Many years ago, when I was living in a yoga ashram, I partnered with one of the long time residents who was going through a divorce. Whenever he got overwrought about what was happening, I would remind him of his training and gently encourage him to use his skills to help ease the anxiety and sadness.
What I am discovering is that my ‘loneness’ is a practice that gets me through the hard times. While I don’t have a formal meditation practice, my solitude is the means by which I center and balance myself. I am a strong and persistent advocate of simplicity and quiet.
The past six weeks have been filled with overwhelming challenges, but as they arise, a benevolent force helps me cope. Rather than attributing the power of this force to something outside myself, I own it as something inside myself. I acknowledge my intelligence, intuition, and life experience as assets that are far more valuable than money, social status or material possessions.
I am finally seeing my mother as the person she really is, and as the truth breaks through, my lifetime habit of creating idealistic fantasies about her is revealing itself. No matter how brutally cruel or inept a parent might be, a child will still want to put them on a pedestal and worship them.
On a psychic level, I have been helping my mother since I was born. This has drained most of my energy and has made it impossible to own and enjoy my own life. Now, as her physical and mental health deteriorates, I am being called upon “as the daughter” to attend to the myriad array of decisions that must be made. And, following the pattern set down when I was young, she sabotages everything I do.
In a misogynist culture, it is a sad fact that women often mistrust each other and treat each other with disrespect. For over a thousand years in China, mothers bound their own daughters feet, crippling them for life. It is women who perform most of the genital mutilation on young girls.
From my years of studying women’s history, I see my mother and her life from a larger perspective, and this mitigates the pain of some of her betrayals. We are all impacted by social forces that shape our lives in ways that we have no control over. But beyond this, there is the very real personal hurt that perpetuates my sadness.
A few days ago I came home to my sanctuary in the woods. It is a short respite as I have to go back again soon. Since I have been home, I have been deluged with phone calls about her stubbornness. She will not cooperate with anyone, is refusing to eat and called 911 to come and “rescue her” from the board and care home she is in. Today, she will probably be sent back to the ER because she is unmanageable.
The people who call seem to think that I have the ability to reason with her, or to make her behave, but this has never been true. I had them take away her phone and I have turned the ringer off mine. Her situation is out of my control.
Instead of listening to the deafening traffic outside of her almost vacant apartment, I am listening to the early morning cackling of wild turkeys. I had someone do my taxes yesterday (for the very first time) because I did not want to have to think about it. I have blocked calls from my brother who refuses to do anything to help.
As a lone woman, it is my solitude that takes care of me. Sinking into the calming waters of ‘quiet’ is my only refuge. Whatever emotions come up need to be focused on my well-being. I am a sane person in an increasingly chaotic world, and this is something to be proud of and cherish.