Expanding Mother's Day Joy

Simone's stomach tightened as she flipped open yet another card. She just couldn't find the right one. She winced as she read the "gooey" Mother's day messages. "I can't send these cards. It's all lies," she told herself, shaking her head in disbelief. Her shoulders sagging with the frustration, she headed for the parking lot, empty-handed.Another Mother's Day was passing. Without a card. Simone desperately wanted to love her Mom like she thought everyone else did. Her anger thinly masked the hurt -- the years of arguing, misunderstanding, and feeling cheated out of the one gift everybody is supposed to have -- a loving, nurturing Mother.Mother's Day is a day of remembering and celebrating -- a day of shining the light on the good that moms do each day with little fanfare. Most of us don't struggle as painfully as Simone with this annual ritual. But when we're honest, perhaps there is some disappointment or holding back in our salute to our moms. This was true for me for a long time, until I got some help and a new attitude about my mom.As an adult, visits home to see mom for many years were mixed. I wanted desperately to enjoy being with her. Instead I often felt anxious and a little depressed making the 2 hour drive "home". Unconsciously I was preparing myself for repeats of some unpleasant childhood experiences. While there, everything was cordial, but I didn't feel the love for my mom I wanted to feel.I tried prayer. I asked for forgiveness for my part in past hurts between mom and me. I tried to see the past from her point of view and let go of old resentments. Nothing seemed to change this uncomfortable feeling. I learned that old hurts don't always heal through thinking or praying about them. Other actions are needed.Last month my 19 year old daughter performed her first solo dance recital. My mom and dad were there, the proudest grandparents in the world. I was relaxed and happy to share this happy event with my parents and family. My discomfort around my mom was gone. What changed? If your relationship with your mom isn't quite the way you'd like it, here are some suggestions to consider:1) Alter expectationsAs much as we joke about Ozzie and Harriet or The Cosby's, many of us hold onto a secret longing for a perfect family and perfect parents. They don't exist. We are all human with a mix of wonderful attributes and little twists and imperfections. We must face the reality of our family, accept it as is, and adjust our expectations accordingly.2) Express hurts and disappointmentsUnexpressed resentments fester and spread like cancer. The biggest block to my prayer being answered was denial of old hurts and anger. I didn't realize how much energy and power was lost avoiding pain. Difficulties in relationships with parents tend to repeat themselves in other relationships. Finding a safe person and place to express those feelings unlocked my love and released disillusionment. A trusted friend who can detach, a self-help or support group or a therapist or minister are among the many possibilities for appropriately dealing with old hurts.3) If pain persists, seek professional help.We deserve a loving relationship with our moms, whether they are alive or dead. We can only control our part of the relationship. If the hurt and pain is long standing, it will interfere with our ability to love other significant persons in our lives. Professional help is encouraged if pain persists. Emotional pain isn't much different than a tooth ache. Most of us would ignore a tooth ache for only so long. Emotional hurts tend to be ignored much longer, at great cost in missed opportunities for loving, joyful experiences at home and work.4) Pray for your mom every day for 2 weeksPrayer does work in conjunction with owning and expressing all of our feelings. There is great power in praying or wishing for the very best for mom ( or anyone we have a troubled relationship with). Ask God (or however you express positive thoughts for others) to bless and give your mom everything she wants and needs. Persist in this prayer every day for at least two weeks even though initially this may feel fake and dishonest. Miracles can happen! (And if they don't right away, at least you're not feeding the negative thoughts.)5) Hold the positionMy daughter's ballet instructor many years ago repeatedly encouraged her with "Hold the position". "I'll catch you either way", she'd add. "You make my job and yours a lot easier if you let go and simply hold the position." Letting go of the results from our efforts to heal and holding the high ground of our desire to love our mom, just as she is, moves us towards that reality.When I felt mixed as to my feelings about my mom, it was very hard to say or write "I love you." I wanted to. But anxiety and unrecognized disappointments got in the way. Like Simone, buying a Mother's Day card was torturous for me. After getting some help and praying for Mom, our relationship began to improve. I was able to speak up and say what I wanted or felt. I didn't fear her control. Holidays and Mother's day became much more pleasant.Occasionally, however, old feelings return. Not as strong, but I feel off balance. When I remember to repeat the ballet teacher's mantra to myself -- "Hold the position" -- uncomfortable feelings diminish and pass. The position I want to hold is that of love -- for my mom and for all those I care about. Love is bigger than pain and disappointments. In my experience though, action is required to cooperate with and to accept love and its power. With practice, love grows.If you have mixed feelings about Mother's Day this year, consider trying some of these tips. Don't be surprised if next year Mother's Day is even more pleasant.

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