By Joe Medler of Developing Dad
The most transformative moment of therapy for me didn’t happen in a therapist’s office, or even in therapy. It happened in a walk-in closet that I’d made my writing room in the third floor walk-up in Astoria, where I lived.
Truth is, I was in therapy to be able to have this moment so I could move forward in my life. It was in this small room-within-a-room, surrounded by the thousands of written pages I’d been creating and hoarding for years in an attempt to understand who and why I was and am, that I called my mother to tell her how she’d failed me.
I recounted the things she said that were so confusing that I couldn’t comprehend why she would share them with me as a kid. I recounted the times I’d felt alone and unfairly judged. I told her of feelings I’d been blaming her for for decades. Literally decades. I told her things I’d latched onto and refused to let go of for eternity. I told her about feeling like I was ignored and left to raise myself. I told her about how angry I was at her and why.
It was fairly brutal and brutally unfair. It was mean. Anyone listening would have said so. Anyone who wasn’t my mother.
My mother is perhaps the toughest person anyone’s ever met. She has bravely stared down a life I’ll never have to. She’s been processing horrible tragedies since her youth and finding evermore reason for joy and love. She is the strongest person I know.
You have to be pretty close to see this, and I was afforded a front row seat that night in my closet, crying to my mother at a makeshift desk, surrounded by endless papers containing a profound misunderstanding of what turns out was my very good fortune of being born to the family I now understand to be my greatest blessing.
I hit her with every unfair punch that night. I blindsided her. She took every single one of them and apologized. For mistakes she’d made, for my pain, for misunderstandings that she couldn’t have known were still hurting me until that moment. She apologized and said she loved me even when I’d blame her for things that I now see she couldn’t have been a part of.
When I called and started swinging wildly and emotionally, she let her guard down and allowed me to punch away, telling me she was sorry, telling me I was brave for confronting her, telling me that I deserved better. It wasn’t a lie. She meant it.
Despite giving me EVERYTHING and being blamed for things that weren’t hers to own, she heard not an angry and aggressive and unfair man treating her poorly; she heard her son hurting. She heard her little boy screaming and crying that it wasn’t fair. And she took it all. To make me feel better. She let me know that it was okay to blame her, even if it wasn’t her fault, because she was the mom and I would always be her boy.
I grew up fully in that moment. I knew almost immediately upon expressing my pent-up feelings that they had tricked me. Wisely. My feelings made me blame the one person strong enough to handle my impetuousness and bullying if I ever chose to unload it. The one person that could guide me where I needed to go.
By the end of the conversation she was crying with me. She was telling me about her pain and letting me know I wasn’t alone. Letting me know that I would always have someone who would understand.
She healed me that night. The cuts that bled at ten, the ones that mean everything to a kid, I had bandaged. Being a sensitive kid at heart, naturally the bleeding continued, and instead of allowing these wounds to heal, instead of cleaning them and caring for them, I just kept applying more and more bandages every time the blood seeped through. Never healing, always covering up and hoping my cuts would one day stop bleeding.
But that’s not how it works. You can’t heal that way. You can only hide.
That day, my mother held my hand like I was a child and promised me that even though it might hurt, she was going to tear off my bandages and clean them up so I could heal properly. So I could put down the load I’d been carrying and move on.
I emerged from that conversation a changed and healed person ready to take on the next phase of my life. My mother gave me life, love and security, and when I misplaced her gifts, she dove into the hole I was drowning in and rescued me despite my resistance.
I love you, Mom. Thank you.
About Joe Medler
Joe Medler is afforded a great deal of latitude in regard to his writing by his very understanding wife Karen. It is universally understood that she is far too good for him. They live in New Jersey where they are busy raising their two strapping sons. Joe’s work has been featured on Mamalode and on The Original Bunker Punks. He blogs about his life at developingdad.com and The Good Men Project. You can also find him on Facebook.