• When I graduated from college I seriously debated cutting off all contact from my mother.

    Our relationship was so toxic by that time that I could hardly last 24 hours at home before fleeing to neutral territory.

    The medication that had once controlled her mood swings had stopped working, and she fluctuated from raving, hateful manias to crippling depressions.

    We’d never had a real conversation about my aspirations or relationships, both of which were dominated by the fear that I would inevitably get sick like her.  I seethed with juvenile resentment and anger, and she reciprocated.

    Ten years later, before I had come close to finding my own footing in adulthood, I found myself taking on the role of informal caregiver for my mom. The resentment was still there, compounded by a demanding career.

    As I juggled responsibilities, I started a long process of making peace with my mom.

    The first step was slowly letting go of the anger and resentment I’d always held towards her. What replaced them at first was sadness and pity.  But the turning point came when I was finally able to understand the meaning of compassion.

    It happened about a year ago, at the end of a yoga class. It was during the final relaxation, which some understand to be a rehearsal for death.

    Suddenly I thought of my mom and a surge came over me. It was different from the sadness and pity I usually felt when I thought about her. This time it actually felt as though I was her, like I was experiencing the world as her.  I felt her disappointment with life and her fear of being imprisoned in a dysfunctional body and mind. I felt her reaching out for help and salvation. I started sobbing.

    I suddenly understood that compassion is truly feeling yourself in the shoes of another being.

    These waves of compassion have come back from time to time. I’ve felt her fear and anger as the symptoms of mania, depression, and a range of physical illnesses took over. I’ve felt her bitter devastation as her ambitions and marriage fell apart, and her resignation in giving up independence and dignity as she accepted the realities of living with a set of complex chronic illnesses.

    As I’ve worked to cultivate this compassion, my mom has opened up to me in ways I didn’t think possible. When she’s lucid she asks me questions about my relationships and career. She tells me I’m beautiful and that she loves me. She thanks me, and she says she’s sorry.

    There are times when I want to wrap her up and bring her home to live with me. There are about a hundred reasons why that’s not possible.  But we’ve settled into our role reversal. I’ve developed something a lot like parenting skills towards her, and ironically, she has become the mother I used to wish I had.
    So for mother’s day, I honor my mom, a beautiful soul who taught me compassion, patience, and love.

    This entry was posted on Sunday, May 13th, 2012 at 7:28 pm and is filed under Faith & Spirituality, Stories & Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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