Despite sleeping well, and the cats letting me sleep until 8AM, I felt a little anxious this morning. Thanksgiving marked one year since my Mother died. The first of December a year since I actually found out. With the strange way the news around my Mother's death unfolded last year it isn't too surprising that I think of her death as being in December. I thought about it for some reason this morning, realizing that Thanksgiving, the blues I felt coming on right afterward, ties up closely to her last act of malice against me.
With CK being away visiting her Mom for some early Christmas celebrating, I decided that unless I felt poorly I would do a little community scouting this morning. I went to church. Not just church, I went to an Episcopal church. That's the faith I was nominally brought up in and am baptized in. We were not regular members of any church, I suppose the one I went to most often was the one my Grandmother belonged to. The rest of the time it was largely related to Christmas and Easter.
The nearby church I picked called out diversity on their website, with rainbows, so I was hopeful. I found an open and welcoming community with visibly queer members; I stayed for a cup of tea. When I stopped saying "spouse" and switched to "wife" no one really blinked an eye. Perhaps I needed a year to pass from my Mother's death before setting foot in a church, some distance from the increasingly narrow, judgmental, supposedly Christian beliefs became.
In the time since I came out to her, my Mother went from standing up for me in front of people (or so she told me she did, who knows, really), to manipulating long-time family friends through their "faith-based homophobia" to gain allies. Telling people how she tolerated my lifestyle. Now imagine your whole life being like that. I would go from the novelty of being interesting and attention-getting for my Mother, to being reviled by her, getting her the attention for denouncing her daughter.
I was washing my face this morning when I had a clear flash of the last eye-to-eye contact I had with my Mother, in a hospital room northwest of our home. The look she gave me was one I'd seen on her face before, always directed at other people, when her plans to cause suffering would bear their fruit of ill-will. She looked at me with a blend of malice, triumph, and satisfaction, the hint of a smile on her face. It was terrifying.
Coming to terms with all the kinds of abuse she either visited upon me personally, or facilitated, or turned away from because to protect me would be too much for her. I honestly struggle still with the shame of it all, it is a daily effort to remind myself that I no longer have to carry shame adults thrust upon me, becoming another kind of abuse. Between the shame and having a hard time trusting, I feel like I make a lot of really foolish mistakes in relationships. Mistakes I feel that somehow, at 47, I really should have grown out of by now.
Despite that terrifying look on my Mother's face burning in my brain, or perhaps because of it, I thrust myself out of the house and off to church by myself this morning. I rewarded myself, and the dogs, by walking in the mud and wet through the nearby woods. I did some much needed cleaning tasks and stocked up on food for the dogs and cats, just in case the forecast of possible snow comes true. It has been good, but tiring day and I might just curl up in bed with some light reading.
Realizing I haven't posted since my birthday. I had a bit of a slump around my birthday, just spent some downtime, teaching classes and resting on many levels.
I've since been regrouping on all the tasks to complete after finishing my Advanced training in Integrated Movement Therapy, seeing clients, having meetings with my mentor, writing. Then it was October, which arrived uncharacteristically wet. We were overwhelmed with garden produce, unable to get to a lot of it processed.
A guest in October left leaving us feeling exhausted and anxious. About the time it felt like my energy was picking up, well the election happened. The next day each of my three yoga classes had students crying in them, which was a lot of energy to contain and hold gently, tenderly. I was exhausted utterly at the end of that day, the next morning I awoke with a fever and sore throat. That quickly turned into a hacking cough. Missed classes, came back to teaching too soon, relapsed and ended up missing out on the first real rest and treat I'd planned for myself at a yoga & art retreat out at the Oregon Coast.
I'll be wrapping up the last of my to-do items before applying to my internship, I'm not too far off my original goals for my program. I'm grateful to have been able to keep focused on this goal while at the same time working on completing my business plan. This week I'm submitting my application for a small seed grant for starting my business, which I'll be using to pay for internship costs. Things are coming together nicely even with needing some downtime around my birthday.
I'm trying to keep focused on all the I've been getting done, because once again this year November has rolled in with rain, dark, and some serious blues.
Trying to be gentle with myself. November and December bring together the anniversaries of 3 deaths: My Dad (step-father) died in December 2000, the a little over 11 months later my biological father died in November 2011. Next month also marks the first year since my Mother died last December. The year my Mother did her best to blow up our lives, that all started in November, continuing on through into the New Year. When I keep in perspective that these last two months of the year have just held a lot of grief.
Which means this year won't be the year the blues don't stroll on into my life in November. Another year of practicing appreciating what I am getting done and reminding myself that these blues aren't here forever and in a few weeks the light will slowly begin to return.
All told I've opted for a really quiet birthday this year. We're having a leisurely morning then going on a hike & letterbox hunt at a park not too far from our house. We'll picnic and then come home to garden. It is going to be a pretty wonderful day spent with some of my favorite beings.
I'm celebrating my first birthday since my Mother died this past winter. It has felt at times pretty rough, although given that my last birthday-related communication from her was deliberately hurtful, it is also something of a relief. More steps into this strange, new world where my Mother no longer can hurt me. Still, it has made this birthday seem a little less celebratory in some ways.
In other ways it feels like an enormous milestone. Over the past 16 years I've completely changed my life to live more healthfully and more ethically. I don't have as much of a comparison to my Father's family, since they've always been estranged, but on my Mother's side the later half of the 40s, if not the early half, came with one or more prescriptions for managing heart disease and/or Type II Diabetes. Hypertension, high cholesterol, and dangerously high blood glucose levels all ran in my family. Women tended to die of strokes or some type of heart failure. Obesity was also something that just began to happen after high school. It was the normal behavior for pretty much all the women in my family, always on an endless cycle of dieting, binging, stress-eating, etc.
To be 47 years old, not obese and not on a single medication for heart disease or diabetes is an enormous accomplishment.
Yes, I take daily medications. I take things that help me live with the chronic pain from my back due to degenerative disc disease and I take things to help me manage the anxiety and depression that arise from my C-PTSD. Those and things to further support my overall health, like a daily multivitamin! That's it though, and that is something that my Mother would make out as if I'd performed some kind of miracle instead of giving me the credit for working really very hard indeed to change my life, to steer myself toward health.
In a way I don't think I'd ever thought I'd be here now. Bigger than the still daily shock of recalling that I stopped working in tech nearly 3 years ago. I really doubted my health for so many years, internalizing my Mother's never-ending medical crises until I started to believe that I was next, I'd get cancer and die. I'd have a heart attack. I'd get congestive heart failure too.
Yet here I am.
I'm still figuring out how to engage around doing work with other people, which still feels challenging to get back into but I'm slowly learning the boundaries of my ability to work on projects again. I'm at a point now that I don't think I really could go back into the stress of the kind of tech work I did for nearly 2 decades, even very occasional meetings tends to increase my anxiety. Not that I really want to go back to tech in any way, sometimes I just miss the money and it briefly crosses my mind. That's when I recall the tone of my doctor's voice when she describes my health a few years ago as being in "acute crises" and "on the verge of hospitalization".
I'm learning how to be a business owner, luckily with the help of a program for "dislocated workers" that provides me with free training and support from a business advisor. I'm close to completing my business plan and then can submit it for a small seed grant from the program. I came from such a blue collar family that being a business owner, trying to get my brain around how business works, feels like such an unexpected experience.
So much about my life now is unexpected, not at all what I used to be planning for. 47 sees me watching for sales and trying to do our grocery shopping strategically, cooking more inexpensive meals at home. I am reminded of the frugality, the barest of minimum my Mother and I lived with for long stretches at a time. It isn't always easy and I do miss my tech salary. That said, my life now is so full of richness, wonder, delight, and love. There are so many things I continue to discover are possible when I don't work 50-60 hours a week, including connecting deeply with CK over gardening as well as having time to really appreciate all the things, including beautiful flowers, she brings to my life.
I'm so grateful to be here now, in this life, with this health, and with the support of the loving beings that now surround me. I'm teaching 9-12 Yoga classes a week now and continuing to work towards completing my certification in Integrated Movement Therapy. I'm stretching my confidence slowly in regards to my art, but continue to explore the ideas that come to me as both a way of creating beauty and to let myself use my art as a way to express the journey I've been on as I heal.
Having come all this way through all this welter
Under my own power,
I've earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight called Here and Now.
I've taken liberty a bit with some lines above from a poem by Northwest poet, David Wagoner, "Getting There". It's a poem that has continued to open and unfold for me since discovering it when I was 15 or so. It feels appropriate to put it here again, it has been in my mind the past several days as this birthday approached.
by David Wagoner
You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.
What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.
You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.
Yesterday marked two years since CK and I have been legally wed. This year marks our sixth wedding anniversary, the traditional gifts being candy or iron to signify either sweetness or strength.
Today she's on her way to the Allied Media Conference. Our ability to end up traveling on or around anniversaries has been a constant theme since the first one. The exact dates themselves being less important than our joy in the passing of each year together.
We're living a pretty different life then when we began our married life together. Both of us are now running our own businesses, I'm not even working in tech any longer. We've moved to the far southwest hills of Portland, firmly in the suburbs and enjoying it. We garden even more now, we've adopted two dogs, and we've survived a whole lot of strife.
While this should feel like our season of celebration, this time between the anniversary of our right to legal marriage and the anniversary of our joining our lives together in public ceremony, it feels hard to really celebrate after Sunday's mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The largest mass shooting in United States history, but only the latest incident of violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
The Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī wrote, "Is weeping speech?"
Imagine that every encounter you have with a new person is guarded. Do I talk openly about having a spouse, which could be kept "neutral"? When the new person inevitably refers to my "spouse" as my husband, do I feel safe correcting that person or do I let it slide because I don't have the time or energy to open myself up to possible confrontation? While recently flying with CK the airline staff at the check-in counter checked me in and referred to CK as, "Mr. K.", making both assumptions about gender, perhaps just not fully paying attention. Given the tension and stress in airports, was it worth our time and the potential for greater consequences to correct that person about gender, calling out that we're queer? Am I going to lose students if they find out my spouse is a "wife", not a "husband"?
We're lucky, far luckier than many. We live in a pretty liberal city, we're not the only queer people in our neighborhood, we're white, and we have a lot of access to things that make life easier. CK's family loves and accepts us fully. We have a multitude of friends who believe in us and love us. That said, we're grateful for two dogs that bark a lot in addition to a security system.
Imagine that every single day you wake up to the knowledge that there are not only countries in the world where you could be killed for loving who you love, but that there parts of the country you don't feel entirely safe traveling. When CK and I travel, within the country we are both citizens of, we often carry copies of a durable power of attorney for each of us, just to ensure that we would be able to help the other in the event of a medical crises. Imagine making that part of your pre-travel check-list.
Imagine that every single day you walk against a society where people think it is a bigger tragedy that more people like you weren't killed. You might say that this is just one, isolated, extremist preacher, but I have absolutely no doubt that there are people who share his opinion.
That's every day if you're queer. Maybe that's all you've got to carry. You are white and male. You felt accepted, valued, and loved by your family. You had friends and fit in at school. You went to college, graduated, found a satisfying career, found joy in the love of another person....
Stop there. because once you start expressing that your love for another person does not fit within the norms of society you stop feeling valued and accepted. Yes, maybe your friends, family, and boss accept you, value you, but you spend every day knowing that a significant part of society condemns you over who you love. That's the best case scenario if you live in a country that doesn't outlaw your very existence.
Just try to imagine that as the best case scenario. Most people don't have it that way. They don't experience an easy time at school, they struggle to try and fit in, they're not male or white, and they lacked the kind of resources that made getting an education and higher paying career possible.
Now imagine you grew up in a family that derided you, abused you physically, made fun of you, called you names, perpetuated verbal sexual abuse that filled you with shame and self-loathing, made you question yourself constantly, and left you feeling worthless. Imagine that every day you make your way forward, working for good in the world, fighting against the ingrained belief that you are a failure, a disappointment.
That kind of family of origin and the daily weight of homophobia is my everyday experience. I'm a queer woman from a toxic family. My Mother went to her deathbed telling people sadly about my "lifestyle" and making sure I knew that I owed her everything since I was lucky she didn't "get rid of" me.
Today I spent 15 minutes weeping in my van in a parking garage in downtown Portland. Struck with overwhelming feelings of failure, worthlessness, and self-loathing and trying to take in a beautiful email from my teacher telling me how much pride she has in work I've done. Some days are like that. The Buddha's last instruction* was to make a light of ourselves, to shine so that others might also find a way to liberate themselves from suffering.
Some days it is hard to be a light in a dark world.
A friend of mine posted the following (added emphasis is mine) and I think it sums up how I'm feeling today.
I'm so tired. Thank you to the allies who are raising the hard conversations ... I don't have the heart for it right now. I see you challenging friends, family, the media, and it matters to see your support. Please find a way to sustain that passion. Thank you to the few people who are gun owners who have said you don't need an automatic weapon to hunt or protect your families. You're right, but I do not have it right now to fight that fight. And thank you to the people who care enough to say, "are you okay?" Keep saying that - not just to me, of course, but for our collective healing, our humanity. It's not okay that we have to watch this turmoil, it's not okay that many of us have faced threats, exclusion, and judgment - for years and years, not just because of this. This event rips the scabs off of our hearts, to be sure - but this is bigger than that. Are we okay? Start asking that. We are not. Collectively, humanity really needs a reality check. Get the fuck over yourselves and be part of the solution. Don't pray for me, stand next to me. Don't insulate yourself, be uncomfortable with difference. Don't allow politicians to fuel divisive hate - all for personal gain ... check them. Tell them it's not okay. There are plenty of opportunities, find them. But most of all, don't forget these moments of horror and be comfortable again next week.
Please. Don't get comfortable. Don't go numb.
Speak up, stand up, walk beside us. Don't forget this with the next excitement that comes in the news cycle.
*The Buddha’s Last Instruction
by Mary Oliver
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal — a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire —
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
Last year CK was out of town on Mother's Day, to help me through what has become a sad holiday for me, I invited people over for tomato soup and grilled cheese. I got out coloring books, colored pencils, puzzles, and other crafty things. It was a quiet gathering, but full of love.
This year was still hard, particularly since it is the first Mother's Day since she's died. I was grateful CK was home and we spent the sunny day working out in the garden together, had dinner out, and watched a show. Instead of Mother's Day, I have suggested that instead we celebrate "Resiliency Day". CK has pointed out we could celebrate "Dog / Cat Mom's Day", which is true, but I like the idea of a day acknowledging our resiliency, really celebrating it.
Maybe it is just a day where we do nice things for ourselves, like my day of grilled cheese and tomato soup with coloring books. This past Sunday I took a lot of pleasure in tearing out some landscaping cloth and moving rocks as part of a project to reclaim a space to grow veggies in; it made me feel connected to my strength.
That's the whole point of celebrating resiliency; celebrating our strength and our creativity in surviving.
I'd love to see this idea grow. How we can take a holiday that has become painfully associated, like Mother's Day has for me, and instead use it to celebrate how our creativity, flexibility, and strength helped us to survive, possibly even thrive despite considerable disadvantages.
That's my plan at least. I'll celebrate Resiliency Day on any of the dates that give me a bit of a crash. Taking dates, like my Mother's birthday, where it is hard not to be pulled down into anger and grief, and instead focus on how I continue to make changes to live in a way that breaks the generational abuse cycle.
Today is National Poetry Day, which I find a little odd since Poetry Month, April, is nearly here. Without looking too much into it, I've decided I'll participate in both. I'm hoping to start up my annual spring challenge of 30 - poems - in - 30 - days, next month to celebrate the whole month.
I gaze westward into the
Golden light of the late afternoon.
Smiling to see the geese
Setting up home in the grasses.
The sunlight streams in sideways,
Glimmering and glowing in the water.e sime
Twilight is falling.
Later, darkness has fallen and I
No longer see the wet, brackish water,
But I hear the gentle honking of the geese,
Settling into sleep, and the symphony of
Frogs, hundreds of them, thousands perhaps.
I slow my pace home to linger and listen.
This past Saturday would have been my Mother's 73rd birthday. It made the week feel a little fragmented, but I was upfront with people about it. With CK's encouragement I made it off to the Collage Guild meet-up and worked on a few pieces, including this one that veered off the month's theme project quite a bit and is still in process.
In the evening I went over and saw a friend I've not seen in many years. She's moved many times, in pursuit of her studies in medicine, and because I have a hard time getting out. She had a clothing swap Saturday evening and I arrived with a backup plan to ditch my clothes and leave, but ended up staying 2 hours, enjoying the company, and scored some great new-to-me clothing.
Perhaps it is the returning light and the cherry blossoms, but I feel as though I weathered the "bump" of that birthday milestone without too much difficulty. Yes, some extra encouragement was asked for and given.
It is becoming easier to think of her as really dead. That's been part of the pain caused by how she planned her death, and my exclusion from it, just this surreal sense of not believing she's really gone and I'll never see her again. It is getting easier to hold onto this reality.
Two boxes of her personal property were sent to me by way my Mother's old pastor. I was teaching and asked him to leave them on the porch since I wouldn't be away long, also saving CK from the need to interact with him. I found myself somewhat baffled as to why I was sent many of the things the people going through her belongings chose to send me.
In the meantime, I'm waiting for my right shoulder to heal so I can start digging up the soggy earth of our yard. The plan is to move several rose bushes, at our house and some from a friend's house, from shady locations to the front edge of our front yard. I have a goal of roses, dahlias, and lots of differing spring bulbs forming a natural border between the road and our yard. For the moment I need the rain to let up a little, buy a lawn destruction tool, and get my shoulder improved so I can use it. There's also a plan for a blueberry bed for the 3 plants we currently have in big nursery pots.
All that and I'm four weeks into a training program for new business entrepreneurs. I was accepted to a pilot program that provides training and other resources to people who are starting a new business after being unable to return back to their old job. Leaving my old company ill and unable to sleep, and told by my doctor to not go back, ever, qualifies me for a lot of support.
I'm writing a business plan, working on a marking plan, defining my services and customer personae. It is a whole new world to me, I feel like my to-do list for Samatha Yoga grows every week I'm taking this workshop! It is pretty exciting to be exploring actual business planning protocols to my ideas around teaching yoga.
Those weeks stretching long into the cold, darkness of winter, after I found out my Mother had died, just seem to dull the light inside of me. I don't feel fully restored, still yet healing and grieving in bigger ways too, but I feel more of a sense of equilibrium instead of the flat apathy the news brought.
Just recently the dogs seem to have gone beyond just mild friendship, which is to say that Dora not trying to angrily bite Bertie's face off. Yes, she still bites his lips, only now she does it while wagging her tail with excitement and joy while she does it. We've also seen snuggling happening.
Yesterday was the memorial for my Mother. She didn't want me invited, didn't even want me informed of her death on November 24, 2015. As it was, I was informed a week after she'd already died. Already been cremated. Already had her dog taken to another home. Already done, all of it.
I though about going. Really explored if defying her last wishes and showing up to bear witness to her life would in any way heal the depth of pain I have felt at the many ways she used isolation and cutting me off from contact with others as a form of punishment. I considered the cost of going to such a hostile environment, populated by people who supported my Mother, believed the things she'd say about me, and shared the profound homophobia she cultivated in her last year and a half of her life, and decided that all that stacked against a chance, a slim one at that, of any kind of healing or growth. One might hope that perhaps she knew how miserable her memorial would be for me to attend and asked me not attend out of compassion for me, however, that isn't the case. It was intended as punishment for my being a disrespectful daughter.
Instead, we stayed home and worked on chores, read, and I ended up going to bed early. At the time my Mother's memorial was due to start I decided was the perfect time for my daily Sadhana. I lit the candles, rang the bells, lit the incense. I took a deep breath and was struck with how to focus my intention to honor my Mother's memory.
71 full bows for every year she lived. A last bow for the year that wasn't finished. Then I sat with a photo I'd come across of her as a young girl with her sister. I was struck at how left out she looks, how unhappy in comparison to the glowing smile and gleaming curls of my Aunt. The toxic family behaviors seen in this photo. I suspect my Mother might be around the age I was when I first realized I couldn't trust anyone in my family to take care of me.
Today marks 49 days since her death. It wasn't her belief at all, but to me this time represents her journey across the Bardo. Since those bows and all day today I've focused my hope that she move onto a better life. A life where she is able to feel the love around her, where she is able to feel contentment, where she is able to play at the game of joy without a single stumble.
The Beginning of Grief
I made 72 bows
For her life.
Fast, at first,
On the flow
Of the breath.
Slower as the
The last 12 requiring
Multiple breaths each.
Then sitting, breathing in.
Feeling the blood moving,
The muscles responding
To the sudden burst of
Breath and movement.
Willing myself to
Let her go,
Let her be
Then 49 days
Pass by and
I feel like I am
For the feeling
Has finally left.
**Photo taken by myself of an art installation by Sarah Jane.
So far the New Year has brought sleeping dogs, which is a big improvement since Bertie the Bulldog arrived in June unexpectedly.
Snow, at least for a few hours. Long enough for a two+ mile walk to, and around a nearby park.
Bertie's first experience with snow was pretty awesome. He particularly likes snowballs.
Soon after we got home from that walk the freezing rain started, leaving us with old Portland folks might call a Silver Thaw. It inspired this first poem of the New Year:
Ice envelops all.
Winter’s chill embrace lingers.
Swaying trees murmur.
Thankfully, by the time I needed to teach my first class of the year, I was able to safely drive. My current schedule of classes around the Portland Metro area can be found on the Samatha Yoga site.
I will be heading back up to Plain, Washington, later in the month to attend a contemplative retreat lead by my teacher. It will be truly snowy; I'm looking forward to photographing the beautiful Grunewald Guild in the winter. Having already photographed summer and autumn, I'll have to think about a trip in the spring to complete a year of seasons!
Before I leave for the Guild, I'll hopefully pick up new glasses. My distance vision hasn't change that much, but my reading vision is showing my age even if I do still get carded once in a while. I've found frames, apparently made by an Italian designer who has Sir Elton John among their customers. This time the eye doctor, in discussing what they call my "photophobic eyes" (so nice to feel like I'm not making up my light sensitivity for the sake of melodrama), is suggesting a rose tint instead of yellow. That as well as a coating to filter out blue and UV. Should be much more soothing. I'm amused that I will indeed be wearing "rose colored glasses" when they're ready!
2016 will bring more teaching, new yoga classes and workshops in the works! I'll be working on my certification in Integrated Movement Therapy and my goal is to be done by the end of this year! I'm excited to continue to learn and grow into my path as a healer and teacher. I'm also hoping to attend the Northwest Yoga Conference in early March.
Some fun stuff too, as well as the intention for CK and I to do more fun adventures together. In May we'll be in Los Angeles to see The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl, which is pretty exciting. Discussing making it a road trip, camping in the van along our way south.
2015 ended with the news of my Mother's death. I'm not yet ready to write about it publicly. Not too surprisingly, she used even this to find a way to hurt and exclude me.
My Mother died on November 24, 2015.
I was informed via an email from her old pastor on December 1st. It arrived between my teaching two yoga classes.
I usually don't look at email between classes, but CK and I had left dinner plans up in the air and there was the possibility she was going to put in an online order for me to pick up after teaching. So I looked. The subject preview was sufficient for me to have received the news, even before reading the whole of the email.
I spent much of the rest of the week just stunned, feeling unable to take in the news. A morning spent angry with the facility she was in, since I had let them know that when her conditioned worsened to let me know. Then I thought about it a lot and wondered if it was intentional, that the facility had been told not to tell me.
Yesterday I checked back in with the pastor, asking when he'd found out. That perhaps there was some delay due to the holiday? However, the reply that came back confirmed my worst suspicion; that my Mother had demanded that I not be informed.
The family friends that had taken over care decisions for my Mother informed him the day she died and included a stern reminder that he abide by her wishes to not tell me. He told me that he talked about it a lot with his wife and prayed even more on it, and then finally decided that it was the greater sin for me to be kept in the dark and emailed me. I've since inquired further and he confirmed that my Mother had made the decision to cut me out of everything several months ago.
I'm not sure which is worse, thinking that people forgot to tell me or knowing that my Mother intentionally left me out of the loop.
The last contact I've had with my Mother was the vicious letter she sent me right before my birthday.
In reviewing the letter, which caused CK to exclaim out loud and go a little pale when she first read it, my therapist and I talked a lot about it. I said back in August that I thought it was another effort to get me to fall back in line and go apologize for ever wanting to live my own life, free from abuse. Instead it only strengthened my resolve to not talk with her.
Now the consequences have been made abundantly clear. If there was ever a human who could figure out how to use their own death to strike out at someone, my Mother was that human. True to form, she has had the absolute last word about our relationship by leaving a directive that I not be informed of her death.
My Mother was a master of grudges. Her last directive about me speaks volumes to the profound suffering she was going through. For her to foster such bitter animosity toward her own daughter is shocking, but true.
I feel all kinds of shame and fear around her death, this exclusion.
I feel ashamed I'm related to someone so spiteful and ugly; shame for her behavior. An implicit shame that secretly wonders if I am truly the horrible daughter she's portrayed me as to uphold her wishes, her personal mythology. Fear that as I age I will turn into her. Afraid her behavior is all my fault, just like she taught me everything bad always was.