The Sound of Silence: a mother’s day reflection 2019 by Sara Wright


Here in the high desert it has been raining off and on for the last few days. A giant puddle sits in the driveway and all the trees range in color from subtle shades of sage to emerald. Fringed Chamisa, spun gold and salmon wildflowers are bent low but stems are luminescent. Seedlings are sprouting in unlikely places.

I can’t think of a better mother’s day present for the desert than these ongoing cloud-bursts that are nourishing the earth with water and minerals from the sky. I am profoundly grateful for this year’s spring greening.

The earth is experiencing a sense of renewal. I wish I could say the same for me with respect to mothering and mother’s day. I cross this cyclic threshold with the same feelings of dread and grief that overpower me each year. Neither of my children acknowledge me as the mother who once loved them so fiercely, but oh so imperfectly in her own confusion and despair.

I was such a young wife, barely twenty when I became pregnant with my first child. Two years later I was a mother of two sons. Within five years I was divorced and on my own.

Although I tried to repair the damage as soon as I was able, neither child was willing to join me. I desperately suggested counseling – many times. As adolescents and young adults both Chris and later David, responded with chilling silence and apparent indifference to every frantic attempt I made to bridge the gap.

It was decades before I began to understand that after my brother’s death I surrendered my children to grieving parents whenever they wanted. I had no idea my behavior was rooted in survivor’s guilt (my 50 percent). Later, after my father’s sudden death, my mother co opted my children for her own reasons, making certain that both would shut the door on me, just as she had.  She demonstrated the power of silence/absence as a means of soul destruction, and cheerfully passed the torch onto both my children.

It was too late.

Yet, I kept trying for another 25 years. Two years ago, after yet one more aggressively abusive phone call from my youngest son I snapped, and gave up the ghost.

I struggled then – mightily – to find a way to accept   incomprehensible truth. That I had two 50 plus year old children who couldn’t see me for who I am, children that don’t care about, or respect me. Love is not part of their equation. This reality seemed so extreme that I couldn’t digest what was.

I still can’t.

I suspect the stomach issues I am dealing with today with have everything to do with the fact that a person can only live with so much emotional suffering before physical collapse becomes a reality.

As my body continues to weaken, most of the time I retreat further and further from that which I am powerless to change.

But around mother’s day I can’t help but think about my relationship with my children and my mother because I am both mother and daughter and because my life is permeated by the suffering that comes from being silenced, rendered invisible and unloved. An intergenerational pattern of harsh judgment/rejection lives on and I wonder who will be damaged by it next.

My mother is dead and my children are well past mid –life and responsible for their own choice -making. I no longer make excuses for either of them.  I hold each son accountable for mother betrayal, just as I learned to hold my mother accountable (after her death) for her betrayal of me. I don’t know my grandchildren well enough to make any judgment. Like my mother, my oldest son, their father, made sure they were never able to see me until they were already 18 years old. They were taught how to use silence as a weapon too.

If I am willing to be accountable for the mistakes I made as a parent knowingly and unknowingly, and I am, then so are the other members of my family. It’s that simple.

I am aware that my story is not unique. Families twist realities and create their own cruel and distorted stories. We are all are living through dark times; cultural and earth destruction are ongoing realities. Some days I can barely imagine a future that embodies  hope on either a personal or a collective level.

And yet, when I walk out the door I see the seeds that I did not plant sprouting new green. When I lovingly water them I am catapulted into the Field of the Living Earth…  S/he too has lost children, millions of non – human species, and will lose so many more before the story ends… Yet, she continues to align herself with Life. I choose to join her. I hope that before I die I will find a few more seeds to plant and nurture even if they did not emerge from my own body.

The prophet Gibran once said that our children do not belong to us but are life’s longing for itself. The Earth demonstrates the truth of this statement; I want to believe it too.

 

Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.



Categories: Children, Family, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Motherhood, parenting, Peacemaking

Tags: , , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. A motherless child and a childless mother. This story is so sad and I cannot help but link it to Esther’s ruminations on dis-respectful sons the other day. I am so sorry for you Sara. But please don’t let this sap your life-force. We all come from the Goddess and to her we shall return like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh such a moving comment Carol – so heartfelt – and yes, I do my best not to let this story takeover my life. And yes, in the end we come from nature and we shall return to her and in between there is great joy. as well as sorrow. i just wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my life ‘hoping for a different outcome’ … I seem to be a pitifully slow learner.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Sara, I feel every word you write about your experiences as a mother. You write:

    “And yet, when I walk out the door I see the seeds that I did not plant sprouting new green. When I lovingly water them I am catapulted into the Field of the Living Earth… S/he too has lost children, millions of non – human species, and will lose so many more before the story ends… Yet, she continues to align herself with Life. I choose to join her. I hope that before I die I will find a few more seeds to plant and nurture even if they did not emerge from my own body.”

    This paragraph expands the view from our individual experiences to a broader one. That broader view can provide hope and comfort. Thank you for this essay.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Heart with you in your heartbreak, Sara. Honor to you for witnessing, participating in, and creating beauty in a beautiful place.

    Like

  4. What a sad story! Please remember that probably every mother feels guilty about stupid things she did when she was young and didn’t know anything about good mothering. I wish your sons could know that and give you a break. I hope you’re finding healing in the greening desert. Bright blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, so lovely – thank you Elizabeth – you know telling these stories hopefully helps those women who still can’t talk about mother pain….

    Like

  6. Sara, I’m sorry for the pain you have felt, the emotional suffering you’ve endured, and thank you for sharing part of your story. Blessings to you.

    Like Esther above, I resonate with your near-final paragraph:

    “And yet, when I walk out the door I see the seeds that I did not plant sprouting new green. When I lovingly water them I am catapulted into the Field of the Living Earth… S/he too has lost children, millions of non – human species, and will lose so many more before the story ends… Yet, she continues to align herself with Life. I choose to join her. I hope that before I die I will find a few more seeds to plant and nurture even if they did not emerge from my own body.”

    I never had human children; dogs, cats, and a variety of other creatures, have always been my “kids”, my fur-kids I call them, even though I am fully cognizant of the reality that they exist as their own persons with their own lives to experience and I am only one piece, one relationship. Their short lives have taught me more than I can have imagined just as the long lives of mountains and aspen-forests have done so as well. So to your above paragraph, yes … I have aligned with Life, with Love, in all her glorious messy non-linear spiraling and found my Belonging within her.

    Like

    • Yes, I too have aligned my self with life in “all her glorious messy non linear spiraling and have found my Belonging with her.”

      And like you my life is filled with the short lives of beloved animals that have taught me about unconditional love.

      My one regret is that I ever had children in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too. My biggest mistake.

        My story is very very similar.

        Both horrified and comforted by the fact that I’m not alone in this experience of dysfunction and cruelty from people who are suppose to “love” me. 3 generations tell their stories about who I am and what my motivations are…history written by the victors.

        I like to think of myself as a Fury…the remanent of the matriarchy before being subsumed by the p. I don’t ask for revenge, understanding, or empathy…just want a little peace in my remaining years.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I am grateful to know that one woman has read this story that has had a similar experience. With all the sentimentality (and bullshit) around motherhood, who wants to tell the truth? – and gosh, we MUST break the silence. Of course I am heartbroken for you but I applaud your courage… hopefully women like us can lead the way. I know one thing – once iw as consumed by shame but no more. At some late point in my life I recognized that what these people did and do is more about them than me.

          Like

  7. Thanks Esther, your comment here helped me too with something I was struggling with. And that is, your suggestion regards expanding our view from an individual experience to a broader one, and which can then provide hope and comfort for us all.

    Like

  8. If ever there was a key, Esther nailed it!

    Like

  9. Family aggression against their female (or anyone) relatives, that commonly includes a mother manipulating her grandchildren to betray/reject their mother (who is her daughter), is a reflection of the misogyny of patriarchal cultures and is tragically widespread. The phenomenon is complex and stems from intergenerational trauma, among other complex psychological processes (like unhealthy group identity, for one). I wrote a book about this that’s not yet in print, but soon…Everyone loses and carries the wounds of a cut-off, no matter what they may say on the surface. Your empty place at the table of their lives is ever-present, no matter their denial. But you, Sara, have the courage and strength to acknowledge the grief and pain of this breech, which means you ARE healing. Mother Earth is telling you that truth, I believe, every time you recognize Her beauty in those seedlings…Beauty & Life continue no matter our devastation…I was shunned by my biological relatives too, and my mother is a feminist psychotherapist! I get it, believe me! Keep the Faith!! We ARE healing…Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love these words Stephanie: “Family aggression against their female (or anyone) relatives, that commonly includes a mother manipulating her grandchildren to betray/reject their mother (who is her daughter), is a reflection of the misogyny of patriarchal cultures and is tragically widespread.” This is why we MUST speak out.

      Like

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. It is moving and real and painful. It is not only your loss it is your son’s and your grandchildren’s loss as well. There is no winner when hearts grow closed. My heart is with you. I hope and pray that you find not only seeds of life and passion but that you also have lots of love in your own life. I also hope and pray that you continue to find gifts that help you to keep your own heart open.

    I’m not sure if this will help or not (it just keeps popping into my head) but do you know the movie, In Her Shoes? It is a stunning movie about two adult children who find a grandmother they did not know about. Shirley MacLaine plays the grandmother. They all find love where they least expected it.

    Like

  11. You are right – everyone loses as both you and Stephanie both said – No one wins – and the winners may actually become the losers – of course, this does not comfort those of us who have been tragically shunned or worse but we can take comfort in that empty place at the table.

    Like

  12. Thank you for sharing your pain and your transcendent hope with us. May we bear witness to it in ways that help you feel surrounded by love and support.

    Like

  13. “The Sound of Silence” is a perfect description of my relationship with my mother. It’s taken a life-time for me to find some healing – some. I hope you can too, Sara, with great gentleness and love for yourself.

    Like

  14. “Mom pain”…you have given me a phrase that captures my own ambivalence toward this horrid holiday. Your phrase, “the power of silence/absence as a means of soul destruction” hit the nail on the head as well. My mother/parents did not intentionally use silence as a weapon – as perhaps yours did, but rather they maintained and require silence because keeping the peace at all cost was their priority. This meant/means not allowing full expression of thought for anyone!To say this is damaging to authentic relationships that could be grounded in integrity is saying the obvious. The condition of the relationship is contingent upon keeping silent. There is no grace to be found here. I grieve the relationships that might have been. I grieve the lack of loving grace that could be offered on both of our parts. After years of timidly and then assertively attempting to speak my piece, to reveal who I am and what my call is on this planet, I have been met with silence and/or disapproval. Sigh! It is truly soul destruction. Mom pain. Yup! You are certainly not alone. Thank you for speaking into the void so powerfully. You have touched my heart.

    Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: