Thursday, May 8, 2014

Motherhood, Monsterhood, and Mercy

I get a little testy this time of year. Mother's Day isn't a happy day for me.

Those of you who know me well know that my upbringing was one of those things that on the surface, looked really good ... unless you lived inside the four walls of my home. Motherhood sometimes looked like washing my face and hands when I was sick, making our favorite meals on our birthdays, singing together in the car, and many other meaningful memories. 

But motherhood so easily morphed into monsterhood. And I never knew when I might push that switch that made mother into monster. Because I knew, as sure as I knew my own name, that it must be my fault. Because she told me it was while she was beating me. And then she'd show me the bruises on her hands and blame me for hurting her with my misbehaviour. It was sick and twisted and yet, I thought everyone went through this. So I never bothered questioning it. And I deluded myself into thinking I had it pretty good.

Drawing "Sketch Of Woman Crying" courtesy of
luigi diamanti at

For quite a few years, once I actually admitted to myself that it all happened (denial can be an idyllic place sometimes) I was very angry. I firmly believed that Mother's Day was a farce, a cruel joke played on those who had monsters for mothers. And quite frankly, for years I robbed my children of the joy of honouring me as their mother because ... because I couldn't honour mine. That part of me was too hurt, too wounded. I got to the place where I WANTED to forgive her. But I couldn't. It just wasn't in me

I thought (because I was raised to think this) that forgiveness was sweeping it all under the rug, saying, "Oh that's all right." That it was making excuses, like what happened wasn't really all that bad. And I couldn't bring myself to believe that it wasn't "all that bad." Because it WAS. Nobody would believe me - and many people still don't - but living life in a war zone on constant air-raid status and never knowing when a physical ambush was going to happen, or when an emotional atom bomb was going to drop ... is considered a "type A stressor" - one of the chief elements in the development of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And yes, I do have some symptoms of that illness.

And then, 5 years ago, I got into therapy. That was the beginning. Through the course of the next several months, I learned what forgiveness was, what it wasn't, and how to do it. (Mind you, DOING it took some time and in some areas, it's still going on!) I learned that forgiveness is a process. That it is okay to say something is wrong even after you forgive the act, because forgiveness is meaningless unless the act it forgives was wrong in the first place! I learned that it is okay to not put yourself in a position to be hurt by that person in that way again ... because forgiveness does not require the person being forgiven to change or even to be sorry!! The hardest forgiveness to grant is when the person doesn't change, will never change, and calls you a liar for suggesting he or she even did something wrong. And other people believe that person because ... because they don't want to believe that he or she could do something that heinous. It would change the way they think about that person, and they aren't willing to "go there." So instead, they judge you.

Mercy, according to a popular definition, is not treating someone the nasty way they deserve to be treated, but rather, being kind to that person. 

Mercy is the end result of forgiveness. Notice I said the END result. The beginning - for humans - isn't quite so pretty. And neither is the middle. Nobody wants to talk about those parts because they're messy. There are a lot of unresolved emotions and unpleasant feelings. But they are necessary feelings. Everyone wants to hear about the end result, the kindness you are able to show to someone who has made it their life's work to screw you up, all the time believing she was "raising you right." It's hard to be in the middle of dealing with that and tell someone you are going through a "forgiveness process" and having that person look at you like you have three heads. "Just forgive her," is the unspoken attitude. "Just make the decision and do it." But - like I said - the decision is only the first step. The feelings are still there and they need to be validated, experienced (not suppressed), processed, and then let go. The whole process is long and laborious - yes, hard work.

But it is possible. And it takes time.

Last year, as Mother's Day dawned, I pretty much "shut down." I isolated: I holed up at home and didn't go out all day. It was a horrible feeling, watching others (on Facebook) lauding their mothers and knowing that I never could ... not in that way ... and I was thoroughly miserable. My kids and my husband figuratively tiptoed around and barely even dared mentioning to me that it was Mother's Day. I'd gotten to forgiveness, but ... I hadn't gotten to a place of mercy. I wasn't trying to make her pay me back anymore. But I wasn't actively being kind either.

And then ... my youngest daughter died about five months after that. Perspectives changed; a LOT of perspectives changed. Miracles happened - in relationships, mostly. And I got to do a lot of thinking about that next step: mercy. I'd been so stuck on proving that there was monsterhood ... that I didn't realize that the way back to celebrating motherhood again was through mercy. 

So this year, I'm planning a little trip to visit an old woman who has forgotten most of what she put me through, and who feels justified in all of it. And I'll take a little gift for her to remember her (now deceased) mother and her grandmother by: a little corsage of two white carnations to wear in their honour (a tradition where I grew up) to Sunday morning church on the second Sunday of May. 

And oh yes. I'm also having a corsage made for me - with a white carnation and a red one - the first to honour my grandmother and the second ... my mother.

It's a start.


  1. God has a way of using all things to grow, change and purify us. Prayers for you, through the weekend.

  2. Thanks Terry. The visit went well. Mom liked the corsage (she cried. Situation normal, lol) and I got a chance to "jam" musically with my brothers and my hubby. First time ever that the 4 of us did that. :D