Tonight I watched the movie An Education based on the memoir by Lynn Barber and directed by Lone Scherfig. When possible, I enjoy watching the commentary of the movie usually done by the director and possibly an actor or two. As I watched the commentary, a reference was made to a look passed between the mother and daughter in which it was evident the daughter had outgrown her mother. Having spoken to my own mother earlier, I recognized that phrase summed up my feelings perfectly.
I’ve outgrown my mother, and the rest of my family also. Twenty-five years ago or so I decided to heal, learn and grow as a person. Our relationships have never been the same since. I knew I would end up dead if I didn’t make the commitment to myself. I could not continue living the way I had been raised, with the denial of incest, the head in the sand culture but moved ahead with the uncertainty of facing my worst fears.
So many times through the years I’ve had to challenge the concept of my self-worth. The ‘who do I think I am to want more’ and ‘why can’t I be happy with what they offer’ and ‘you’re not enough for me’ thoughts that have accompanied my healing and growth. After all these years, there is still a part of me that wishes it could have been different. Their denial is so deep that they have no clue why I stay away. Growing up in that denial, I do understand where they are coming from but I can’t live there anymore. I have grown beyond it.
I stopped needing my mother a long time ago. She couldn’t be the mother I wanted or needed. I had to grow into that person for myself. So much of my healing has been finding out who/how I didn’t want to be in order to grow into the person I am today. If I didn’t like being afraid, where do I find the strength within? If I didn’t like being hyper-vigilant and paranoid of others, how do I learn to trust again? If I didn’t want to be bitter about all that was done to me by the hands of others, how do I allow forgiveness to replace it? So many unloving acts were perpetrated upon me, how do I learn to love again and keep myself safe? The realm of all human behavior is a possibility within me, what do I want to express? Who do I want to be, or more precisely how do I want to be?
Moment by moment, the trait I wanted to grow was found. Life presented opportunities to make mistakes and try again. It was sometimes literally a split second that I was able to practice a new behavioral skill before the old pattern took over once again. Over time the moments became longer and longer. I felt the feelings and changed the survival skills of childhood into the healthy coping skills of a responsive woman.
When I do get re-triggered and start reacting to life, I am able to see an opportunity for more learning is in my face and I can deal with it more gracefully. It’s never easy, pretty or fun, but growth rarely is.