Friday, October 1, 2021 – I went to EQUITANA USA at the Horse Park. This isn't a review of that , it's about some “Mom” insight.
A man was doing a massage technique on a rescued Saddlebred, who was very alert and very fidgety. I watched for a while and then went on to do other things. Later, on my walk through the shopping area, there he was again – the horse – and his rescuers. He was in a temp stall and other horses were also like that throughout the facility, and people were supposed to go up and pet or whatever, so that’s what I did … they opened the gate and the girl went inside and the mom did too so I stood at the door and the horse was curious about me and so I put my hand out for him to smell me - but the girl didn’t like that – she didn’t want anyone touching him near his face. I thought that was strange, so I said, “I’m letting him come to me”. (which he very obviously wanted to do – and not in an ‘I’m going to bite you manner, more of a ‘getting to know you’). Well, she didn’t like that either and it was 'no, no, no'. This would typically be a good time for me to get upset, take offense, and push the subject, but I wasn’t bothered. Frankly because Saddlebreds aren’t my favorite anyway. But it made me think: this is also a Wayne Dyer quote (and probably one that floats around the healing-sphere anyway, but it’s basically – She’s acting out of her own fears – this has nothing to do with you. She had no idea who I was, I could have been a Master Horse whisperer, or Monty Robert’s daughter, or something, but this was her fear and her issue, not mine.
Easy enough to just walk away and think “poor horse, I hope you get someone good to look after you some day”. Wish him well, and move on.
Which brings up MY MOTHER! (What doesn’t, right?) I wake up today thinking about that moment yesterday, and as one therapist said once, “It’s HER energy, not YOURS.” (a bit hippy-dippy for my liking, but probably true.).
I thought about how that interaction yesterday had nothing to do with me personally; this girl was acting out of her own fears, anxiety, and so forth. In her mind, she may have been hyped up because of the show environment, and all the activity, and SHE was worried the horse would bite someone. In a horse-people environment, you aren’t dealing with people who have never seen a horse and want to pet your pony, you are dealing with people who interact with horses on a daily basis, so you’re probably safe in that we visitors know when to pet, and who to pet, and how to pet. But this wasn’t about us, this was about her. And it’s easy for me to take this non-nonchalant position because it was just a walk-by – a brief encounter – and one where I will likely never see this person again. Compared to Mom, who I had to engage with daily, and was the side-car during so many of her fear-based outbursts (goodlord, too many to list here).
When Mom was alive and I had to deal with her constantly, I couldn’t see how ‘this is about her’ and not take on that energy; take offense to it, fight against it, (and get no where, as you do when fighting a rip tide). Experiencing her ‘energy’ caused me so much PAIN. All I wanted from her was a true, loving connection, and all I felt was her fear and anxiety, which came out as verbal strikes against me.
I remember one time when we were on this big family vacation going to Yellowstone and surrounding states. My mom and I were in a car driving behind my cousin and his family. I was driving us. We were in Idaho or Montana, some vast state on a two-lane interstate with a massive separation between our two lanes and the other side’s two lanes – couldn’t even see them at times. There was no one on the road with us – no one behind, no one in front, no one to the side. Well, after too many mind-numbing miles nose-to-tail driving behind my cousin, I pulled into the other lane just to SEE the views that lay ahead - and my Mom went BALLISTIC! She started talking to me like I was a 15-year old with a driver’s permit, not like the grown woman I was, who had already in her life driven cross-country by herself - ALONE in a U-haul for one of those trips! “You pull this car back in line or I am taking the keys and you will NEVER ‘be allowed to’ drive again on this trip!!!”. Went crazy on me so much that I went to push the walkie-talkie button so the other members of the family could hear how nuts she got. Typically, they only ever took her side of any story, and all of those put me bullseye as the perpetrator, and they believed her every word.
Now that I can look back without feeling the emotion of the moment, like “why are you belittling me?”, or going on the defensive with, “don’t you know I’ve driven close to 100K miles in my life already, I know what I’m doing?”, and citing evidence of how she is wrong. I can see her as I saw the girl yesterday, “This is her breakdown, and her fears, and it has literally nothing to do with me.” Of course, Mom is dead now, and it’s only the ghosts of her torment that live in my head, which makes dealing with it slightly easier. (It’s not easy all the time, yet.)
I think the trouble I had NOT being able to separate myself from her ….... well, I was going to write ‘her fears, her outbursts’ … something ... looking for the right word, but HER pretty much sums it up. I couldn’t separate myself from HER.
I was her daughter. Her only child. The therapists would describe us as ‘co-dependent’. When we would fly together we would link pinkies and I'd say, “Are you ready Louise?” - like we were Thelma & Louise going on a big adventure together. She was my ‘significant other’. I was her sidecar. Even as a child she would have me with her in adult situations, hanging out with her and her husband and their adult friends. Now that I’m ‘over 30’ I look back and wonder why? That was kind of strange to have me at a dinner with you two and your couple friends. I learned a lot, but it must have been weird for the other couple to sit there with this adolescent, or even adult daughter of their couple friend. But that’s how it was, neither of us could separate from the other. The umbilical cord was never cut. So now I can look back on the troubles we had and lighten up on myself. OF COURSE YOU COULDN'T HAVE SHRUGGED IT OFF, you were too close to it. Plus, her relationship to me MATTERED. The girl at the show’s attitude doesn’t need to phase me because she’s not an integral part of my life. Mom was (and some would say still is).
I don’t know if any of this is helpful to you. But maybe, if you are going through a complex relationship with someone - and like mine with Mom you feel trapped in a web of thorny weeds that you can’t unwind your way out of - you can take a moment of meditation, or reflection, and feel how their words and actions truly have NOTHING to do with you. Their words and actions will sting, just like a twisty spiky branch that grabs you when you are only trying to take a walk on a pretty day, but you are not the thorn.
This concept isn’t new to me. I’ve worked on it before. With yet another example of a ‘bad day’ with Mom. Geezzzus, it’s too long to get into again, but the shortest way of me describing it is to say; it started with me waking up on a gorgeous Sunday, calling her and asking if she’d like to get out and enjoy it with me, and after a 90-minute 'mediator at the UN negotiating a peace agreement' phone conversation, we finally agreed upon ‘taking a walk in a park’. Simple enough, right? Hell, they even use that phrase to describe something easy. Well, I forgot that nothing is ‘easy’ with dear ole mama. This ‘walk in the park’ ended with me in the car, getting a verbal beat-down like no other, and curling my hand into a fist in order to HIT MY MOTHER IN THE MOUTH TO SHUT HER UP! No kidding. PS – I have NEVER hit anyone, and never intend to. But today, she took my ‘let’s enjoy this gorgeous day together - you know, you and me, mother and daughter, best friends, all that crap - and just destroyed it - and me. FOR NO REASON that I could see – just her inner insanity at work again.
So, after she died, I went BACK into therapy and tried yet again to heal from so many wounds, this being a biggie. And the ‘it’s her energy, not yours’ comment was brought to me. So in order to re-write the story – and the pain a bit – I went back to said park, and did the walk all over again, but made it happy, the way it was supposed to have been – and like all the other people who were there that day were doing, just enjoying a walk in the park on a gorgeous day. And you know what happened? I got to finally see this as a separate entity, just an observer, not a reactor. And what I saw made me sad (not angry, as I have been for so long) – sad. How sad for Mom that she COULDN’T even ‘take a walk in the park’ with her daughter WITHOUT causing turmoil. What that must feel like walking around with that much anxiety, fear, or whatever nastiness in her mind and body. How sad for HER. And what a pity we couldn’t share something that simple together. I felt empathy for her suffering. A state of being that was so skewed that the simplest gesture sent her spinning in chaos.
Boy! How everything still goes right back to MOM.
But, at least I’m trying. I’m still trying to heal.
Thanks for reading.
October 2, 2021
About me: I'm a life-long Cosmetologist; eater, drinker, explorer, animal steward, professional wino, thinker, seeker, and muser, who was pulled into massage therapy kicking and screaming, but enjoyed the ride.