Complicated Love – Mother’s Day [Free]

Good morning all. It’s Mother’s Day which always brings with it so many complicating realities, feelings and factors. I wanted to dive into at least one aspect of this around the idea of love and how we live love.


I had a conversation with a dreamer recently about love that has been sitting with me for a few days, especially with today being Mother’s Day. My dreamer said this to me about a difficult relationship they are in with a lover: “Despite all the ways “they” are mean to me, I still love “them” very much.”

This conversation reminded me of a conversation I had with a member of my family shortly after my mother passed away several years ago. We were talking about the ways my mother had been cruel through her rage to her kids [me, included] as well as some of her grandkids. It was an honest and good conversation. Then, they said, “Well, you know your mother loved you, right?”

I think of this every Mother’s Day and every year on my mother’s birthday and anniversary of her passing. 

I think of this because I know that my mother, in some way, did love me. I do remember times with her that were incredible. Laughing hysterically at each other’s jokes, sharing our love for family history, being with her on her favorite holiday which was St. Patrick’s day. I remember watching her sing and perform. She had an amazing voice. I remember, too, hard and good conversations where she spoke of her struggles and angers around being a mother, around her difficult marriage with my father. I remember moments when we both could be honest and hold that space for each other. I can still hear her say, “Oh, Susan!” [She is the only one who ever called me Susan.]

And I also remember the other moments. The hard ones when she was not loving but cruel. Not honest but telling different stories, often lies, to different family members to pit us against each other. I remember the manipulations. I remember her rage. I remember the guilt. I remember seeing disgust in her eyes when she looked at me.


So, how to hold these places all together in one experience? How to be with the love she did carry for me along with all of the other things?

When I consider and feel into love now, with all these years of working with dreams, I feel it as not just the idea of love, but as the action or living of love. My mother loved me in some way, but she did not live that love. She did not bravely step into that love and let herself discover what it could be to let love redefine her. 

She held it as a “of course I love you” banner while, at the same time, being the opposite of loving toward me and other people around her. 

This is not really love. 

When my family member said, “You know your mother loved you, right?” I snapped back, “No, she did not.” I was a little angry in the moment because it felt like the statement mitigated the entire conversation. And I knew, still know, the truth. My mom did not live her love for me, so, in many ways, she did not love me.

To love, for me, is to live love, not just have an idea of it and then live a different way.

To love is to be daring – to let love lead us into new ways of being, new ways of expression, new ways of possibility. To let love challenge us to look at what blocks us from receiving and living and giving love in this way. To let love help us lean into our trauma work, lean into our becoming work.

To love is to let love show us how we, too, have been unloving and make our amends. How we have lived from our anger or loss or trauma and not lived the love we carry. 

To love is to let ourselves move through this – and our dreams can help – so that we can find the many ways we can live our love.

My mom never let herself step into healing work. She held onto her anger and resentment instead. She held onto her trauma. Lived that rather than live the love I do believe she also carried. She chose to live the anger, not her love. 

Which was the hardest thing for me. Because I did and do love my mom. I wish I could have had that love with her. Lived that love and had it transform both of us. 

I told her that once. Told her I wished she could leave her resentment and try living a different way. She honestly said, “No, I cannot. I don’t even know if I want to.” 

In her last years, her anger was so much that I had to step away from the relationship, coming back in her last year as she was dying. I have grief about this and some regrets, but mostly I know it was necessary. My difficult mother –  how I felt I needed to protect not just myself, but my child and my partner from her rage. Which I did.

It is hard, this kind of choice. When I think about my dreamer who has a partner with this kind of love but who does not live it, it utterly breaks my heart because I do understand. I also understand that we must make choices not on any idea of love – motherly love, beloved love – but on how our beloved, how our mother, how our children live that love. Or choose not to and live something else entirely, then call it love.

I also understand this for myself – to live love, not just feel it and hold the idea or ideal of it. But actually lean into the learning of this way of being with love. To always be learning the living of love.