Part 3 – April 2021
‘The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference,’ said Nobel laureate, Elie Weisel, a much-celebrated Holocaust survivor and author.
Perhaps strangely, the more difficult it was to remain calm around my mother, the more, deep down, I yearned to one day sense a measure of her love for me.
It had not dawned on me that she, too, needed proof of my love for her – backed up by the sort of evidence she could sense as genuine.
Tapping into my ‘Buddha nature’, my authentic self, a.k.a. my soulful self, as Yudit, my mentor, would say, was my constant intention, of course! But it certainly was not what shone through the recurring frazzle that gripped my gut.
At the time, my attempts at calm resilience were unable to loosen the tightness in my solar plexus, in my stomach – the place where the energy of courage, determination and empathy should have been vibrating.
The notion of tapping into my cosmic essence was as much an impossibility as was touching a rainbow of light.
Actually, one way to define my mother’s mindset was as someone who, feeding on my willingness to care for her – intentionally or not – drained my emotional energy. For obvious reasons, such persons are often called energy vampires.
Back in those days, though my intentions were heart-based, clearly fear-based reactions were stronger.
None of my intentions fell into place automatically. None of them was sustainable.
In my own self-appointed role of Judge of my mother’s performance and my own, I felt the same powerlessness as when I was a child, and I was berated via one parental ‘truth’ or another.
Maintaining a positive inner posture in the face of what, to me, was a quasi-incessant meanness of spirit was harrowing.
Depleting, at times.
Clearly, the adult that I had become several decades ago had long accepted to play the role of the Victim.
Reality check: no matter how familiar the sounds, visuals and activity happening in any one moment, technically, every moment underfoot is as unique as are lemons of similar size and weight.
Not any two will ever have the exact shape, skin and texture.
Not any two will yield precisely the same amount of zest and juice as the other.
No two have the same number of pips.
Yet, not one of my afternoon visits unfolded without the knot in my stomach tightening over itself like a sailor’s stopper knot, a knot known to not come loose quickly.
And, tight in my stomach, that knot travelled back home to Brisbane where I lived.
At the time, I was hoping that my mother might experience a spontaneous aha moment or an epiphany. That, such a new awareness might prompt her to change her mindset. That she would be moved to become caring, thoughtful and forgiving. Not just with me. With everyone.
I wanted her to count her many blessings – and include me as one – instead of taking everything for granted.
What I did know for sure was that the only person who could provide us with a different game plan was me, myself and I – not my ego-persona.
I needed to double down on the practice of sustained active acceptance of What-Was.
Back then, I was unable to hear Soul’s whispered reassurance that all would be well if only I could make myself step back from the Judge’s seat to become a detached observer. If I could desist from being the generator of my own fears, of my own sense of vulnerability and of my own resentment, I would unlock my power.
Too much inner static.
If I were to show up only as an observer, Yudit would remind me time and time again, I would no longer be the receiver of my mother’s toxic energy.
I would no longer spread my own toxic energy through her system, either.
Still, the best I could do at the time was to desist from insisting on what I saw as ‘my truth’.
In doing so, I avoided saying anything I knew I would have immediately regretted.
My self-control extended to resisting the impulse to slam the door shut forever – and to never look back.
As if never looking back was truly an option we, humans, have!
Gradually, the changes in my behaviour patterns towards my mother began to bear fruit.
The emergence of healing.
A frail seedling at first. Then, tender shoots begin to sprout.
Some convulse and die. Others thrive.
A bud not yet a bloom, but the potential is feeling tangible.
Fast-forwarding to the present, my rainbow in the hues of ‘mother-daughter love’ is finally almost palpable.
Sadly, my stepfather passed away 3 years ago.
Even in absentia, he has provided my mother with the ongoing comfort and security to which she was accustomed, albeit on a smaller scale apartment.
She has moved nearby to a safe, very well-run, beautiful retirement village. My mother is now 86.
A few years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She is now on stage 5 of 7, Moderately Severe Decline. She is no longer able to problem-solve … anything.
In all other aspects, beyond an encroaching loss of mobility, my mother is lucid, and her ego-persona remains intact.
Rain or shine, in the absence of any emergency at my mother’s end and in addition to the usual family celebrations, I spend three afternoons a week with her.
They are calendarised.
So is my daily meditation practice.
I have also found a vibrant, energetic social carer who weekly spends the other four afternoons with my mother.
Only my mother’s mornings are her own, and on her own, she finds the mornings too long.
Still, she often comments on how lost she would be if I wasn’t the daughter that I’ve become. She often tells me how proud of me she is. And that, when, her time comes, I should not have any regrets at all.
I should be happy, then, knowing that I have done for her all that I could have done.
In regards to this ‘becoming’, it’s true that I’ve spent years following Yudit’s advice: ‘Treat your mother as you would have liked her to treat you when you were a child. When you were a teenager.
When you were forty.
When you wanted her to be there for you.
Be present for her now.
But, also remember, CC, it’s not so much what you do but how you do it that matters. So, whatever it is you do, do it from your heart and before you know it, your little mother will be forever grateful.’
Reality check: years ago, I was fighting with myself to not slam the door shut on my mother and on myself, by association.
I was ready to finally stride away for good.
Instead, I ended up willingly tagging myself to be ‘it’ for my elderly mother.
Myahr volunteered alongside me. I never doubted she would. 😊
Together and separately, Myahr and I perform our duty of care with affection from one and with love from the other.
Did I just type ‘love’?
Love – what characteristics define love? What feelings in the pit of the stomach or in the heart area?
How are they different from those that stem from affection and care?
My love for my mother is not yet bursting out from my heart space.
But it still feels bruised.
So maybe the sacrifices Myahr and I have had to make over the past few years to make myself available to my mother only amount to the ‘duty of affection’ done with care.
There’s always a cost to letting our ego-persona roam where it likes to hide best like an unaware toddler.
The cost of a life-long disconnection from sharing and caring means, for my little mother, that even now she has unconsciously chosen disconnection from all the village residents and activities.
Her unwillingness to reach out when she first arrived at the retirement village six years ago, to allow herself the vulnerability of possible rejection as well as the possibility of making meaningful connections means that she doesn’t have any.
For reasons best attributed to the ebb and flow of karma, my little mother now finds herself as vulnerable and isolated, as I felt when she left me in a nun-run boarding school in Tunisia – with one notable difference. The Management staff and all the workers in that retirement community are much more inclusive and ready to be of support than any of ‘my’ nuns ever were.
My mother is, and always was, depressed and very stuck in the poor-me frame of mind.
What was, still is.
It still ripples out into the moments underfoot.
It always does, for everyone.
Bottom line: a narcissistic temperament doesn’t allow one the freedom to admit being a part of the problem. It doesn’t spare a thought for causality – not when things don’t turn out as we would like them to.
Such an ego-persona-lity is unable to factor in the possible ripples that flow on from divisive, unapologetic mindset. In fact, research shows that cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s only exacerbates narcissistic personalities.
Karma has forced my hand a little, as only karma could.
Details in my karmic blueprint have cast me as an only child.
It also cast my mother in the role of one whose remaining family lives in France while she’s been residing in Australia for the past 39 years.
My karmic blueprint also gave me the possibility to tap into moral courage and be encouraged and supported first by Yudit and, throughout it all, by Myahr.
I do my best to honour each of these gifts.
So, yes, five years ago, I became my ageing parents’ go-to-person for all their needs, big, and small.
From their administrative paper work to making phone calls and appointments and driving them wherever to buy whatever, I’m the one.
All – except ‘youth, joie de vivre and vitality’ – is provided as needed, when needed.
In the five years that preceded the Covid pandemic, although my partner Myarh and I were newly retired, we had agreed to postpone the month-long holidays overseas and frequent local escapades to which we were accustomed.
My parents’ dependence on me, on us, would take precedence.
Of course, for us as for many, such pleasures are put on hold indefinitely.
But, in the fullness of time, at the most optimal and beneficial time for all of us, moments of exciting, yet relaxing adventures – contentment – will be there for us.
Better than ever before.
Better than would otherwise have been.
Today as always, my mother is disconnected from all that could have brought her enjoyment and pleasure.
She cannot fathom that her palette of emotions, thoughts, actions, reactions as well as her inactions have led her to the point she’s at today – isolated in her lovely apartment with a view of trees, birds and usually blue sky – but lonely as a rock, though surrounded 700 other residents in the retirement village.
Still living comfortably.
Still cared for.
Still fractious and suspicious of others.
Reality check: no one can side-step the outer reality we’ve co-created ourselves.
From metabolic disorders to infections and psychiatric disorders, research has not yet identified the systematic causes of dementia. It does, however, confirm that fading cognitive ability is not necessarily a part of the natural result of ageing.
It’s a lot more nebulous than that.
On that topic, some 10 years ago, and apropos of nothing in particular, Yudit told me that, as far as she was concerned, losing one’s power to remember the past – no matter how far or how near – worked as a karmic blessing.
She saw it as a shield against one’s pain of remembering the scope of the emotional struggle endured up to that point – against themselves – for not daring come out from under that rock.
These days, my little mother is free of any regrets and of any sense of culpability she might otherwise feel for having been an emotionally distant mother and a generally fractious being.
She is also free of the memory of her decades of loneliness as the wife of a nice but passive, well-meaning husband – a good provider – who seemed as emotionally distant towards her as she was towards me.
Of course, she would have had such thoughts in the dead of night – on many a night!
Now, that painful past has evaporated into the ether.
No memory. No past.
What keeps my mother in a state of painful loneliness is her perception of others – her suspicion – her disconnection from the present moment – moment after moment.
Moreover, the aging process is disgusting, she says.
She looks at her aged face and at her swollen legs and she shakes her head, disbelieving ‘this’ has become her.
Reality check: no matter how we play it, no one can escape the present.
Not while we’re alive.
No one can thrive while rejecting What-Is.
My mother has taught me that in real time.
These days, although she is in good health, my mother is openly contemplating her own mortality.
She prays for it to come sooner than later but preferably in her sleep.
It’s not a ploy for sympathy.
She urges me to not be sad, but happy for her when her final moment comes.
She means it.
The real world, she knows, is quickly fading from her senses.
The thing is, we, dwellers on planet Earth, have no more a handle on our last moments on Earth than we do on our first.
From pre-birth to death, life is only shaped by the quality of our responses to each plot beat contained in each moment underfoot.
Like many people, my mother doubts the concept of universal energy.
So many people think it doubtful that there is any interplay between our selves and a higher intelligence.
They think it doubtful that our soul is our unerring, dedicated guide in this lifetime.
They think it doubtful, too, that it is our soul, not our selves, that has been incarnated in numerous previous bodies across the aeons.
Me, I can’t wrap my head around the man-made interpretations of the Highest Intelligence people called ‘God’ or equivalent.
At least, not as it is explained in Scriptures and other sacred texts.
Not in those texts that have been created by men.
Not in those that are still today imposed – and accepted by the masses – as ritualised religion.
Not in those that are re-interpreted by leaders of faith into something as divisive and dangerous as political dogma.
So – as I can’t say to my mother, ‘Don’t worry, Maman, God will keep you safe’, my reply-wish to my mother goes along those lines: I tell her that every day, I ask the ‘divine powers’ to keep her well. To keep her as well as possible for as long as they want her to remain on planet Earth.
I do that.
It’s true too, that my mother is happy with that.
Good news: for a couple of years already, my mother has been telling me that I’m the best daughter any mother could wish for.
Lately, she’s been putting more sentiment into her words.
I take that as a good return on heartfelt-investment with which I energised my rainbow desire.
The thing is, I am not yet able to reply in kind.
I can’t tell my mother that she is the best mother anyone could have. Even if I did, I bet, she wouldn’t believe me.
But, in fact, if I am as I am today, in the good space I’m in, it is because of what my mother directly or indirectly has forced me into.
My mother tells me she loves me.
I tell her I love her, too.
Even if my love is not gushing, my affection is real.
The desire to help my mother feel safe and loved is always present.
Every time I kiss her goodbye, she urges me to stay well and to live the long, happy life that I deserve.
After 25 years, I would still like to hear her add, ‘… with Myarh’.
And my mother might yet surprise me one day.
Other than that, why don’t I now feel any relief, any joy, knowing my little mother loves me; knowing that she ‘sees’ me?
That’s because as Yudit had told me many years ago, I’m not a child anymore. I don’t need my mother to hug and soothe me. I no longer need her support and advice on how to manage the plot beats of my day-to-day. I’m an independent grown-up.
I’ve come of age.
Anyway, as Yudit used to remind me, I can choose to think that, partly through karmically-induced, partly through unconscious self-sacrifices of sorts, my mother has modelled for me everything that one should ‘never’ do, say or think. She showed me the pain and the sense of separation and isolation that a complete focus on the self can bring.
Leading by example, she did, in her own unique way.
In doing so, she has forced me to become a resilient, autonomous and independent-thinking being who has learnt to connect, not only to her heart space but to Soul, the one whose guidance, should we care to hear it, keeps us on the most beneficial track possible throughout any lifetime.
So, on this day in April 2021, at the age of 67 & 3/4, I should be able to gently look into my mother’s eyes. I should find it in my heart to reply, ‘Maman, you are the best mother I could have had. Thank you. You trained me to be brave like a warrior.’
Or at the very least, I could say, ‘Thank you for being the mother I needed … in this lifetime adventure.’
And, at some point later today, while I am with my mother, I will say just that.
I will say it as the realised, empowered daughter that I have incrementally become.
What’s there to lose, huh?
Bad news: every morning, come 5 AM, even small sounds from the street below, the chirping of birds in the garden, the rustling of the curtains, Myahr’s sleepy tugs on the sheet, they all still fire up the familiar and dreaded tightness in the stomach – and heart palpitations, too.
Still stuck in Code Red mode from dawn to well past dusk.
Carole Claude Saint-Clair©2021
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