Healing the Mom Thing, Part 1

As many of you know, I have roommates. It was a decision I made after losing my dad, the one man who would always have my back. Looking back I realize that sharing my home was meant to be. Why? Numerically a 7 house in a 9 location, (spiritual endings) it has been a place of untold numbers of spiritual endings and transformations. (I refer to it fondly as “the house of mirrors.”) And though workshop participants and roommates have benefited, I have benefited too. Just recently I was the recipient of one of the most powerful transformations. Because it involves boundaries, betrayals and soul wounds, issues with which so many struggle, I’ve decided to share it in hopes it will help. A little background …

Childhood is supposed to be a magical time, the time in which we learn all we need to become emotionally healthy, fully functioning adults who can establish and maintain healthy, loving relationships. It is the time of freedom and dreams, a time to bask in the love, security and nurturing of our parents. Unfortunately, like many of you, mine was not that utopian type of childhood. Instead, mine was full of insecurity, fear and anxiety.

I recall the question put to me during one of 2 attempts at therapy. After having completed the assignment to look for behavior patterns in my family tree–and discovering some really dysfunctional ones–he asked, “How did you survive that?”

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“Precisely,” he replied.

At the time I didn’t know whether to be more surprised by his question or my response …

Through years of dedicated emotional clearing work I’ve been able to see and recognize a lot of what he saw. The dysfunction left me unable to commit to a partner, unable to continually flow money, unable to feel safe.

I’ve worked through a lot of it, especially the pain with my dad, but the pain with my mom still remains. I had done all I could do on that end and was leaving it up to my Soul and guides to bring forth an opportunity to heal the rest. They answered.

Something about Mary

As many of you know, I have roommates. The decision to not live alone was made after I lost my dad. It’s been a good choice for the most part but once in a while I’m reminded that apart from having a partner, it is the best way to achieve emotional clearing.

My soul’s answer to my request for clearing my mom issues was to send Mary. Mary, a 57 year-old, over the top extrovert arrived on my doorstep about 3 months ago. After years of struggling with an antagonistic ex-husband, and two depressed sons (1 bi-polar, 1 with major depression) she had decided to let go and take care of herself. Distancing herself from them was her first step in her healing. Preferring roommates that, like me, are ready to take charge of their lives and heal, I said yes to her moving in.

If I’ve learned nothing else, I have learned that you have to agreements with your roommates. Agreements are boundaries and limits that are both verbalized and written negotiations for boundaries that enable us to get our needs met in a relationship. When created correctly, agreements foster trust and integrity, while at the same time, making others feel safe and secure.

Along with signing their lease, my roommates each receive and sign a copy of the roommate agreements. In fact, they are given the agreements and lease to read days before signing so that any questions or re negotiations can be handled. Mary had her lease and agreements a month before she moved in.

All was well for about two weeks after move in. Mary is a fun gal and who loves to cook (like my mom) and enjoys entertaining us with her jokes while she worked her magic in the kitchen. To say we were delighted and enchanted was an understatement. Since my other roommate Kate and I had both interviewed and chosen Mary from a list of potential renters, we were both congratulating ourselves on our wise decision.

We were soon to be proven wrong–at least from a 3D perspective. Within two weeks the enchantment began to fade as the truth of our situation revealed itself. Mary was a smoker with significant health problems including bi-polar depression that she “forgot” to reveal. It all came out when I came home to find her smoking. (I have been very clear that this is a non-smoking home.) When confronted her excuse was the physical health problems, which then led to her revealing the truth about her mental health issue.

Apologies and a second chance were given (she said she was giving up cigarettes), and peace was restored–but not for long. What ensued was a cycle of good days followed by one of conflict due to yet another boundary violation. Our attempts to resolve conflicts, so that we could peacefully get through the remainder of her 3-month lease, met with limited success. In less than a month my home went from peaceful to tense and chaotic.

Both Kate and I began showing symptoms of the tension (we have the same mother issue). We both found ourselves struggling with increased anxiety, insomnia and depression. Being health-conscious we both stay away from junk food, but the stress had triggered bad eating habits (really bad) which then led to the dreaded weight gain. And we began drinking too much. I became very fond of Patrone margaritas having as many as 3 almost every night. This was soooo out of character for me as I don’t have a high tolerance for alcohol. The final symptom was that we both saw a significant decrease in income.

By the end of the 2nd month we had both gained weight, felt miserable in our now too tight clothes, were battling anxiety further exacerbated by limited income. Yep, it was bad!

Now, I’ve been through other “challenging” roommates before but none affected me like Mary. What was it about her that triggered me so much that I’d resort to such self-destructive behaviors in order to medicate? The answer came during a talk with Kate the morning after Mary moved out (a whole story in itself). We were discussing how adversely that 8 weeks had impacted us and wondering why. I brought up the subject of my mom changing her phone number and not telling me ( I had tried to call her that morning.) This triggered the answer, the “Ah ha” moment: Mary was my mother all over again!

As my mother’s only weapon in her war with my dad, I was not allowed to have a relationship with him. Any attempt to do so was considered a betrayal and the tables were quickly turned. What started out as my attempt to stand up for myself or my dad ended up with me apologizing for being disloyal, selfish and causing her pain.

Any attempt to set a limit with my mother was met with disrespect, invalidation and belittling. If I got through all of that and still continued she would become enraged and shut me out. Reconciliation would only occur when I capitulated. The message was clear: my only purpose was to be for my mother, to serve her faithfully and completely without regard to my own needs.

Now I understood why Mary triggered me so much, why I kept giving her chance after chance, when I would not have done so for someone else. I understood why I was willing to make concessions on agreements that I knew would not be good for me in the long run. I understood why, even after the most blatant act of invalidation and disrespect, I would still entertain the idea of letting her stay–as long as she changed her ways. (That’s so humiliating to admit.)

I had done so with my mother, giving up my rights, my dignity, my needs and self-respect all to win my mother’s love. In Mary’s case I did so in order to keep the peace while, at the same time, retain the joy, laughter and nurturing that Mary so totally embodied. I guess you could say that I needed Mary’s joy as much as I needed my mother’s love and I would betray myself to get it. Pretty sad. 🙁

The next step in healing will be to understand what in particular I need to see that Mary is showing me about myself and how I parent myself, along why the time of it all. (Why now?) I’ll share that in Part 2.

In closing, when difficult people show up in our lives, they are there for a reason. The people that upset us the most are usually there to help us work through our deepest wounds; our parent wounds. If we can step back and objectively observe our behavior, while matching it up to how we felt as children, that’s when recovery begins.

Healing the Mom Thing, Part 2