If I could see with the eyes of love what would my heart say?
These words came to me when I was thinking about the feelings I am feeling being in contact with my Mum lately. A little over a month ago she had a bad fall. She was trying to lug a suitcase down three flights of stairs at my sister’s apartment, alone, without assistance because she didn’t want to be a bother to anyone. It broke my heart that this happened but I must admit I was pretty pissed off too.
There have been two others years in the last four in which both my sister and Mum have been in hospital at the same time of the year and I have been the only relative here to give any kind of support. And this year my sister was re-admitted to the long term psychiatric part of the hospital to get her medication stabilised following two falls in the week prior to my Mum having the fall.
This happening to my Mum has highlighted a lot of the issues which we inherited from parents who had to go it alone and be strong in the face of major challenges and trauma. In the past thirty years Mum had to deal with me nearly losing my life at 17, my sister having a haemorraghe and being abandoned by her husband, my father’s illness from cancer and sudden death, her mother’s illness and death and lately the breakdown in the marriages of my other sister and I. At 90 Mum is questioning so deeply all of this trauma and sadness. Much of it wasn’t her fault but it was an outgrowth of the difficult childhood’s both she and my father had.
Looking at an aging parent, particularly one who has been made more vulnerable and fragile as the result of an injury is not easy for those of us who love them. Often if we are on our own ourselves there isn’t anyone there to hold our hand as we struggle with mixed emotions.
For me I have had a lot of anger to my Mum over emotional abandonment which was not so obvious and came from a failure to see into my heart and needs due to the fact of her own history. And the truth is, despite this my mother did and does love me. She just had a very different way of showing it.
Now I feel the love that she has, I feel her finally getting what my pain has been about, at times I am even getting her validation. At the same time I am giving her validation as I have done in the past.
My own recovery journey opened me to the realisation that what occurred in my life was just a result of emotional neglect passed down due to external circumstances. In both my parent’s lives inward deficiencies were due to a lack of sufficient nurture, which was the case for many of the generations born during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Today I can look on my Mum with the eyes of love, I can feel the acute vulnerability of the little girl who had to be strong from a very young age. I am aware of the journey and of the values she and my father found most important as a result of the acute economic scarcity they suffered in their own life and the consequences for their children.
Looking on my parents with the eyes of love tells me that they did the very best they could with what they were given. And that realisation makes the feeling of love for them grow within my own heart. In many ways I feel that the long journey through the dark night of the soul that I have undergone over the past 10 years or so has been the result of carried pain that needed to be released in order to realise that there is a deep core within me that is not wounded, that can love.
It has been a long and painful journey to feel the intense feelings of longing, despair, rage and grief at times, but what I now realise is that the true feeling of these feelings was necessary for me to shed the wounded traumatised self and grow into the heart of love of the inner child, who is not wounded but has the capacity to look on the wounded with eyes of compassion and love. I have realised that when we carry hurt and pain inside that cannot be validated we cannot be released into the love which these things hide.
Recently I have been following a local soapie in which the father dies. His teenage son is struggling with anger, his father was killed as the result of carelessness, the driver of a car was texting and ran into his father by accident and the father was killed. The young son is struggling with anger, hurt, rage, buried grief and pain. In one scene he trashes the floral tributes left by the roadside where his father has been killed and when his mother finds the wreckage, she has an intuition that it was her son.
Rather than be angry with him, she shows him empathy and love in his struggle, tenderly but firmly she confronts him and this enables him to release some of the layers of rage and anger that bury his grief deep inside.
In my own case, I think the deep feelings of grief around the death of my father in my early 20s were buried by alcohol. Feelings would erupt when I got into a close relationship with anyone in my life as the unconscious fear of loss was so strong, yet so deeply buried that I needed to drink in order to release it. Sadly I was not shown compassion, empathy or understanding by others. This led to more hurt and fractures in relationships. Friends did not abandon me, though some lovers left and that was painful, especially when they blamed me for the breakdown of the relationship.
It has taken me some years to process the pain around this and come to a deeper understanding of what was mild borderline behaviour. That has only been possible to the extent that I have been shown compassion, love and understanding by others who recognised what was really going on.
Seeing with the eyes of love seems so essential to me at the moment. A heart hardened by hurt or misunderstanding and lack of empathy creates more hurt as it blocks out the love trapped inside restlessly beating its wings against the cage of defences and denial and longing to fly free. When we do the healing work to release the darker emotions without remaining trapped in them, allowing them to work their alchemy on our wounded souls, we can and are reborn and released to a newness.
This evening I read the following meditation which really spoke to what I am experiencing at present.
I am new inside. I feel pink and tender as if young tissue were growing within me. I have been willing to take the ultimate risk by looking at the state of my life and my own insides, not as I wish them to be, but as they actually are. I have experienced an inner death, I have walked through spaces inside my mind and heart that felt risk life threatening, and I have felt the terror of full honesty. What I did not expect was this sense of birth and newness. Somehow life feels full of possibility and new experiences. I thought that I would be stuck in anger and blame forever, but I see today that I did not need to feel so down on myself for feeling those feelings. They are just part of a process; I move and shift and change and move and shift and change.
Growth is the only evidence of life.
John Henry Newman.
I could not have expressed it better. The next stage of the dark night journey is emergence from the prison of past suffering into the light of newness, hope, and life, fresh and brand new and enlarged by the suffering we have found the courage to feel. Seeing into our own heart and its feeling its blockages and hurts, defences, fears and resistances is the way in which we hold ourselves and love ourselves so we can bear testament to the life force within that wants to grow and longs to give and receive love free of the defences which keep us separate.