Why I Chose Not to Spend the Holiday with My Mother

So it’s Monday after the holiday and I’m writing today to share a bit of the why behind why I opted to spend it on my own.

And while a few of you may accuse me of being selfish or inconsiderate, a few more of you may nod with me and maybe even wish you’d given yourselves similar permission.

And it’s for that possibility I want to offer this:

This Christmas, I gave myself permission to spend the holiday on my own.

Translation: I consciously chose not to spend it with my mother.

Breathe. Pause.

As I type, I’m sitting at my computer, in my sweats, in the aftermath of the holiday.

No tree, no presents, no décor. (That’s her thing).

No hurried rush rush last minute book a flight obligatory madness craze out of  “must go see mom because you know, it’s the right thing to do.” (that’s my ‘old’ thing).


Why did I choose this?

Well of course I’m a selfish, relentless, ungrateful daughter who wants to ruin her mother’s holiday.

No, of course not. Though I’ve been accused of such, it is not that.

I chose to celebrate the holiday in my cozy nook with my candles aglow and my thoughts unencumbered, open to possibility because…

On December 14, 2009, just a few days ago, I turned 41.

And I decided it’s time to let go the decades of guilt and frustration that I’m not the daughter “she” wants me to be.

Pause. Breathe.

It’s time to stop punishing myself.

It’s time to stop feeling saddened or sorry that the who I am appears inadequate to her.

And it’s beyond time I give myself permission to think I’d be able to dodge the comments, ignore the sneers, or exist under the regime of the way things are when you return home playing a role that you can’t ever play honestly, yet trying to save face because that’s the ‘what I’m supposed to do.”

Beyond done with thinking that choices I’ve made out of obligation--or not wanting to hurt her-- serve me.

They haven’t. They don’t. I need a new way.


But here’s the truth:

I love my mother, truly. Yet,  I don’t know what I need or want from our relationship anymore.  And so I’m taking a huge major pause to just breathe.

There’s a few things I know for sure:

In my attempts to show up and make sure her holiday or her whatever goes as she wants it to, I put myself on autopilot just to ‘deal’ or ‘cope.’ And that’s never healthy for me. In fact, it’s like self imposed suffocation.

I know we can only impact how we choose to respond to someone’s actions, as we can’t make them change.

But I’ve not nurtured myself enough. And autopilot mode just to save face does not lead toward healing. Ever.

That’s where I am this holiday season.

I know I’m at a place where, while I hope for healing, there’s still a lot of memory that hasn’t been forgotten.

It is difficult to forget constant criticism, the constant “Why aren't you married by now? Or , “why haven’t you provided me with my next career as your children’s grandmother?”

That indirect blame and guilt and shunning is really her own voicing her emptiness, her fear of the unknown. She was brought up thinking by now she'd be a grandmother to her daughter's children.

And none of my choices would heal that. And I know this.

But hearing her constant wishing my life were different is still painful for me…not because I can’t take criticism. And this is the kicker: It’s painful for me because I ache to know my mother is hurting in any way and I want to heal that.

Yet, I know that I must let go my desire to personally hold responsibility to fill up my mother’s heart and give her a way to self fulfillment.

I know that no matter what I choose, my choices are not the means through which she’ll find completeness.

I know that – now – the best I can do is walk the walk that I must for me…and hope in some small measure that to the degree I make a practice out of nurturing my heart and what I need that in some small way, she maybe will see the who I am.

But this practice of nurturing me is finally not about mom.

This year it’s about me.

And bear with me, but maybe I am writing to still expunge the guilt that is there though it ought not be.

I just spent a month at my mom’s, 2 weeks to house-sit, 2 weeks to try to visit and she had everything and it’s brother come up for her.

In 15 days we may have had one conversation together. Loads of chit chat and talking at but not conversation.

And this is no one’s fault. I chose to go into her world.

But her world is extremely busy for me. Beyond busy.

She had appointments, luncheons, bridge, appointments, cocktail parties, appointments, black ties, even a pre-funeral weekend that took her out of town. Most all her social is philanthropic and foundation promoting.  Most all of her appointments are for her sense of health. It’s busy. And complicated.

And she did in fact on several occasions squeeze in openings for a potential visit with me. But in those moments I was either engaged in my work and writing or already had other commitments.

You see, in my mother, I see a nurturing heart, and phenomenally intelligent mind, a constant companion, a partner, a devoted friend.

She lives many qualities that I know I strive to.

I also see a woman who survived an abusive childhood, managed through the pain of divorce, rallied to still host the holidays and keep the order in the years following divorce when I probably would have wanted to run.

But somehow she’s not been able to ‘shed’ her passion with having me make choices she would make to define her, complete her, identify her, substantiate her.

And this echoes her every word with me.

I see her reacting and feeding off of her perception of what she believes my life is lacking.  And I’ve exhausted myself trying to change that perception.

In fact it’s been such a huge priority that the morning of my birthday I realized I’ve lost myself – to a large extent – in thinking one of my main ‘jobs’ is to help my mother see me more fully.

Big wake up call.

Hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in a long long long while, and one that I thought I knew.

It is not mine perhaps to ‘fix’ my mother  or her view of me anymore than it’s mine to fix anyone’s view.

None of us can force each other to see our spirituality or wholeness.

But it is ours to so live our sense of purpose and individuality.

And this is where I think I’ve been lacking a bit.

I thought I was over this but I’ve actually spent to  much wasted energy on how to fix how she sees me.

I thought I could heal feeling invisible around her.

I thought I could be this diehard rock of strength.

And I have been.

But it exhausts me after a while. And I have to ask: Tre, why do you keep showing up expecting something to be different?

And I know why.

Because I strive ad-infinitum to see the good and understand the motive of love behind the actions.

But from my viewpoint, the criticisms are still there, the perceived disappointment, the ongoing shunning.

And these are not influences that support me or nurture my now.

So why continue to show up amidst them and somehow celebrate that I triumphed yet again, when it gets exhausting?

So this post isn’t one full of answers by any means.

I use a lot of ideas to meditate with I can and will share in a later post…about how our true Mother is the source of Love that grounds us and that my real job, or anyone’s is to cultivate a relationship with that influence by heeding our hearts and being true to ourselves.

I’ve learned a lot that way. But my now finds me realizing I must start trusting my mother to her own inner nudge and hope she opts to look through a new lens where it concerns her view of me.

There’s a lot of love there I know.

There’s a deep desire for each other’s happiness.

There’s a devotedness that wants to ensure it in fact.

But how willing are we to see the true substance of one another?

I’m realizing I need to nurture me instead of engaging in battle.

I’m realizing the wisest move isn’t always about wearing the armor that will enable us to survive the battle.

I want more for mom and me, infinitely more.

I want more for all moms and daughters out there.

I have deep hope there is a way where we can each drop our views of what each one of us should or shouldn’t be doing with our lives and honor the choices we are making for the good it brings us.

I hope that any mother who believes her way is the "be all end all solution for fulfillment" can respect her choices for just that merit…for herself.

I hope that all daughters have the courage to evolve their voices in their own ways and strive to find what fulfills them uniquely without choosing out of obligation for what they feel their mothers would expect.

I want that for mom and me and I hope for that possibility amidst all mothers and daughters.

The world needs mothering, it needs solid strong women and it needs strong women leaders.

Surely much of my strength comes from mom’s example and watching her survive. But it also comes from seeing the choices she made I could not agree with and resolving to live life differently. And it's come from being in awe with others of her choices and knowing I hope to muster and live that much courage too.

Is it possible that mothers and daughters can co exist and find strength in a renewed sense of respect for one another?

Is is possible that through the mother daughter bond we can offer the world a whole renewed sense of womanhood?

These are my hopes and why I opted to nurture my heart this holiday…..

Would love to know how you are nurturing you….and if you’ve ever pulled away from your mom to sift through thoughts as you learned to trust your mom to her own inner nudge while you’re learning how to trust yours….

Here's to mothering ourselves....and each other.


tw:   @tresha

fb:    http://facebook.com/treshathorsen

e:     tre@thoughtbythought.net

blog: http://thoughtbythought.net

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