A couple of months back, I gave my students assignment, “Write about 10 things you know the real truth about.” Once we honed our list of subjects, we wrote wrote a piece that succinctly summarized what we knew about each of the ten topics–what we knew deeply about them.
Last month, I shared a couple of the subjects I’d put on my own list. Here’s another: how to make peace with a mother you’re estranged from.
This is a subject I know a lot about, mainly because I’ve successfully reconciled with (and have an excellent relationship with) my own mother, from whom I was estranged for seven years.
I got so interested in the topic of estranged relationships and how to mend them, that I wrote a whole book about it, I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation. Of the seven books I’ve written, it’s my personal favorite, though it wasn’t the most commercially successful.
If you have someone you’re estranged from in your life, I suggest you check it out. It will help you find your own answers–without telling you what you should do or how you should do it.
I know how to make peace with a mother you are estranged from:
- You have to become comfortable with the elephant in the room.
- You have to learn to let go of things you cannot change about your mother.
- Stop being surprised every single time she acts like herself. Rather than being offended or hurt, cultivate a sense of humor instead.
- Widen your focus away from the things that drive you crazy and the things you think you can’t tolerate until you can see that there is a much bigger field that the two of you are standing in.
- Remember, you’re not the only one stretching here. Chances are your mother will be making the same adaptations in relation to you.
- You have to see your mother as more than just your mother–with all her strengths, liabilities and failings. You have to see her as a human being shaped and formed by her environment, a mother who was also a daughter and a granddaughter and a sister and a worker and a teenager and a young woman and now a grandmother, someone coping with aging and loss and the vicissitudes of her life.
- You have to make your viewpoint so large that you both become part of the human family, a family much more powerful and encompassing and spacious than the narrow human family you were born into.
- You have to give up being right.You have to give up proving your point.
- You have to focus on the positive things between you, even if they are tiny and seemingly insignificant. If you both like to bake ruggelach, focus on that. If you both like to read the Sunday New York Times, focus on that. Build a connection based on the small things you share or the tiny things you can agree upon. From that tiny foundation, a new relationship can grow.