Letting go of my daughter.

Mindfulness is a practice of staying in the present moment with your experience, regardless of what it is.  Pain, joy, anger, peace; whatever comes up.  My daughter recently went through a stage of wanting to be close to me frequently, to spend time alone together, and show her affection openly.  There were times when it was irritating to other family members who wanted my attention, but I loved it.  I adore my boys, and having sons is an experience precious in its own way.  Feeling that bond with my daughter was priceless though.

Now, in what seems like a matter of moments, she has become moody, distant, and wants little (if anything) to do with me.  We used to text “I love you SOOO much” back and forth to each other; smiley faces, and hearts flew across the wireless network between us.  These days I consider myself lucky if she says, “me too” when I say “I love you.”  This child (who is my youngest), was the last to give up our nighttime ritual of  “kissing hand” (copied from the renowned children’s book), and blew me kisses from her bed as I went through her doorway at night, then when I reached the landing, and again when I was all the way downstairs (with me blowing kisses back).  In a single night she disavowed all of it.  She lets me kiss her on the forehead at night now, and give her a hug that she doesn’t return.  The pain of this rejection has been very hard to stay with in a mindful way.

The other morning my daughter was using her now all too common clipped answers to my questions, and I felt anger rise up in me like an earthquake.  My husband was in the kitchen at the time, and as he watched helplessly, I walked away (hearing him whisper, “please tell your Mom you’re sorry”) and retorted, “that’s okay, if she wants to spend all her time hating people that’s her choice.”  Immediately, I felt myself transported back in time to a moment where I told my mother (at close to the same age) “you don’t really love me.”  When my father heard this, he ripped me apart with his words, and his anger reduced me to microscopic size for saying something so hurtful to my Mom, who I knew loved me more than her own life.  Ouch!  A sense of deep shame washed over me, and an indescribable helplessness.  I had purposely hurt my child, after vowing I’d be different from my own parents, and there was no way to take it back.  Shaking, I walked over to her, took her hands in mine and said “I’m so sorry.”  “I felt hurt because of the way you were treating me, and I purposely said something to hurt you back.  It was childish, and small, and I wish with all my heart that I could take back the words, but I can’t.  I know you don’t spend your time hating people.  You are a loving and devoted friend, and have such a kind heart.  What I did was wrong, and there is no way to make it up to you.  I’m so very sorry.”  (tears were in my eyes now, and in my husband’s)  Looking at the floor, my daughter replied, “it’s no big deal Mom.”  “Look at me sweetheart,” I pleaded, and when those huge, sky-blue eyes met mine, I could see the wall I’d created between us.  “It IS a big deal.  I’m an adult, and I acted like a 2-year-old.  I’m so very sorry, and I will try to make it up to you somehow.”  “Whatever,” she replied, “I didn’t even really hear what you said,” and she dropped my hands.

This is what mindfulness can help you avoid.  Pema Chodron once said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “A moment of anger can destroy years spent building trust.”  I know the truth of that from BOTH sides now.  I can only pray that if I keep practicing I can prevent this from happening again.  Letting go of my daughter feels like having my fingernails slowly ripped off, one by one.  At the same time I’m so proud of her and the young woman she is becoming.  She’s developing a great relationship with my husband, her Step-Dad, after years of him feeling the rejection I do now, all while staying calm about it around her.  Parenting, like growing older, is not for the faint of heart.  It is one of the most difficult journeys we make in life.  I’m still ashamed, remorseful, and contrite, but I hope that perhaps some wisdom may have come from this that will help me keep my mouth shut when this happens in the future.  I wish the same for every one of us.  Namaste’.

And did you get what you wanted from this life?

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I respect Tara Brach, a psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C..  I listen to her podcasts as often as I can, and find them immensely comforting.  I don’t know who wrote the poem I quote below.  It had a profound impact on me though, and that is the point of putting it in this blog.  There are people who seem to dance through life, never questioning their right to a place on this over-populated world.  I envy them that feeling.  One of my biggest issues with the way Christianity has been co-opted and perhaps mistranslated over the years is the idea that we are all imperfect, even “bad”.  Certain denominations are more damning about the message than others.  The greatest spiritual poets I know always felt “beloved on this earth.”  There was no denying anyone else’s “right” to a place in heaven, whether gay or straight, whatever color or creed, and that union with the beloved was seen as our natural, true birthright.  The struggle of my life, and the idea that has lead to my worst self-destructive impulses come from the idea that I am flawed, sinful, ugly in the sight of God, and not deserving of love.  Not all of that came from the church.  Some came from genetics, some from parents with good intentions doing their best to form me into a model of loving kindness.  However I cannot stop running into a brick wall, so much so that I’ve lost access to memories, that love of self has to be the basis for loving others.  I know it’s a self-help cliche’, but it’s a reality for me.  I blame myself for all my children’s suffering, for the suffering of anyone who knows me, yet take no ownership of the love I give or it’s importance.

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done with my head, and my heart.  What about you?  Have you gotten what you wanted from this life?  In a time where greed has brought the world to it’s knees and so many of us have to worry about just having food and a place to live, a job, income – have you gotten what you wanted from this life?  I’m still seeking to find that lightness of feeling “beloved on the earth.”  It will require breaking my heart, facing fears that are overwhelming, and yet if I truly want to be of help to others, I see no other option for myself.  I have to find my way through the maze of self-hatred and delusion to the heart of the Beloved, a heart that is also my own.  I bow to Tara Brach, and am so indebted to her teaching, as I am to Susan Piver, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, and so many other Buddhist teachers, as well as Christians who’ve had the courage to teach the REAL doctrine of Christ.  Love yourself, make the pursuit of love your highest calling.  I believe that is what Jesus truly called us to do and why he was considered so radical and dangerous.  People who are taught to love themselves have the hearts of warriors, and will defend their fellow humans at complete risk to themselves.  What could be more radical than that?  May you feel beloved on the earth this day, and may the spirit as you know it touch your heart and your life with all the love that you were intended to have at birth.  Blessings and joy to you, Namaste’.

Late Fragment

And did you get what you wanted from this life even so?

I did.

And what did you want?  To call myself Beloved.

To feel myself Beloved on the earth.

Alec (a deceased member of IMCW, whose last name Tara didn’t mention)

Also reported to be a poem by Raymond Cheever on Poem Finder