Thursday, March 31, 2011

The DNA of Apples


Today is the seven year anniversary of my mother’s death. I looked through a box of photos and letters and was struck in a new way at how much I resemble her, and how I'm not as frightened about that as I once was. This photo was taken at a place where she felt most in her element--in her home state of North Carolina on the beach at Nags Head. Thanks Mom, for the gams and girl parts.

Yes, there are many feelings that come up at this time, but no Hallmark sentiments here.

I am deeply grateful. If I had not had her as my mother I would not be the person I am today, have had the extraordinary experiences I've lived and survived, nor would I be able to assist others in their growth and transformation.

The old adage the apple does not fall far from the tree, reminds me that I am my mother's daughter, but instead of spiraling into despair, or having no other option than killing myself, I learned to make apple sauce, apple pie, apple martinis, apple butter and …vinegar. I'm in a dance with the DNA of apples.

As a medium I talk to dead folks. It's my experience that the dead know how we feel. They hear us, see us and sometimes observe what we're doing. In death they know the truth about what they did here on earth and often want to make restitution, or apologize. Their living victims are often upset about this, but when I am able to hear, see, or feel the details of some of these traumatic events and communicate on behalf of the perpetrator to the victim, the person who has been hurt has a choice to accept the apology or not.

For seven years I've told my mother that I was not interested in anything she had to say from the other side. I have felt her trying to impart information, not-so-helpful hints, and marriage advice (you can't imagine how funny that is). When she has shown up over these years it has always been in the kitchen--her domain. I've said, "No thanks. Not interested." But last night, I finally decided it was time to prayerfully invite my mother to communicate. I was ready to know if she "gets" the full impact of her actions. Does she understand the damage she caused, does she see her role in my life and what I've made of it, and can she see the healing that facing our wounds makes possible?  So last night I said, "I would be open to a sign from you, that we in fact we're making progress in each others' healing."

The first thing this morning I got a call from a business acquaintance, Kay, who called to tell me her mother died yesterday. She and I had lunch a few weeks ago to discuss my upcoming speach at a charity event. But as I told Kay before we even met for lunch, “We're getting together for something even more important.” I felt it was all about her mother, and more significantly Kay’s deep shame about how she really feels about her mother; the good the bad and the ugly.

Kay had a difficult time with her mother. She can tell me everything because I have no judgment about her hatred, upset, fear, sadness, frustration, longing, anger, love, and confusion about her mother--because I too have felt it all. These are feelings many women find hard to disclose because our shame is too overwhelming. No matter what our mothers' terrible actions were, our horrible guilt about our true feelings has reeked havoc in our lives. This denial made us whirling dervishes of caretaking, co-dependance, fixing, controlling, and cheer leading, and we became emotionally dishonest women.

I know the deep resentment and the pain so vile that I not only literally vomited it for years, but when internalized, I vomited my pain onto others. But real feelings are the truth, and that is gold--the treasure that comes from healing.

My life has been a navigation of all those feelings,  I am still doing the work to understand, feel and forgive. By facing the issues with her mother, Kay has just started an incredible journey that in time will transform her life and the lives of many others.

Our jails are filled with girls and boys who have been victimized by the wounding that their mothers and fathers inflicted on them. These children made poor choices out of being so hurt, and in turn, became perpetrators. They serve to remind us that we the wounded  need to find help to rehabilitate our bodies, minds and spirits.

The ripples of my mother’s toxicity still linger, however my mother's care givers have different stories to tell about the end of her life. She loved doctors, nurses, hospitals and being taken care of by strangers. This was something she deeply needed--to be cared for, but not by those closest to her. We who knew her the best and worked to love her were always at risk.

The carnage my mother caused because of her personality disorder and her choices pretty much ended our few family connections.

My older sister Deborah is an award-winning writer and poet. Her daughter is also an amazing writer, as well as an investigative reporter and healthcare and political advocate. I know these things not because we talk, but because I read about them in their publications. My sister and I write in separate voices to tell others what we want them to hear, see, or feel about our experiences.

The cognitive dissonance of the stories we all craft to keep our pain in place make our experience palpable for the wounded child inside us. But the child is screaming to grow up and only by going inside the pain can we get through it. Our souls crave this kind of truth even though the truth threatens "the story." The apple tree has been shaken and the fruit of the tree of knowledge is there for us to see.

My mother, now in Spirit, has the opportunity to see and feel differently. The work I have done on myself and continue to facilitate for others is unraveling the DNA of apples.

This is a photo of my mother Reinette Fries ( taken by my father Harold J. Fries) as she posed on a shipwreck in Nags Head N.C.  This was aprox 3 years before I was born.