LEARNING TO LOVE HURT

Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

Early morning light turned the street outside my window blue-gray. Dark leafy trees reached for a patch of lighter sky.

Sitting at my computer, I leaned toward the bright, “You’ve-got-mail screen.” I opened a friend’s message.

Franny,

I’ve been thinking about my sister who died. In her apartment, her son found a letter from 1941, addressed to four judges in New York. It was regarding the welfare of two little girls: me and my sister. (I was 5 and she was 7.)

I have a copy of the letter.  In it, the author is pleading not to give our custody to my mother who had remarried.

The judges did, anyway, and thus began our lives of fear from this brutal new husband. My mother made a huge mistake. 

I would love some advice on how to forgive her. 

  Love,

Lorine”

I sat back and sighed. How long have I been working to forgive my own mother for different, yet hurtful behavior? Twenty years?

I answered myself, “She’s been gone twenty years. So, maybe thirty.”

Too long!

I looked back at my friend’s letter. I doubt Lorine wants a l-o-n-g list of all I have tried over the years. Still….

I thought back. The pain of reality versus what I had been led to believe about my future was what like finding out Cinderella wasn’t a true story. I believed if I was “good” and made the “right” choices, my life would be happy-ever-after.

In the same way pain alerts me that my body is injured, my psyche hurt. I went from psychologist to therapist, looking for a fix. Meanwhile, not knowing what else to do, I avoided prolonged contact with my mother. 

More than twenty years after discovering Mother’s predictions of my Cinderella future were false, I joined my first Twelve Step group. It was one for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA). Many Adult Children feel victimized. I fit right in.

A major point of ACA is learning to see victimization from a different angle. It was my first experience with how to forgive.

My first step was to understand my real life. Reading about others who came from alcoholic homes and hearing their stories in meetings, I realized I was not alone. In time, I felt safe and spoke my own truth.

Unloading my pain to witnesses who only nodded, their eyes compassionate, was like speaking to a listening God. The process strengthened me.

Once I knew my true self, as both blessed and flawed, I began studying my mother’s past. I needed to see her as a person and understand why she had misled me, leaving me helpless to cope with reality.

Instead of seeing Mother like Cinderella saw her “cruel stepmother,” I needed see past her “mother” role, and into “Bert: a person with her own problems, needs and desires.”

I was forty-six when I began studying my mother. But, typical of her insight, she had realized I couldn’t see her as anything other than “mother,” more than twenty years earlier. She had tried to change my seeing her only as “Mom” and “Mother” when I was a young teen.

Mother (left) and me in 1957

Mother (left) and me in 1957

I recall the evening she broached the subject. She and I were doing dishes.

Swishing a soapy cloth over a dish, she said, “I want you to start calling me ‘Bert.’”

Rinsing a plate, I frowned. “Bert?”

“Yes,” Mother waved a sudsy hand. “It IS my name, after all.”

I blinked. Daddy does call her “Bert,” but ….

Over the next few months when I lapsed into “Mom” and “Mother,” as if I had said, “ain’t,” she corrected me. “Please call me Bert.”

How strange! I could not see her point. “Bert” indeed! Just one more funny rule she wants me to remember.

I didn’t try very hard. Before long, Mother gave up.

However, when I was forty-six, I began looking for “Bert.”

Ways we were alike were the easiest. She was the oldest child in her family. Like me, she was a bossy know-it-all. Like me, she liked breakfast food any time of the day. She also put on “her face” before going out of the house, cultivated older wise women friends, and carried food gifts when she went to visit neighbors.

Though I frowned trying to remember it, her sister, Auntie Alma said that like me, Mother got depressed. Was that when she cleaned out all our closets and drawers?

In time, I realized why Mother had controlled my early path. I was gullible and trusting. She wanted the best for me and feared my naiveté. 

A butterfly must struggle out of its cocoon. If an onlooker tries to help it, the creature will die. It needs its great effort to strengthen it. Mother kept helping and redirecting me. I remained emotionally weak. I had to pull away and struggle alone to eventually find my strength.

Once I realized Mother was doing the best she could and acting out of fear for my well-being, I was able to love her misguided “help.”

Yes, love.

Like the butterfly, in breaking out of my “life cocoon,” I learned I was a beloved child of God. Through adversity, my God-love link grew strong. Only then could I begin to forgive.

May your path also be blessed with this new kind of love.

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

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