My post title is a lyric line from my song “Memory of Love.” That song fits perfectly into my life right now and I recently completed a brand new arrangement for it. I plan to write more about it soon but am excited to share it now because it goes so well with this story.
Link to my story and song “Memory of Love”
My mother’s fade into dementia was the catalyst for my “rebirth.” She was my best friend and support system. When she became sick, everything shifted and suddenly I was the “adult.” This transition was initially shocking, but eventually I needed to take control of my own life.
I dedicated myself completely to keeping my mother comfortable while she declined mentally and physically. Yet even though I was a devoted daughter, I still carry a lot of guilt. The line of “I Can’t Tell You” is part of a longer phrase of:
I can’t tell you so instead I just pretend, it’s easier that way . . .
That line was written when I was filled with disbelief that my mother was more and more frequently making nonsensical statements due to the rapid onset of dementia. But this story is not about that. It is related to how until my mother passed away at the age of 88, I was unable to share with her that I did not faithfully observe any of the religious rules that were sacred to her. I often felt compelled to lie about it because it was so uncomfortable for me.
I love what I have gained through hypnotherapy and appreciate the tremendous progress I’ve made. Every “baby step” is something I celebrate.
For most of my life, I wasn’t able to separate my own beliefs from my parents. I’ve had great difficulty speaking up for myself. In some ways, that sounds ironic because I was an excellent advocate for my children and parents (while they were alive.) I can express myself through singing songs with heartfelt lyrics, but in many other situations I’ve held back my true thoughts and deemed my own feelings to be less important. Wanting to be “loved” by doing the “right” thing came with a very high price for me.
At my last hypnotherapy session, I opened up to talk about the guilt I’ve carried for many years over disappointing my mother because I wasn’t an observant Jew like she was.
I told my hypnotherapist, Connie, that it would be very uncomfortable for me to even write about this subject on my blog. I felt ashamed and didn’t want any of my religious friends or family members to be disappointed in me.
Our wonderful session actually led to a lot of inner exploration that I found to be very helpful. Connie pointed out to me that I wasn’t alone with my feelings; people from other religions carried guilt, too.
I was tempted to write a Princess story using metaphors. My last Princess parable ended with her triumphing over the Dark Witch of guilt.
I don’t want the “Dark Witch” to torture me anymore and could write a great story that way. But instead I left our session and decided I could write my honest feelings without metaphors.
It has been exactly two years since I moved from a large home that I lived in for 18 years. I left my husband after a long marriage; all three of my children lived with me in my 2 bedroom coop for some of that time. Currently, my two sons are still with me.
I stepped into the unknown and made the decision to live in this place where I grew up. My father had just died and my mother was in a nursing home. It belonged to my two brothers and I; instead of selling it, I paid my brothers their share and moved in. It certainly was an affordable option and was only two blocks from my youngest son’s school.
I have plenty of memories of growing up in this coop where I now live.
I can look out at my overgrown patio and see myself engaged in a lively Ping-Pong game with my brother. I easily remember how my heart would pound when I hid in the bushes during a serious game of hide-and-seek. I pass those bushes every time I walk to my car. Whenever I look at my old bedroom, I can picture the tents I used to invent by using bed sheets and clothespins. Sweet memories happen when I allow them.
Lately I feel very disconnected from my past, almost like a person with amnesia. I’ve tried to discard any past memories that are painful and my new existence is quite different from what I ever imagined.
The memories that surround me and I avoid, involve my mother preparing for the many Jewish holidays she was passionate about. It isn’t because those memories aren’t beautiful – but they trigger my guilty feelings.
This is such a change because I used to hold tightly onto memories. Memories of love sustained me but unfortunately, guilt has become a barrier to this. And guilt is a companion to resentment.
For most of my life, I have spent a lot of energy worrying about disappointing other people. This left me with a lot of subconscious resentment and confusion. My ultimate guilty act was when I shocked my husband and ended our marriage after 30 years.
Freedom to express myself is terrifying but at the same time a necessary basis for my new life.
If ever there was anything symbolic in my life, it was my decision this past week to replace the 54-year-old floor in my coop. When I was an infant, I crawled upon that floor. So did all four of my children whenever they visited their grandparents.
That floor always reminded me of a 60’s diner – I never liked the black and white linoleum. More than anything, I’ve often felt that black and white represented the extreme thinking I was raised with.
I loved my mother and considered her my best friend. I was her universe and she lived to hear about everything going on in my life. But I was careful about what I shared with her.
As a young girl, one day I discovered that I was not exactly like my mother. It was such a painful realization.
My mother was a very observant Jew and ruled our household. My father followed her and my brothers and I were raised with strict adherence to Conservative Judaism. We were not Orthodox – yet, my mother was unwavering in the laws she chose to follow. There was a “right way” to do things and anything else was bad and “wrong.”
I want to share an example of a moment that represented my awareness that something didn’t quite work for me. I had never even realized it until then.
I was about 14 and a counselor-in-training for a day camp at our temple. The table was set for a special meal, but first a blessing needed to be said. A young camper was sneaking bites when he wasn’t supposed to. I tapped him gently and told him something I had heard many times before from my mother. I said, “God is going to punish you for that.”
A little while later, I was taken aside by the head counselor. She said, “What did you say to David? He is hysterical and says that you said God is going to punish him!”
At that moment, I began to think about what simply had sprouted from my mouth. It was very unpleasant and I was ashamed at myself for what I had said.
I do not dislike my religion. I shared as much as I could with my children while they were growing up; they even complained to me about it. But the rituals and observance, which brought my mother so much comfort hasn’t been something I’ve wanted to deeply embrace.
Many years ago, there was a time when my middle brother confessed that he had gone to work on the second day of an important Jewish holiday.
My mother screamed and screamed at him, until my brother broke down crying. He was in his 20’s at that time and he promised her he would never do it again. It was a very traumatic thing for me to have witnessed. My brother did not keep his promise, but unfortunately that memory is imprinted in my mind.
After seeing how my mother screamed at my brother, I was terrified of disappointing her – understandably. So I lied to her about what I was doing on important Jewish holidays. It was easier than telling her the truth.
But there was a time when I found incredible courage.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I sought out therapy to help me deal with my depression and confusion. My parents attended a session with me and I expressed my feelings about many things. I told them that moving forward I was going to do things differently. I would no longer attend the same temple services with them every year and didn’t want my mother to buy me kosher meat anymore.
Many years later, my mother was very angry that I scheduled my 5-year-old son, Jason’s heart surgery the day before Yom Kippur, a major Jewish holiday. I had very few options besides that date and went ahead with it. Jason died following that surgery, which was a horrible outcome.
I hate feeling guilty about anything. Intellectually, I know that I am entitled to make choices about how I want to live my life.
That was why it was so interesting how I planned to put in a new floor last week. The day that the installer gave me was Thursday. It wasn’t until the day before that I learned it fell on the Jewish New Year.
It was very dusty as the workmen demolished concrete in my kitchen. My eyes didn’t like the dust, even though I was in my bedroom with the door closed. I heard my mother telling me that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong. I didn’t feel well at all.
This was a perfect opportunity for me to leave black and white behind. I’m a 54 (soon to be 55) year-old woman who has begun a new life. I don’t want to dwell on sadness from my past anymore, nor am I planning for a future of fame and fortune.
I am very pleased with my new floor. It has many subtle variations of grays and browns. It is neutral and soothing for me.
When I moved in, I was very excited to refinish the hardwood floors in the other areas of this coop. For 50 years those floors were hiding under carpeting and it was beautiful to see them revealed. My parents preferred carpet to hardwood, but I am enjoying this alternate floor. It’s my preference.
That old black and white dining room floor worked well for my parents but now I get to choose what I want and that includes religion, too.
I’ve noticed that when I acknowledge guilty feelings – it becomes easier to let them go. With that release, suddenly the beautiful memories filled with love reappear.
But most of all, I want to move forward to create new memories.
In two weeks, it will be the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Even though I don’t want to remember her dying moments, my subconscious continues to play them for me.
The seasonal change from summer to fall has begun and that always reminds me of Jason’s death. It has been many years now and I have healed from the agony I used to suffer with.
I have a 7-inch scar from when Jason was born by emergency C-section in 1987.
The strangest thing happens for me with that scar. I never notice it except that sometimes it itches like crazy. It happened today and I don’t think it’s just a random thing. It strangely happens whenever an anniversary of the heart is approaching.
That is my grief.
It is an itch – I can mindlessly scratch it, but it doesn’t bring relief – it just bothers me more. I can’t ignore it.
If I concentrate hard, it stops itching. I think about how much I will always love him.
I’ll never forget Jason; he is my angel.
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.