I am in the middle of reading How To Be An Adult in Relationships by David Richo, who also wrote the last book I read, The Five Things We Cannot Change. Have you ever read a book and had your soul say a silent YES to what you're reading? Richo's books have heard many a cry from my heart. I think this is why we read, to have our hearts ignited. I know this is why I write, first to ignite my own heart and then to connect with the unknown reader whose heart sends me a silent YES to something I've written.
Richo is a psychotherapist who brings an Eastern perspective to his work. Combining Buddhist mindfulness philosophy with more traditional Western psychology, it is a beautiful blend of the yin and the yang.
This week's conversation with my mother has lead to lengthy conversations with my brother and close friends around relationships and how our earliest models, our parents, have affected how we interact with others. Richo speaks of the five A's that a healthy childhood gives us: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and "allowing". As I read through this book, I am seeing the patterns of my childhood unfold before me and making space to create within my soul the healthy parent to my wounded child, so that I do not needily seek out a cure for my ails from someone else in relationship.
In particular, the section on acceptance gave me pause. Richo writes, "Parents can accept us only after they succeed in dismantling their original representation of us in favor of the person we are turning out to be. This means not being disappointed with us for breaking a bargain we never made." YES.
My mother still sees me through the eyes of who she wants me to be, not who I am. She wants me to uphold bargains I never made to begin with. I was five when she started the conversion process to become a Jehovah's Witness. No one asked me what I thought about it, how I felt, what I wanted. No, the contract was made and signed without my consent. And now that I'm an adult, making my own way in the universe, there is still this expectation that I will uphold that contract. And it's sad, because my mother cannot see who I am, this amazing woman I've become.
There is this quote Richo includes from D. W. Winnicott:
"It is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found."
Did you ever play hide and seek as a child? Remember how exciting it was to go off to your hiding place, sure that it was the best one and that no one would ever think to find you there. But, all the while, you were brimming with butterflies at the thought of being found. I recall one night playing hide and seek with some friends. I had hidden so well that eventually everyone gave up on finding me and went on to another game. I was heartbroken.
I have emerged from the hiding places of my childhood to become a vibrant, spiritual, amazing woman. And here, I have a mother, who wants nothing more than to push me back into hiding until I emerge the person she would have me be. And it breaks my heart. It hurts me that she cannot see me as I am, that she cannot see that her job as a parent is, and always has been, to love and accept her children as they are, without her overlaid agenda.
I think sometimes that even if she could hear why I left the J.W.'s, like really hear what I know about their history, what I've learned about the secret workings of the group and how it has affected me and my life, she would honor who I am. And then, if she sincerely decided from that awareness to continue on as a J.W. I could respect that. I could respect that that is her life path, her individual journey. I think we could both be free then. Free to continue on in our lives without an agenda for the other.
For now though, I fill up my own heart with love and acceptance and the attention that child so deeply deserves. It is a difficult thing to learn to parent yourself. I guess I'm growing up.