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  • In my forties, I have decided to take on a whale of an issue and come to terms with my mother…not a short order…anyone with mothers out there, you know what I mean.

    My mother and I have always been at odds…she claims that even my birth was a source for an argument. The doctors said I would be born in mid-September, but what they didn’t know is I like to stay in warm dark places, so I lounged around in my mother’s womb for an extra month more and arrived on a mid-October evening with a look on my face that said to my mom,

    “Jesus, what did you do that for? Can’t you see I’m comfortable?”

    Which, I don’t doubt, was exactly what I was thinking at the time. So, needless to say, my mother and I didn’t get started on the right foot and our relationship never really stood on two feet. It limped around for over thirty-five years…she tried, I tried, we tried.

    However, in the end, she deals with things, in my opinion, by getting drunk and mean and because she knows I am someone who sees, I am the first her shame attacks…so one morning after our plan to have a ‘normal’ family Christmas somewhere in Mexico deteriorated into a typical Christmas of sideways comments, denial and core level attacks…I decided to walk out…to leave my mother with herself and to save myself from this wreck of a connection. I remember getting on the Mexican bus back home and for some reason, feeling blessed.

    In the five years since, I have talked to her twice, once on the phone and once face to face…it makes me sad; I wish her well, but until she can apologize or even recognize her part of our tale, I cannot have a relationship with her other than through prayer.

    I can tell you this from where I stand five years out…I can run from her weaknesses all that I want but my mother is so powerful a force that she has the power to appear in someone else. Case in point: Nancy.

    I met Nancy this summer on a Costa Rican hill at some yoga teacher retreat. I met a lot of women on that hill that day, but Nancy stood out. She was an agelessly beautiful woman with sea colored eyes who talked and talked…she talked about her daughters, she talked about her divorce, she talked about her bastard ex-husband, she talked about her new man and talked and talked and as I listened to her, all I wanted her to do was stop. There was something about this Nancy stranger that rubbed me the wrong way…I didn’t know what it was but I decided with Nancy that I would stay away. And I did. When we had meals, I would sit as far away from her as I could; when we did our yoga practices, you could find me on the opposite end of the room. I tried not to look at her in her eyes, so that she wouldn’t talk to me and the way I figured it, if I kept this up for the 21 days I was forcing myself to stay on this hill surrounded by women, I could escape in tact without having to ever talk to Nancy.

    However, I am just like everybody else and on occasion, I have to use the bathroom. On this Costa Rican hill, we shared one…two bathrooms, 9 women…. so needless to say, it was inevitable to run into Nancy in this bathroom place. This happened one day when I wasn’t paying attention. I went into the bathroom and when I went to wash my hands…who could it be but Nancy who had just gotten out of the shower and who was about to blow dry her caramel colored hair.
    “Hi,” she said in her too bright a voice.

    I muttered to myself something like,

    “Hi.” back. But what I wanted to say, was,

    “Look, just let me wash my hands and get out of here as fast as I can because Nancy, I have nothing to say to you.”

    Nancy seemed to not notice my discomfort and she continued to chirp,

    “I’m blow drying my hair…want to use my dryer?”

    Oh, there it is, Nancy, I thought, your cutting blow…do I want to use your blow dryer? Fuck you! Usually I do my hair up nice, but Nancy didn’t know this because ever since I landed on this Costa Rican hill, I had thrown my locks in braids and hadn’t washed it in several days…I looked like a middle aged Pippi Longstocking but I could give a shit, I was stuck on a hill with 9 woman for the next days…so I decided that I wouldn’t wash and I wouldn’t shave.

    I looked at Nancy through the slants in my eyes,

    “No, I don’t want to use your dryer.”

    She continued to chirp,

    “Don’t you ever do your hair?”

    She asked.

    Them were fighting words; words that marked the divide; something only my mother would say…”Honey, why don’t you do this? Honey, why don’t you do that? Are you seriously going to wear those shoes? Why don’t you wear these? Why don’t you do anything other than what you are doing right now…honey…honey…” I didn’t even answer Nancy but muttered something under my breath something like,

    “Fuck you, Nancy.” And then out of the bathroom, I made my escape.

    Now, the battle of Nancy and I had moved into full strike. At ever meal, I waited to see where she would sit and I would now find the farthest point in the bench; when she would speak in class, I would doodle with my pen; when she would do anything, including breath, I would try to avoid sharing in the experience because Fuck Nancy, she’s not the mom of me.

    And this is how it went for several days…Nancy doing anything and me doing anything to avoid it…and then one day, our yoga group went to do yoga on the beach like we had done several days before. We loved doing yoga on the beach but not on this day. As we drove towards the ocean in our yoga school truck (me on the farthest bench away from you know who), it started to rain. First, there was a drop; then, there were two and by the time we reached the shore we were in a downpour. However, this was a group of yoga die hards and we were determined to wait it out. So, I jumped out of the back of the truck and headed for the only shelter I could find…a tiny roof that covered two trashcans by the sea. As soon as I reached shelter, I heard someone following me. Before I could even turn to see who it was…I heard its voice.

    Fuckin’ Nancy. Jesus Christ.
    “Wow,” she chirped, “It’s really raining.”

    I muttered, “Yes.”

    Go ahead, Nancy, state the obvious why don’t you.

    She continued to chirp,

    “But wow, it is seriously beautiful.”

    I nodded silently at her but the whole time screaming in my head, “Shut up, Nancy, and go back to the truck.”

    But she ignored my screams and did neither of what I wanted her to do. Instead she stayed and continued to talk about this and talk that… she talked about her daughters, she talked about her divorce, she talked about her bastard ex-husband, and she talked about her new man and talked and talked.

    “Yes, Nancy,” I wanted to say, “I’ve heard it all before.”

    However, before I could look somewhere else, she looked me directly in the eye…it caught me by surprise, her look…it was a look of a woman who had been through a lot…a bastard of a husband, mouthy kids, disillusionment… but for some reason there was a beauty and a vulnerability as well as fear that I could sense. When I look back on that moment now, I would say this was the moment that I saw her not as Nancy but I saw her humanity. Something in my heart stirred.

    “Your boyfriend died, didn’t he?”

    I nodded and looked back at the sea,

    “He did.” I actually answered her.
    “Have you dated since?”

    I told her yes but there were no big deals…He was so special and I loved him so much that he left behind very big shoes.

    She shivered at the thought, “Aren’t you scared to be alone?”

    I looked over at her and I could see again her humanity…these were her own fears she was sharing with me.

    I nodded and looked back at the sea,

    “I suppose to an certain extent.” I actually answered her.

    We, then, grew silent and shared in our view of the sea. We heard the driver of the truck yell for us…it was time to leave…no yoga today on the beach…so, Nancy and I ran back into the back of the truck and we sat side by side. At one point of our journey back to our hill, the rain grew really bad…to the point where we couldn’t see. Nancy through a sarong over her head and she opened it to me…

    “Want to share it?”

    I agreed. So, there we were under a sarong and she chirped,

    “I didn’t just want to throw it over your head…if I did that my daughter, she would be like, ‘Fuck you, Nancy, this.’ ‘Fuck you, Nancy, that.’ But whatever…I can’t help it, I’m a mom.” She, then, started to laugh for no apparent reason and so contagious was it that I too began to howl. I had to; I had fallen in love with Nancy. Who the hell woulda thunk?

    I have little hope in my relationship with my mother these days. I spent over 35 years trying to figure it out but it is a never-ending battle where both of us play a part. I have had to accept that we may die this way…apart. Yet, that doesn’t negate the power that the mother-daughter relationship plays…I can run from it, I can hide from it, I can escape it, as I have had to, in order to survive, but sooner or later…a Nancy appears and we get a chance to figure things out.
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