Dear Ima

Filed under [ Parenting, Self ]

Dear Ima,

Ours was not always the warm, loving relationship it is today.  I remember vividly the day it changed for me.  It was a week before Leor and I were due to leave Germany.  Freddie needed to stay behind for another month and there was so much I needed to do to get our things in order for the move.

Busy packing and caring for Leor, I heard a knock on the door.  There you were, beaming, when I opened the door.  At first thinking I was dreaming, I stood there shocked.  Once my mind registered that it was truly you and not a vision, I screeched in joy.  You decided to come help me with the move without informing me.  I remember shaking for several hours, unable to comprehend this remarkable gesture.   Something inside me shattered.  At the time I could not process it, but I knew something big had altered regarding my perception of you.

The reason I was so floored, other than your surprising me of course, is because you had just been here three months ago to assist me with Leor’s birth.  Having you with me before, during and after his birth, was a G-d Sent.   You cooked your gourmet food, helped me clean the apartment, and cared for your first grandson so that I could catch some sleep.  Your comforting presence, your loving wisdom and direction, eased this wonderful, yet unsettling time in my life.  By the time you left two weeks after Leor’s birth, I was more confident to take on the role of motherhood.  It was hard seeing you leave, but I knew I would be back home in three months.

Now here you were again, coming to my assistance.  Needless to say, your aid and support facilitated the move – particularly the flight home – I don’t know how I would have done it without you.  Traveling, alone, with a three month old, suitcases, and a slew of emotional baggage from leaving Germany and starting anew in the States, was more than I could handle.  Having you, my mother, by my side, I was shattered by your love.

I say shattered, because it was not until I got home, found a place to live, and settled in to our new life, that the magnitude of your actions hit me.  You see my whole life I thought you didn’t love me.  Until the day you showed up at the door, I was living with the perception that I didn’t matter to you.  You always took care of my physical needs, but I never felt your emotions, your heart.  I needed to be held, heard, played with, taught patiently – I needed you to understand my fears, my dreams, my longing to be connected, to belong.  There were so many times I felt invisible, disposable, lonely and isolated.  At times when I needed you most, like when I was sick, instead of comforting or soothing me, you and Aba would get angry and scream, not only at me, but at my brother and sister as well.  You could not stand to hear us cough. We used to cough into a pillow for fear that you may hear us and go into one of your fits.

It wasn’t until I was seven years old that I learned that I had an older brother who died from some illness when he was three years old.  I learned it from Safta, you and Aba never spoke about it.   It finally made sense why you reacted so violently toward us when we got sick.  And while a part of me understood, being a child, I still needed you.  Your loss permeated our lives in ways which I would only understand much later in life.

Upon my return to the States, at 20 years of age, I was confronted with the contradiction arising out of your incredible tenderness and sensitivity toward me.  I could no longer hold to my perspective that you didn’t love me.  I began to sit with those feelings, challenging to fit them into the present day reality.  As I was working on this issue, you continued to demonstrate affection and concern for my well being on a whole new level.  I started letting your love in, receiving you in a way I never knew was possible.   Finally, after a year of working through this issue, I was ready to fully let go of the past and embrace your love.

I needed to do one more thing though.  I needed to share my feelings with you in order to release them.  They needed to be voiced, heard, acknowledged and discharged.  When I told you I needed to speak with you about my feelings regarding my childhood, you were completely open.  I knew I had no intention of blaming you or making you wrong, I just needed to express my feelings so that my little girl could feel heard by you.  I held no anger or resentment, only great pain.  I didn’t have any expectations other than speak my heart.

I remember how scared I was just before I began.  We were sitting at the dinning room table, which was somewhat comforting because it represented a place of nourishment.  I started gingerly, first sharing with you where I was coming from before I began to give you my experiences as I perceived them.  As I got into the feelings of abandonment and loneliness, you started to deny my reality and gave me yours.  This was very painful, but I reiterated that I was not here to make you wrong; I just needed you to hear my little girl.  You quickly caught on and just listened.  I tearfully spilled all that was in me; my pain, my anger, my loneliness, my sadness, my fear; I told you how ugly I felt compared to my older sister; I expressed how angry I was that you made me do most of the household chores while my siblings didn’t have to do any; I shared my belief that you did not want me when I was born.    I know how uncomfortable all this was for you, but you stayed with me – patiently allowing it all to come out, and come out, and come out.

When I was done, you expressed genuine regret over how I felt.  You assured me that there was not a cell in your body that meant to hurt me or make me feel unloved.  You spoke of your own deprived childhood, being raised by a blind mother and then taken away from her at the age of 11 to live in a group home after your father died, leaving your mother destitute and unable to care for her children.  You recounted how Aba married when you were only 15 and how inexperienced and ignorant you were about raising children.  I could feel your pain – your little girl, deprived of a tender, safe, loving environment.  I heard you, I felt you, I cried for you, I cried for me.  Everything fell into place.  I truly got how you were a victim of your own difficult childhood and its effect on all of us.

I felt my body release all the sorrow, heartache and fear.  At that moment, we were no longer just mother and child; we were two human beings in the presence of life – with all its tragedies and pain.  Compassion, forgiveness and gratitude enveloped me.   A lightness arose in me; a sense of closure.  I left your home knowing that our relationship had been transformed forever.

Ima, over the last three decades, I have come to know and understand you more and more with each passing day.  Your openness to having that discussion with me, has allowed me to see you through another lens.  While you will always be my mother, our conversation afforded me to truly get to know you – not through the screen of a wounded child- rather from an honest and real place where two hearts meet. Consequently, I have come to see and experience the real you; a woman who goes out of her way to help others in need.  a compassionate soul who cries when she sees and hears other’s suffering; an elder who imparts her wisdom without judgment; an entertainer and a comedian who brings laughter and joy to others; a playful child who wants to be seen and adored; an amazing wife who supports her husband through and through; an incredible grandmother who lives to see her grandchildren happy – a complete woman who has profoundly touched every life that crossed her path.

Additionally, our conversation freed me to integrate my healed child, fully taking on responsibility for how I am being in the world.  This was and still is not easy.  Many of my feelings and thoughts, ingrained in me in my childhood, are still running me unconsciously.  I constantly have to be vigilant to catch them and confront them so that I am not controlled by them.  Every time a fear arises, I look to see what its real origin is.  Almost always it has to do with some old fear of rejection, abandonment or not looking good, rarely does it have much to do with the situation that is actually confronting me at a time.  This awareness has afforded me the opportunity to continue to confront my fears, transcending them, rather than being stopped by them.  As a result, I have had the fortune of faithfully pursuing my goals, my visions, thereby, discovering my true self.

I have a long way to go; clearly this is a lifetime process of discovery.  But because I have been able to accept my responsibility for my life, it is with great humility and appreciation of how challenging it is to be human, that I have committed to be fully present in receiving it all – the pain and joy, the despair and hope, the ignorance and knowledge, the anxiety and peace, the judgment and acceptance, the anger and forgiveness, the greed and generosity, the isolation and connection, the hate and love, the animal and God – we are all of that.  This awareness presents me with choices; I can act unconsciously and serve my lower self, or I can honor all that is inside me and choose to come from my higher Self.

Ima, our relationship was the impetus for this journey which I have consciously chosen to take.  I cannot imagine a greater gift one can receive than this one.  As a mother myself, there is nothing more I would want for my child.

I am happy, I love my life.

Ani ohevet otach,

Ronit

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