Thursday, December 22, 2005

Step 9 (Heartbreak, healing)

On my birthday, I received a letter from my mother. This was unusual, but not unprecedented. It was, in fact, precedented enough to trigger a depth charge of an emotional response from me for many different reasons. Those who have been along for the ride for the last 20 or so years will know exactly what I refer to; those who don't, will have to rest assured that there has been no shortage of dysfunction, chaos and trauma in the story. Not only does it pain and exhaust me to recount - thus relive - that past, the details truly are no longer important. I refuse to make a spectacle of the puzzles and heartaches that life hands us and how we sometimes crash and burn magnificently. That is our wreckage through which to sort and seek understanding and consider possible futures. That is a personal and intimate process. One that deserves to be honored, respected and nurtured.

So. The letter. It came on my birthday. I have waited 5 days to open it. I waited until I had my contingency plans and various methods of addressing said missive on hand. I considered every possible angle for her contacting me this time. I got angry and sad, weirded out, detached and indifferent, defensive. I laid things out and had responses for any of her potential ploys. I waited until I could accept any crazy assed, manipulative and deranged take she's sent my way previously. And here I will add some details: not once in almost 30 years of getting letters from her, in various circumstances, has a single one not been:

- an unmitigated assault on my character as a daughter and human being, usually containing the reminder that she really should have stayed on the table and gone through with my abortion X many years ago
- a crushing guilt rampage full of vitriol and abject misery
- a suicide threat
- a suicide letter 'intended to reach me after death'
- some sort of explanation of her imminent demise at the hands of an incurable disease
- manic and utterly incomprehensible
- any creative combination of the above

Not once has this pattern changed. In light of this, I got some sleep, waited until I felt settled. Ready as I'd ever be to, once again, defend my well being against one of the few people on this planet whom I should never have to address in said battle and on said subject.


I scanned the letter, first, quickly looking for the usual catchphrases. Seeking the guilted comments, the pointed fingers, the excuses and judgements and attacks, the everything that is such standard issue with these missives.

Scanning the letter, I stopped short and began slowly reading from the beginning. Carefully. I recognized the import of the language, timing and structure of what she sent to me. For the first time, she has done the one thing that I cannot do for her. She has sincerely apologized. Without conditions or qualifications or justification.
She made herself vulnerable and accountable. She has come back into the room, laid down the weapons that she never needed to use on me and stood up to be counted while naming the past.

Reparation.


It has been a long journey. While I have never sought vindication and no longer need validation, I have been vigilant in maintaining a safe place to thrive, because when I walked out the front door of her house 22 years ago, I realized that no one else was going to do it for me. Painful as the decision may have been, I was and have remained willing to make that trek alone in order to move on. But there are some kinds of wounds that require the presence of both parties for proper healing and while I do firmly believe that if you ask the Universe sincerely for something, you'd better get ready to hit the ground running, I realized that the odds weren't exactly stacked in my favor with this particular situation.

And yet...I am looking at the letter that I never thought I'd get.

In the last several hours, I have wept. Deeply. In joy and relief and disbelief and then belief and once more from the top, with feeling. Despair dissipates as
the biggest heartbreak in my life begins to heal. Of course, there'll be bridges to be crossed in the future, but the woods have been cleared and this part of the saga, at last, closes in a most spectacular and satisfying manner.

From the humblest, newliest healing place in my heart, I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases.

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