/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: November 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009


What is love? The ultimate question which has no finite answer--what love is to one may not be to another. Not to mention the ambiguity in the word "love", for there is romantic love, the love we have for our friends, and what is revered to be the supreme of all types: a mother's love. I know this to be the most powerful kind not only from my own experience as a mother, but as well as what seems to be a unanimous consensus the world over. Regardless of race, culture or social status, it is one element that remains constant. This unique bond is so important that it even surpasses the likes of mankind.

Scientifically the reason mothers--whether they be birds, bears, chimps, or humans--are protective of their young is obviously necessary for survival. The maternal spirit is deeply wired within us women essentially for the same purpose as is the insatiable sex drive of males: to ensure the continuance of the species.

Yet it is much more complex than that. Providing food, shelter and clothing obviously isn't enough to satisfy what we have come to respect as the most important job on earth. I have recently been reading Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul since receiving it as a birthday gift from my 11-year old daughter. In addition to the varied and personal stories shared about mothers and motherhood, the book is peppered with quotes attempting to encapsulate just what the term "mother" means. One such example:

"A mother's love perceives no impossibilities." -Paddock

Of the many circumstances shared throughout the book, from harrowing to seemingly trivial, the common thread among the stories is that each is a touching and inspirational account. Reflecting on the disappointing relationship I have with my own mother, I've begun to wonder: What is a mother's responsibility to her children? And do her responsibilities end when the child is grown? Is the kind of love we expect mothers to bestow upon her child always pure and selfless? All parents desire for their children to be happy and successful; however, it's often expected the child will follow the path that we have defined for success in our own minds. When that wish is pure from selfish motivations we encourage them to attain that in the manner which satisfies them, not merely through means which we deem appropriate. We should encourage our children to think freely by communicating our own values--without forcing them--and, likewise, be there to provide emotional support when needed.

I suppose my own mom has afforded me more than the bare necessities for survival; however, as an adult now in my thirties I realize more than ever how her needs are continually put above my own, her values insidiously used to judge mine. There are by far worse mothers in this world, of that I am greatly aware. Yet I also recognize how, while my survival needs were met, my emotional needs have been, and still are, greatly neglected.

I know she loves me--as in me, her daughter. But she doesn't love me, the person. Quite frankly, she doesn't even know me. Nor does she seem to care to. I am often envious of other mother-daughter relationships and have put a great deal of thought into why I feel so disconnected and unaccepted by her. As a result, I avoid her calls a great deal of the time and only do pick up the phone when I'm in a particularly forgiving mood and feel up to the 60-minute monologue that will accompany the receiver. She does complain that we don't talk as much as she would like, but I can't help but wonder: Is she really so clueless not to realize that perhaps if she offered even a smidgen of understanding, acceptance and emotional support I would actually want to talk to her?

Although her opening line--without fail--is, "how are you?" the inflection is delivered with utmost predictability and drawn out just enough to sound more like an obligatory question than a sincere inquiry. I have learned that answering with a simple "fine" is just fine with her and certainly one sentence or less is preferred. Then, content with my contentedness she proceeds to fill me in on the mundane details of her past week, including what colors she has painted on what walls throughout the home--never mind that I have spent the past year redecorating my house--of which the details would certainly bore her. Never mind that I am presently embarking on the life-altering and emotionally tumultuous journey of ending a 13-year marriage. About which (rather than offer words of comfort or encouragement or even just lend a listening ear) she musters a pathetic "that's too bad" in a tone so listless it's clear she'd rather not be bothered with anything so sinister. It's as if she wishes I were a wall she could sweep a quick coat of paint over to change into something that fits her personal taste.

It is difficult not to feel immensely hurt when the one person on this earth who is supposed to be there for me no matter what--the one who is supposed to offer unconditional support and understanding--makes me feel used rather than loved. Evidently, I disappoint because I am unable to always paint a pretty picture about life to place within her nice little package of oblivion. Well, sometimes life is great; sometimes it's not. And when it isn't, I have only to imagine how comforting it would feel to be showered by a mother's selfless love.