Mother of God

My mother in law Mary has just passed away, you might have read about that here recently.  She slipped away late in the quiet of night.  I like to think of her last exhale as a sigh; no more struggle. I like to imagine her now, free to move. Happy, laughing and feeling at ease.

The last time we saw her she was having a good day. My husband cracked a joke and her face broke into a sudden grin; she laughed and we saw a glimpse again of the Mary, Mum and Nanna that we know. I like to think about that moment and I am grateful she got to share a laugh with her son. She loved him so much.

In the beginning, I used to think of her irreverently, as
‘Mary: Mother of God’
…because, like many doting mums, the sun rose and shone in the eyes of her boy. As if he himself were God! I thought wryly.  It seemed that he could do no wrong, and when we visited, her whole world would shift to revolve around him completely. I remember we were talking about him one day, soon after he and I had got back together again after a breakup; I stated what I thought was the obvious, “-yes, but even he is not perfect you know, Mary”. She looked at me and her mouth dropped open, just for a second, and I realised that in her eyes, he just was.

mary-mother-of-god-iconOf course, I wasn’t a mother myself then, and now that I am, I understand her better. In her eyes, her son was perfect. She loved him completely and unconditionally.  That kind of love is the special reserve of mothers. He is a lucky guy to have been so loved, so adored. I’m sure it is part of why his self esteem is so robust. She has always been his unwavering cheer squad, his bringer of supper and endless cups of tea.

Sometimes, believing that your kids are perfect makes it hard to love their partners. Mary and I didn’t think the same way, and there were times that I thought we would never breach the awkward misunderstandings between us. It seemed impossible for her to know that we were actually allies in the same quest; to love the man she raised and the man I chose. Maybe I just wasn’t the sort of girl she understood, but I always felt the love I gave him was not the love she thought he needed.  I agonised over it for years, wondering how I could do better or convince her that my intentions were pure.

I suppose it is common in mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law relationships. Many of my friends would say I am not alone. I persevered with the relationship because I knew that family was more important than those feelings. That there would be a time when she might need me.   As she got sicker and the Parkinson’s Dementia took hold, she often spoke to me about Rachel, her son’s wife. Because in those conversations, to her, I was someone else entirely. During those times, I enjoyed a friendship with Mary that I hadn’t experienced before. It was quite good for both of us.  I’m grateful for all those times when we were able to see each other through fresh eyes, and find something in each other to love.

The visit before last, in a rare moment of lucidity, she told me she just wanted her boys to be happy. My mother heart understood that so completely. Her eyes seemed to implore me to take up the torch, to make sure of it. I held her hands and told her I would do everything I could, but I knew even as I said it, that neither she, nor I could do enough to ensure her sons’ happiness. And that is the pain of love. To want to make everything perfect, to smooth the way, to lower the barrier, to ease the burden. We wish to do this for the ones we love even though we know that  we cannot control the hardships of life. They are not ours to command.

I held him in my arms after we heard that she had passed. He’s a big guy, my hubster. I held that big man and listened to the boy within, as the realisation began to wash over him. I held him and I thought about how far happiness was in that moment, and I offered him instead, comfort. Empathy. I listened and I helped him pack his suitcase. I made him a coffee for the midnight drive home.  I wished I could take away the shock, the loss, the thoughts of what might have been.  I know from my own loss, that those things are the price we pay for having had the love of a great mother. I could no longer take them from him than take the sun from the sky.

I think of Mary and imagine her soaring high above us, her eagle eyes watching out for her boys like she always has.

I know I am failing her still, failing to make him happy in the ways she wanted for him. I cannot be the sort of wife she wished me to be. I will not subject myself to the sort of life many women of her generation chose. I just cannot believe in my heart of hearts that the pathway to marital happiness lies that way. At least, it certainly doesn’t for the hubster and I.  When I am subservient to him, it simply breeds resentment. It’s not our recipe for success.

Still, these days I feel softly towards her for her expectations. In my head, I ask her to forgive me for not meeting them, because I simply can’t.  I ask her to look again at him, to notice. He loves an imperfect woman, lives an imperfect life.  And, he is already happy, in all the ways that count the most.

Rest now; mother Mary.  Rest safe in the knowledge that in any way I can, I carry your love forward into the future. I cannot mother him as you did, those times for him are treasured and past. But your boy, he’s safe in my arms,
I promise.

I don’t think there is a more fitting song than this one for this post, it was written by Paul McCartney, about his own mother Mary who died when he was 14. This one is a cover by Vazquez Sound, I just loved that it was sung by a child, because nothing renders you closer to your inner child than the passing of your mum.  So this is for my man, and for me too.

The Script meets the Scientist.

or, How to De-fuse from Unhelpful Thoughts.

I have just typed up a long a grim tale about my crappy day, and then erased it.  It made me depressed reading it, so I thought you could do without it.  You’re welcome.

Instead I will tell you about the stuff my health psychologist helped me with today.  I arrived at her rooms so full up that my inside thoughts were spilling over the top of my metaphorical cup.  My cup runneth over alright, but not with joy.  Anna is an expert tea maker, so she brought me in a real cup, and we began.  I blurted out some stuff that is happening for me. I am grieving the loss of my differential diagnosis hopes.  No channelopathy diagnosis for me. Both my immunologist and endocrinologist don’t think it is an adequate explanation for my symptoms. I had really hoped, you know?  And hope was a kind of freedom.  I was letting myself dream.  My mind took me there and I liked it.  But now there is a big hole where the hopes fell through.

Anna explained that when I am going through stuff, my mind goes into judgement mode.  It’s a very ancient script, one that I’ve been reciting, in variations, all my life.  I can’t control my situation, so I turn on myself and try to control me.   All the judgement of myself that might just make me pull my socks up, turn the other cheek, push through, fix it.  Turns out my mind has some nasty things to say to me.  It plays them on repeat just in case I haven’t been listening.  It’s painful.  Does your mind sometimes sound like this, too?

_You are replacable, dispensable, not(2)

I hate this script. So I fight back. I employ my rational thinking, I answer those statements.  I try to refute them.  I look at them and see if they are reasonable and I argue with myself.  I defend myself.  I get angrier, I fly into protection mode and I scream at my mind to shut up.  I spend my energies resisting those thoughts, all the while getting caught up in the very thoughts I am fighting against.  I am still in their thrall, batting them away from my mind’s eye.  Fighting.  In my fight, I am giving them even more power than they already have. I’m the one giving them more airtime.

They will never ever go away. But today I learned to do something else with them.

I learned to use my scientific, observing mind.  Step back, notice them, name them.  Accept that I have those thoughts and let them exist, not as truth, but just as part of what my mind does to try to fix my problems. My mind isnt always helpful.  Those statements appear as truth, I’ve been hearing them for so long they must be truth?  But. they. are. not. truth. They’re just part of my software.  My glitch. I can ground myself with some exercises in mindfulness.  Be more aware of who I am with, where I am, all of my senses. Breathe, deeply. Tap into the love I feel for my family.  Let myself rest.


It’s a new day and as usual, I have woken playing the script.  Like a radio station blaring on in the background, playing some stupid daytime drama I hate.  
But I remember what to do. I am relieved.

I see you, unhelpful thoughts.  I see you.  I notice that I am thinking things that aren’t going to help me today. And I begin to observe my mind like a scientist observes the squirmy things in a petrie dish.  Poking at those thoughts objectively, they look kind of foolish.  I’m not going to let them decide my day for me today.  They can sit there and squirm away if they want.

I’m going to listen to some Neil Diamond instead.  Do you have a self judgement script that needs to be slapped onto the petrie dish and categorised for what it really is?  Bad background noise.  It’s not truth.
I hope you enjoy this rendition of Paul McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’, by one of my all time favourite singers, and from his album titled ‘Dreams’.