Years ago I was writing a book. As I wrote it, I invited my mom to join in the process. This invitation led to face-to-face conversations we’d never really had.
My mom began to share her story. There were parts that I knew well, but there were many parts I had never heard.
Something happened as my mom shared her story.
I began to see her.
At one point, my mom started sending me bits and pieces of her story through email. Like opening a deep well, she brought up buckets of words one serving at a time.
This was one of those emails she sent.
Words from my beautiful mom, Karen M.
My mother had a two-year-old daughter, but no husband. She met a man who lost his wife in childbirth. They married so that he could put a roof over her head and my mom could take care of the two children. Mom got pregnant right away. Seven months later, my twin brother and I were born premature. I weighed two pounds and was born with severe respiratory problems. When I was four years old, my father enlisted in the navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We moved to live on base. My mother was very unhappy, so much so that she packed up and moved back home a few times. During one move we even stayed in a chicken coop.
We eventually moved to San Diego. There a neighbor’s grandfather asked to take me for ice cream. He drove to a grove of trees and molested me. I didn’t tell my parents because he threatened to kill them.
When I was 13, my mom still left for a week or two at a time. My father would drive to a little town bar to drown his sorrows. He stayed in the marriage because he loved my mother, but he wasn’t a strong man. He didn’t know how to pull the family together. Both my parents smoked heavily, and I was sick all the time. Because of the smoking and discord, my home was a hard place to be.
As she poured out her story, she shifted from the mom of my past to Karen. A daughter. A wife. A woman. An unprotected little girl.
A human being with feelings, dreams, hopes and pain.
I became acquainted with the 15-year-old who got pregnant and married a man (a boy) she didn’t love. I wept over the little girl sexually abused at the age of five by a neighbor’s grandfather. I grieved for the teenager who lost her first child when the baby was only eighteen months old.
One day we sat on the couch. I heard the familiar sound of a soft whistle in and out due to acute asthma. I imagined a little one who couldn’t breathe with two smoking parents.
I went to the bathroom and closed the door, tears running down my face.
When she told me how she fled at 20 to escape her husband’s cheating and abuse, I wondered why no one rescued her.
Something happened as her story unfolded. For years I identified my mother as “broken” because of our past, but the more I learned of her story the word “brave” became a better fit.
Why in the world are you telling me this, Suzie? What does this have to do with me?
For far too long I saw my past through a one-sided mirror.
–-> It all pointed to me. <–
My childhood. My feelings. My hurt. My pain.
Yes, we need space and grace to work through our past, to feel the hurt. I get that. But when it all points to us and that focus never shifts, we remain a wounded little girl.
There is no opportunity for compassion when all we see is our own story.
There is little room for any type of adult-to-adult relationship, even if a person has changed or is changing.
It has the potential to keep us forever stuck in the way things once were.
Maybe the thought of a conversation like I had with my mom makes you want to run.
Healing is hard work. Especially the relational kind.
Especially when they are still in your life because they are family.
Perhaps that person who caused you pain refuses to talk about the past in any form.
Maybe a conversation isn’t an option because they’ve passed away.
Perhaps this the actions were evil, or they are still a mess and a face-to-face isn’t wise.
I know all of our families are different. I know that I’ve been blessed to have a mom who has grown into a strong, loving and amazing woman. But hear me, I have others in my extended family that aren’t in that place.
It still applies.
It’s less about being in the same room with that person, and more about looking away from our story long enough to consider another.
When we take this step, it allows us to sort through their story, not as the wounded child or woman we once were, but as the strong women we are today.
It allows us to consider how their story impacted ours and that, my friend, is powerful information in the heart of a healing woman.
It gives room for compassion for the brokenness they didn’t ask for, either.
And if this is a close relationship with someone who has changed or is changing, it opens the door to work within the framework of today, rather than being forever clouded by yesterday.
That book became The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past.
It was published almost 10 years ago. The emails that were supposed to help me understand my story took on a life of their own. Those snippets became a part of the book with my mom’s permission.
You see, her story added depth.
It revealed how another person’s story can absolutely impact the next generation.
It showed that there was more to the story than just our own feelings.
The Mom I Want to Be recently went out of print and I mourned it as a loss. I scooped up the last few boxes from the publisher.
It will always be my favorite book because it’s where I discovered my mom.
Not the broken mom of my past, but the little girl who became a woman who eventually became my friend.
And that helped me to live free.
What about you?
Do you sense God leading you to take this deeper step in your healing? Are you willing to listen to the story of another person (in whatever way that is safe and best)?
If that’s you, I want to pray for you today. You are brave and strong and I celebrate that with you.
The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future (Kindle version is still available)
If you prefer a print copy of The Mom I Want to Be or desire to lead a study in your women’s or mom’s group, there are about 100 copies left and we’d love to send an autographed copy to you or someone you love. The cost is $12 plus $3.99 shipping. (Email your request)