I wrote and published Monday’s Mothers’ Day post in record time—it was done and dusted in under thirty minutes. I wrote the thoughts as they came and published it with little editing. I knew it was raw, but I knew if I thought about it too long, I might baulk. I could have deleted all the ‘ands’ and the second because in the same sentence, but I didn’t—I didn’t want to tame it. I wanted to show how I’d really felt on Mothers’ Day.
For many, many years I’ve held my fear of Mothers’ Day at bay by avoiding the day, blocking how I felt, even denying how I felt. But I could only do that in my mind—intellectually—not emotionally. And my emotions knew, because you can’t hide the truth from them.
Last Sunday, they finally reacted. Once upon a time, my mind would have held me together and I would have sat with my family and pretended I was having a lovely time. But on Sunday, my emotions said, ‘We’ve had enough, and it’s about time you listened to us …’
And I think my mind was exhausted after all those years of battling to control its feelings, that it gave up and let them speak.
And I’m so glad it did.
Since it’s happened, I’ve done a lot of writing and reading, and thinking and talking. My family and I have talked about it together—and we understand each other better now.
My daughter told me about how at school after Mothers’ Day, the teacher would go around the class and ask them what they’d done. She’d hear the other kids talking about their special lunches with extended family, and when it came her turn, she couldn’t say, ‘We did nothing’, so she made things up.
I remembered doing the same when I was at school. I couldn’t tell the class, ‘Well, Mum was angry and yelled at us and threw a knife at Dad’, so I pretended we’d had a lovely family day, too.
But hearing what my daughter had said to her class broke my heart. In my attempts to protect my children from my bad experiences, I’d taken the day away from them. Completely.
I know now I need to rewrite Mothers’ Day.
In the future I’m going to let my kids and family share Mothers’ Day with me. No longer will it be a day to dread, or a day of private grief—I’m going to rewrite it as a happy day for our family. I needn’t be scared of it anymore.
And it doesn’t stop at Mothers’ Day. There are other days, places, and events that need a makeover in my mind. Out with the bad, in with the good.
All of this needs me to stay in touch with how I feel, not block it or try to hide it, but to listen to what my body is telling me. When it’s dreading something, no matter how minor or stupid my mind might think it is, I’m going to listen because it’s telling me something important.
As a child, every year I felt the dread as Mothers’ Day approached, and every year when the yelling started, the pit of my belly sank.
I learnt how to block how I felt, even deny it, and I became quite good at it, pushing it all out of my mind and acting as if nothing was wrong.
But it was hard to keep my feelings suppressed, and I wasn’t always successful. Sometimes they eked out through a crack, and it all became too overwhelming. I felt embarrassed, even ashamed, by their power, or because the trigger itself was something so minor I thought I should be able to, ‘Just get over it’.
But they’re real and valid, my feelings, and they have a basis. They’re there for good reason. As a child, it wasn’t safe for me to show them, but it is now.
Thank you to everyone who wrote and commented on Monday’s post—once again, you’ve been so kind and wise, and I felt so loved and supported. You’re part of my village and you really do help, because, quite frankly, I can’t do it alone.
Mothers’ Day 2016 will be a completely different kettle of fish. No more pretending, no more sadness. I’m going to let my family into my day and it will be good.