Explorations of mind, paths, and life

Trembling Dark Forests of Broken Things

Posted on October 31, 2015 - Filed Under self reflect

My mother, who isn’t prone to sharing articles, popped a link on to a private message to me. Majestic Unicorn wrote a phenomenal, and yet, for me, triggering post on “Broken Things.” It touched on the tougher moments of parenting, and the love-ness that is taught and nurtured when we are faced with anger. As I wrapped up reading it, everything ached. Tears fell, my voice moved furiously through the spaces between my heart and my head, dripping, sad, tentative, yet loud; “How the fuck do I find love in the steaming pool of anger that burbles so deeply in me with regards to my own mother?” and it fell on the page…

I had a place of forgiveness once, once I felt done with all of it. s14024Once I got quiet and heard her agony, told time and time again, the burden of her memories, of her pain, or her unworthiness of love. Once I got quiet and wrote whirlwinds of regard for her courage. And once, I ran far, far away, from the judgment, the discouragement, the unpredictability, the endless fighting. Once I saw her, deeply entangled in the little girl she is, just like mine. But I could only take care of one child. She clung to me, orphaned. Once, twice perhaps a lifetime more times, I held that little girl in her. I felt compassion for that part of her, but still, below the love and compassion, I didn’t want to be holding my mother as the frightened angry child that she is. I didn’t want to soothe her guilt and pain, laying out all the work it takes for me to walk compassionately on this planet, dismissing all the time I have been alone, all the time I have taken care of myself, all the times I protected myself alone, to soothe her in the work she runs from. The work she reflects on me to do. I have my own fucking work to do, I bellowed. I have my own little girl, I have my own experience to process.

s08036She held up an empowerment weekend for nearly 6 hours with her agony, all the while leaving me to wait outside as she spoke her guilt and pain; I waited, while the sun set, for a call to allow me back in. “You are doing great,” they said. “Let her have her voice,” they encouraged. “You are being such a good daughter,” they pushed, as I sat alone in a back room waiting. Then she emerged, lightened and exhausted. “It was amazing,” she said. “It was healing,” she stated. “I feel better now,” she remarked. Recovery offered her the same audience. “I am clean now,” she encouraged. “I am safe now,” she suggested. “I have put down my arms,” she pronounced while the white flag dropped to the floor. Nothing changed except knowing that all of it was deeper in her than I could even fathom. It affirmed that I was still the daughter who is not enough. I don’t love her enough. I don’t offer regard the way she needs. I owe her. I scream the same things inside. I have the same desire, to be mothered; to fall into the safety of a mother. You don’t love me, I scream. You point at me in the world when you have been in pain, and say, LOOK what SHE has done to me. I have been shamed, deeply hurt by your vengeful punishment, I stutter. Nothing changed except that I don’t reach for the belt to assist in my own beating. I depart, ignore, detach, look away, and abandon her, because I will never be enough. I am defeated. And she fights, demands, and she is orphaned.

I am so angry with her. I stare at the broken mirror shattered by both our rage, and I just want to HAVE MY ANGER. Not anger mounted from blame, but ANGER for being denied the pain of my experience. For all the times I have been told it was nothing, it didn’t exist, I am dramatic about it, it is unjustified, I created it, I caused it, I was stubborn, I caused her pain. For all the moments my whimpers were scoffed at. For all the times my anger was not allowed to be bigger than hers, all the times my pain and fear was a splinter compared to the creaking, snapping trees of her raw and vicious experience. My only job has been to love her, OR be sent to my room and close the door to the rest myself. “Hush, you are not worthy of your anger, because MINE is bigger,” she would say. “Hush, you are not deserving of your pain, because MINE is deeper.” She would draw a line in the soil between us. And her trees would grow, tangled and large in that space. They would creak and groan and I would be frightened in the forest of her agony. “YOU MUST LOVE ME,” she would wail like the wind through that fearsome forest, and I held on to the little sapling that was my heart in her forest, hoping to survive.

The quiet, detached, lonely child in me has resisted even that. “You WILL NOT TAKE LOVE FROM ME,” my inner child laments in that deep dark forest. It has taken me years to see that aching child in my own soul and coax her from the shadows. To try to understand how she guides me, to offer consolation when she is confused and navigate for her as the strong woman I have become. It has taken seeing that child in others to gift me with a knack for connection, compassion, and regard. And my mother watches, and wails, the orphaned child, “Why not me? Can you not love me?”


Loving her has been frightening, dangerous, uncertain. It has stood trembling against demands, expectations, disregard, pointed and gestured accusation. It has fallen apart in moments in which I didn’t own my body, or my space, or my words. When I couldn’t say, “NO!” and be honored. My love has been taken as her property. I don’t know how to love her; because the ways I love are not what her orphaned scared child knows. She gazes at the petals of tenderness I lay at her feet, saying, “you do this because I demand it, not because it means something.” And I back away, with regret for offering any part of myself. I retreat into the shadows, figuring that, I too must be unworthy; this is so hard.

s15036aThe relationship between mother and child is perhaps the most intimate of our lives. We start dependent on her energy, her life, her nourishment. As we float in the womb, feeling every energetic moment, every echo of emotion, every word she utters; we are one. She is the first skin we touch, she is our first source of sustenance, she is our first mirror to our self. The violence she inflicts on herself is the violence she places in our own deepest sense of self. It plants in us our first sense of how safe the world is out there, it breathes life into our ability to give and receive love. It is a primitive and deep place in which to grow a sapling.

This article fluttered in and out of my feed for nearly three days. And just four days ago I had a dream that my mother had died. My first thought as the information came through the wisps of sleep, “Are you fucking kidding, she can’t die without having some resolution to this endless struggle and dance! WHY did we keep wasting our time! Now it will never be healed!” As I work on a memoir that revolves around the love of my father, the story of my mother vacillates in and out of the current that feeds me. I turn away, repeatedly to writing them. I leave her orphaned because I cannot speak of love in her story without giving voice to my anger. I am shamed for having a story that perpetuates a spoken history of the ways she knew not how to be mother. I fear adding to the ways I injure her. Yet, I continue to stifle and turn my back on my own anger. I tell it, “Hush, you are not worthy of your anger or your pain, because it can NOT be bigger than hers.” My guilt for having suffered in light of the voracious forest that twists and suffocates her, is profound. Perhaps I can not love if I can not understand loving my mother. Perhaps she can not love until she has found a love for that orphaned child, and first learns to nurture HER. I have transplanted that sapling to gentler forests in my own space and heart. I have mothered myself, and as I grow, I continue to find the boundaries, the voice, the compassion for my own tender self.

It is not that I do not love my mother. It is that I love her so deeply I suffer against the impenetrable tangle of roots and branches. Loving is easy, I say often. It is all the other stuff that is so hard. However, if I get quiet, if I look through the eyes of the woman I have become, through the eyes of wisdom and time, that forest is not so voracious. It is a microcosm of a much bigger, primeval, wildwood built of generational and cultural matter, lifetimes of barriers. And it isn’t that we need to chop and yank and pull against the growth, but instead tend gently to the roots, that deep desire to be worthy, to be seen, to matter. My roots, my voice, my journey, and my healing.


Upon completion of this piece, I awoke the next morning, my subconscious roused from the process that often comes from strong emotional moments. I remembered an article my sister had sent several years back that resonated. On my hunt to find it in the web of the internet I found a corresponding article (same author) that speaks exactly to the dilemma for parentified daughters;



One Response to “Trembling Dark Forests of Broken Things”

  1. Helen on November 1st, 2015 6:17 am

    Thank you…I needed this!