May What I Have Written Be Of Service
In 2010, I spent a couple of weeks volunteering at a girls’ orphanage in Udon Thani, a capital city in northeastern Thailand. I arrived as part of a mission trip and I left with a completely different world-view. The realizations that came to me in the months that followed still blow me away.
Of course the girls’ situations were absolutely terrible with many of them rescued from the sex trade and other dark circumstances, or brought to the orphanage by ill or poverty stricken families… many with no blood-family to speak of at all. However, by the tone of my stay there, you would have never guessed it. There was a sisterhood present that exceeds any words that I could possibly ascribe. The girls, ranging from babies to late teenagers, seemed to coexist in relative harmony. They held hands, they laughed, they played with each others’ hair, and they played with mine as well. Their cheer pulled me from a place of self-pity into a place of absolute gratitude, not only for their presence, but for the sisterhood I had cultivated back home.
Prior to my visit, I had a very different view of family and I greatly resented that from which I came. My mother and I had always struggled. This isn’t a poor-me post so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say conditions were adverse to my thriving as a child and I grew up lacking the emotional well-being or behavioral skills to move gracefully through the world. My entire adulthood has been a study on how to live a good life.
After my volunteer stint, I began traveling around the country and basking in the glow of my newfound lightness. One day I posted some pictures of my experiences on Facebook and received a very nasty message from my mother criticizing my appearance, along with some other aspects of my being. Visibly shaken, two girls that I was touring around with and had gotten to know quite well asked me what was wrong. I read them the message verbatim and the horror-shocked looks on their faces were enough to startle me into the realization that I didn’t need this bull***t in my life anymore.
Seeing the beautiful girls of the orphanage connecting in the face of such adversity made it profoundly clear to me that I had cultivated all the family I needed through a few close friends who, to-this-day and without a doubt, have my back. That was the last communication I had with my mother for the next five years. I blocked her from my phone, Facebook, and email. No longer triggered by out-of-the-blue attacks on my character or appearance, I was able to move into a much healthier emotional space.
In 2015, I received a tragic call from my aunt asking me to meet her in Indianapolis because my mother was in a coma, on life support, and was likely to pass soon. As her only child, the medical staff needed me to make decisions and my aunt needed my love and support. I was terrified to see her again, scared that she would leap from her coma and pull me back into the negativity I had so desperately tried to escape. But I pulled myself together and flew out the next day.
What I encountered was beyond tragic; words will never be able to describe the pain I felt in that room… the pain of our relationship, the pain of my own weaknesses, the pain of watching her dying in front of me. I spent five full days in the room with her telling her that I loved her and that I was sorry for everything we had gone through together. I was sorry for the traumas she had lived through, as well as my own. I forgave her and I apologized for my own inability to cope or be in relationship with the person that she had been.
On the fifth day the doctor asked me to leave, stating that she should have passed on much sooner and it was clear that she was hanging on for me. We had one highly charged day together for each year that we spent apart. On the fifth night, I flew home. She passed away a few hours later at the exact time I had lit a candle and prayed for angels guide her home. The timing of it all was mystical.
As her body has returned to Earth, I have been pulled out of the clouds of my former heady existence and become grounded as well. I have experienced the warmth of her spirit since her death and we are in closer communion than we ever have been. I feel her living within the depths of my own spirit. We are no longer mother and daughter; we are one. I see her now in a way that I was never able to before; I see the light that she was. I love her unconditionally.
In the two and a half years that have passed, I have thought a lot about the five years that we had no contact – I have wondered if I would regret it. While I never had any remorse about it, I kept waiting for it to set in. I have finally concluded that what I did was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time. While it makes no sense to harbor resentment for the destructive relationship (it only hurts you!), it also makes no sense to remain subject to abuse, regardless of the type or who it comes from.
Conditioning by the church and by society at large can make someone in my situation feel shame and guilt for protecting oneself and worse, feel unworthy of love at all. The message is clear: blood is thicker than water, there’s no love like mother’s love, honor thy parents. My entire life, I have felt unworthy of love because I could not feel it from the one source that we are told it should come from unconditionally. I have felt guilty about not wanting certain family relationships because I thought that it echoed to the world that I am cold-hearted, which could not be further from the truth. I was trapped by the messages that I had heard and internalized as “right”.
My mother’s death showed me her true and indestructible spirit, the one that lay below the dysfunctional veil. I am able to see through to what she was truly made of, and not what she simply appeared to be. I’ve realized the deeper and eternal connection that we share beneath the mortal drama.
Given a similar situation now, I would not hesitate to address tense or uncomfortable family ties, even with the possibility of losing the relationship in its current form. I would hold tight to my personal boundaries and sense of self. While the earthly relationship may dissolve, I see through to the spirit that exists in all of us and that is where the connection truly lies. We are one regardless of the drama; cutting ties does not take away from that. It’s a simple release of this mortal illusion – that is all. We come from, and are part of, the same source. My personal philosophy is that…
- Family comes to us in so many forms and we can cultivate this energy in our lives by actively connecting with others through authenticity, loyalty, appreciation, generosity, care, and attention.
- Tending to those in your life, “family” or not, who are loving and receptive bears more nourishing fruit.
- There is no reason to remain subject to abuse or neglect in exchange for worldly validation. Real validation comes from the simple fact that you are a child of God. There is nothing required of you to receive it.
- This doesn’t mean that you have to forget about the more challenging people in your life; send them love and healing vibes from afar. This will, in turn, heal you.
- While the pain of a lost earth-bound connection may exist, acceptance of what is – the actuality of the situation – can help us to move past this.
- The grace of God enters our hearts through these very wounds, if we are willing.
- It’s time to let go of that which doesn’t serve us, that which keeps us trapped in false social beliefs and negative patterns.
Please keep in mind that this is only my personal philosophy and I am not here to destroy relationships. Your personal boundaries and emotional tools are yours alone and can only be determined by you. I simply share my story because I believe I would have not felt so alone in my distress had I run into someone else giving voice to this. I pray that what I have written here is of service to anyone who may need these words and my only intention is to promote harmony in the world.
To read about my experience while at the orphanage, please see my post: Feeling The Love.
I love you.