I went to visit my mother this week and it was amazing. It has taken me 26 years of therapy, 12-step work, and much soul searching to come to the place where I am able to listen and not take things too personally. All of my life I have demonized her and blamed her. I thought I had forgiven her and made amends, but this time it was all about loving her unconditionally and being delighted to be in her company.
She is the same person she always was, a little older and still obsessed with looks and weight. She still had comments to make, but this time I took little notice or just calmly changed the subject. I believe I have come to understand what it is to accept another person just as they are. Most extraordinarily it is with someone I have had a long, complicated history of hurt and pain.
It’s a funny thing finding out you’re HIV positive so early in life; it gives you the possibility of experiencing emotional growth at exponential rates. In the beginning I went into full “heal thyself” mode. I read everything from Louise Hay to “The Course In Miracles”. I cleaned my chakras and did bitter melon enemas. I even read the Bible. For a Jew this was pretty alien. But actually I grew up agnostic and just about any ancient spiritual literature from the Tanakh to the Bhagavad Gita seemed unreal, books of fairy tales.
A lot of the modern texts gave me something to hold onto; especially anything with positive affirmations. I remember walking around New York City trying to implement good thoughts into my chaotic mind. “You are beautiful, I love you.” And after a glimpse of my reflection in a window that would be followed by, “You’re a fat pig. I hope you die.” Then, “Shhhhhhhhhh, stop, you helped that lady cross the street, you are kind.” My entrenched thoughts of self destruction and anger would reply, “Who cares; she is going to die soon any way.” You get the idea. Fortunately I was in NYC and these mutterings went unnoticed by the general public.
Over time, the positive started to take hold and could last longer. At first it was just for minutes, then hours, followed by days then months, finally years. It took constant practice to stay in a positive frame of mind and it was always so easy to slip back into the enemy territory that was tucked away in the back roads of my brain.
But what I noticed with this trip was I had grown into my thinking. In the past it was a struggle to stay on track. I had to keep working on it reading, praying, and constantly falling off the road and forgiving myself. It was like practicing the piano; it would be going along just fine then the rhythm would be off, you’d miss a note, feel the frustration, and reach for the Pop Tarts.
This morning I was eating my breakfast of egg whites and lima beans when my mother walked into the kitchen, saw my plate, and said, ” Don’t you want some fruit?”
“No thanks mom.”
“How about some toast? I have whole wheat bread.”
“No, that’s okay mom”
“You sure you don’t want a banana?”
“Yes I’m sure.”
But isn’t that an unbalanced breakfast?”
“It works for me, mom.”
Normally I would utter the same responses but they would be tinged with annoyance, as I would feel the bubble of anger getting ready to burst. I would be interpreting her concern for judgment on my body, my life, and everything I do. Instead I could see she was concerned, she loved me, and this was her way of showing it. It might not be how I like to be loved or what I needed in the morning but it was who she was, and I can accept that. I feel I have found that thing I had been searching for all these years: peace with myself and the world around me.
Is it that I am older? Or perhaps all that searching has found a way to become hardwired into my system instead of being a bunch of tangled cords plugged into a socket that often blew fuses or shorted out my intentions. I won’t speculate. I am just going to enjoy the company of my mother and the freedom from my own thinking.
I am getting ready for a week of speaking for World AIDS Day. I will be flying every day and presenting every evening. This will be a great opportunity to see how unshakable my unconditional love is as I pass through security and experience whatever the travel industry has in store for me.
It feels good not to start the thoughts of my trip with an expletive and a sigh but instead with the notion that something good is going to happen, something surprising, funny, and interesting. Thoughts of, “Who will I meet, what revelations will come?” If I read something like this in the past it would irritate me, I would have judgments on the person writing it: basically, what a Pollyanna-ish twit. I am glad my synapses have closed those avenues, at least for today.
by River Huston