relationship at all. Mom knows where all my buttons are and pushes them frequently yet I find it nearly impossible to say no to her. Regardless of the many challenges over the years, I still love and admire my mother. Most of my best qualities are learned or inherited from my mother. It is absurd to think I might please her yet my attempts continue. The last sixteen months have been the most rewarding and hellish of our entire relationship.

One year ago my sudden decision to leave home and return to care for my mother a day earlier than planned was most fortuitous. 
I changed my Facebook status to indicate that I was leaving immediately and unexpectedly then started packing. Seconds after I posted, my daughter phoned to ask what was the matter; she had seen my status change! She cancelled her plans for her only day off in two weeks. She stayed with my mother until I arrived, over six hours later. It is only a four hour drive but I packed very, very slowly; I really did not want to give up that extra day at home. My impulse to be a dutiful daughter must have been divine intervention.

The next day Mom and I were talking when I parked her in the wheelchair, next to the sofa. She was too exhausted to transfer and refused assistance. I turned, took three steps, picked up my knitting and sat to face her. In those three steps my mother lost consciousness due to dehydration. My daughter later thanked me for saving her grandmother's life. The thought had not occurred to me but she was right. Had I left as planned, I would have arrived to find her dead in her empty home. My sister and her three daughters live with Mom but they were all out for the entire day.

Mom spent the next few days in hospital; I stayed with her. Once she knew she would be able to return home my mother cursed me for saving her life. Repeatedly. She lacked the energy to enjoy this past year and suffers from debilitating pain. When we speak on the phone all I hear about is the year of suffering. She wonders how much more she can tolerate. It makes my heart ache to know that she has suffered so much and to know that she "blames" me for denying her the peace and freedom from pain she so covets.

It finally dawned on me that this anniversary recreated a pattern from my past; I suffered with back pain for two decades. Then I was reminded of a book that changed my back and my life. The Cliff Notes: Emotional tension causes physical tension. 

Mine always attacks my lumbar spine. Listening to my mother complain about her terrible life--and accepting responsibility for it--gave me a week of sciatica. Once I made the connection my back pain began to ease. The mind is so powerful. 

I have decided that my lesson is to focus on remaining positive after seeing the results of a person who has chosen a lifetime of focusing on the negative. My mind feels clear and my body moves (more or less) freely again.


  1. WOW, what a wonderful post! It brought tears to my eyes! It IS amazing how powerful our minds are, isn't it? I'm glad that you figured that out so that it helps your back pain!

    And... what a cute picture! As i mentioned earlier, i can't wait to see more! :-)

  2. "Most of my best qualities are learned or inherited from my mother."

    Me too :)

    Thanks for everything mom!

  3. Thanks, Amber! People get bent out of shape when I say that my back pain begins in my mind because they associate that with an imaginary pain. The pain is real but stems from my thoughts and emotions. All I know is that I suffered for many years with debilitating pain when I lived near and dealt with my birth family. When I moved here, that pain was sporadic and oddly coincided with dealings with my birth family. This concept truly set me free.

    I've more or less "done" my studio to a point where I'd be happy to use it but some of the mess has spilled into other rooms. Once that's done, I want to start scanning!

  4. Elizabeth, words cannot express how grateful I am to have you in my life. It is a privilege to be associated with you. You have taught me many invaluable lessons. I adore you. xoxox

  5. depression can and does also cause pain - so sorry to hear of you and your mom. I have as little to do with my mom as I can manage....

  6. Thanks, Thea, it sure can. I was relieved to understand why I was in pain for no apparent reason! I have to juggle limiting small doses of Mom with no regrets.