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A Sorry Letter To My Mom, Though She Passed Away A Long Time Ago

A Sorry Letter To My Mom, Though She Passed Away A Long Time Ago

I’m certainly not the first person to have had issues with her mother. By and large, moms are the recipients of blame for a litany of problems, from relationship woes to poor eating habits. Given the tight, visceral bond between mother and child—borne if nothing else than by virtue of having shared a body for nine months—a mother’s love is often blithely expected and taken for granted.

I should know: As lovely and solid as my relationship with my adult daughter might be now, her tween and teen years were defined by blaming me for nearly everything that was amiss in her young life. It took me years to understand that those slamming doors and dramatic tears weren’t directed at me. She needed a scapegoat and someone to take away her pain, much as she did as a child. And I, of course, was there, ready and willing to lend her an ear, a shoulder, a piece of my heart—and enough patience and equanimity to endure her hormonally-charged outbursts.

My own mother, unfortunately, was not. She was neither present nor patient, neither selfless nor compassionate. She was bold and brilliant enough to have had managed a booming company, but she could hardly fry an egg. My father took off when I was six-months-old and seemed to have forgotten that he’d fathered a child. In turn, my mother found solace and companionship in vast amounts of alcohol and drugs. And I, in turn, was raised by a mother who was often addled by intoxicants, and a string of relatives and strangers, frequently bouncing between three homes in the span of a single year.

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To say that it was a difficult, frustrating childhood would be the granddaddy of understatements. I don’t say this to elicit sympathy. I say this because it’s true—and because it undoubtedly shaped my fear of abandonment and several of my self-destructive tendencies. Like many—those who’ve had tough childhoods and those who have not—I blamed my mother for a high percentage of my problems when I was younger.

When I immigrated to the United States, I began seeing a therapist who helped me confront, unravel, and release the misery that was my childhood. I went through all of the stages of grief, in lapsed time. And throughout every phase, my mother was always the target of my reproach. Phone calls and accusatory letters to her were the norm, entire months without speaking to her at all the law. As she grew older and frailer, and as she attempted to narrow the enormous distance between us, I continued to withhold my love from her. I refused to recognize—especially to her—her efforts to make things right between us. If she tried to explain herself, I shut her down immediately. If she dared complain about her circumstances, I rebuked her. Considering that she abandoned me, my pain always took precedence.

It wasn’t until she was in the final stages of emphysema that something in me shifted. Here was this woman who’d once been a force of nature—the first woman in Florence to own a car—now reduced to a bag of bones, her head seemingly no larger than a walnut. Seeing her so diminished—so desperate and alone and in undeniable physical anguish—forced me out of my selfishness. To not forgive her would have been unforgivable. As she slowly—and then rapidly—died, I had to confront what I’d previously chosen to not face: The challenges she’d had by having me.

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Single, uneducated, and saddled with a child in a small, provincial, predominantly- Catholic town in Italy during the 50s, she was the target of malicious gossip and deemed an outcast for many reasons that were outside of her control. She was also what we know today as bipolar. Coupled with her addiction and her limited resources, hers was an existence of exceptional misfortune and pain. The more I attempted to see how unkind the world had been to her, the more I understood how valiantly she’d tried. She was raised during the war, left to care for her younger siblings while her mother worked and her father served as a soldier. Divorced with a child by nineteen, she was seen as unviable by most men. And completely lacking in emotional stability with no outlet or assistance, holding down a good job was close to impossible. Who would I have been had I been her shoes?

She died within months of her diagnosis—from that disease that doesn’t forgive or forget our mistakes—and when she passed, a part of me did too. What I have held onto is her indomitable spirit, and the letter I would have given her had I only been given more time.

Dear Mom:

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I’m writing this letter to you as you slip in and out of consciousness. The doctors here in Pavia keep telling me that your time is nearing its end. It infuriates me, the way they say this, because we all know that you have nine lives. Surely, then, this can’t be the end.

But in case it is, before you go, I want to tell you some things.

When I was ten, you told me to go have a beautiful life. At the time, I thought there was no other life beyond you. You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And, despite the ravages of time, the same is true today.

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I’ve had a beautiful life for you and because of you. I’ve learned to think fast, talk faster, and fight with all my might. I’ve had the audacity to forge my own path, often at the disapproval of my peers. I’ve learned that it’s not what you have, but what you give. I’ve learned that, given your circumstances, your history, and your pain, there was only so much you could give me. I wish I’d known now what I do today.

Which is this: While my love for you was at times conditional, yours was imperfect but always, always unconditional. I’m sorry for that, Mom. And I’m grateful that your affection was never provisional. That it was, in many ways, divine.

I have no doubt that I will see you in your tenth life.

I love you, and will forever.

Lauretta

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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