This year mom turned 67, and if you ever met her in person, most people would agree she doesn't look or act her age.
Ever since I can remember, my mom was always full of life and passion. She wears her heart on her sleeve, is loud and opinionated and generally will speak her mind to you regardless if she's known you for 5 years or 5 minutes.
She has a huge heart, and she's not afraid to use it.
Unfortunately, the job of a parent is doomed to experience a predictable conflict between themselves and their children. The more you care, the more it backfires. It's the story of mankind, and none of us are immune. It is only until life pounds us, shapes us, and allows us to see the bigger picture of their love hidden behind all the details we misinterpreted when we were younger.
By then you don't have much time left, and part of you can't help but feel regret for all the bullshit you gave them when you were less wise.
Growing up as an only child I was the center of attention, the center of all hope. My mom, my dad and I immigrated here as refugees in 1990, and the decision was because of me. I was the only reason my parents decided to leave their established lives and risk everything in a foreign country and start from scratch.
I wouldn't understand the depth of this sacrifice until much, much later in life.
My mom and I had a dynamic that probably many of you can relate to - she would nag me about this or that and I would get annoyed and it either turned into an argument or both of us shutting down and leaving the situation followed by distance until some circumstance pushed us back towards each other.
Sounds like most relationships, huh?
It's a predictable dynamic because at the end of the day human beings are predictable. We all have several things in common in our mechanics that make practically every interaction predictable if it isn't one exercised by true choice, stepping back, taking a breath and going from there.
Up until this year, my mom was someone I knew loved me, but in the end we had a limited amount of time we could be around each other before something went over the edge. Not to mention sharing my life with her in any form because she would just give me an opinion on it rather than taking it for what it is, and Lord knows after a lifetime of opinions I didn't need another one.
So, I learned to withdraw, withhold or just plain argue to death when an issue came up. There was love between us, but we were also stuck in an endless loop, or cycle, of our own mechanics.
But if you asked me - my relationship with my mom was "fine" - just fine. And for many years I thought "fine" was good enough, just keep managing by, take what you can get and avoid the problems as much as possible.
This year like a few of you know, I took the red pill and jumped on the transformation train via the courses at Landmark. I have to owe Landmark a bit of gratitude for their programs because they truly changed my life and helped me clear away a lot of those destructive cycles, leaving so much more available in my relationships.
And the case with my mom is something special.
Up until this year, had you asked me if my mom could ever change or if you could teach an "old dog new tricks" - I would tell you most likely no. I lost count of how many nights I would stay up until 2 in the morning trying to give her a different perspective on areas in her life where she was stuck, but, despite a momentary burst of optimism at best, nothing would stick.
You just can't change anymore when you're a certain age, right?
Before we answer this question, there is a hidden little detail that is actually very significant - what is our notion of "change"?
Most of the time when we think of someone changing, we use some external measurement. As in, what they "do" differently. Or sometimes internally, like at major belief systems.
While I believe even those changes are possible, because you never know what life will throw at you and how it will alter your point of view (just look at Louise Hay who transformed in her late 50's) the type of change that I'm talking about here between my mom and I is mostly that of awareness.
Unfortunately, those early experiences in childhood that marred your view on life, people and failure - they are never going away. This is reality. Mechanics are mechanics, we all have them. It will never not annoy me if my mom comes into my house, like she did today, and the first things out of her mouth are opinions about where things need to go or why I should do this or that.
And likewise, she most likely won't be able to keep her opinion to herself with me because she cares and wants the best for me at all times. These are mechanics, they are practically automatic and their interactions are always predictable.
And that's fine. Just fine.
But the problem is not mechanics or trying to change them. It is building a response system in your higher brain that is aware of these mechanics and catches them, ideally, in real time. The better we get with observing our behavior, the less after the fact it is.
And that makes for a life that's better than fine. One that is truly alive, in action, responsive rather than reactive. One that is not a slave to the mechanics but interacting with them.
When I told my mom that she should take a Landmark course, she was very skeptical. I brought her to one of the introductions and she about left out of impatience. The old version of my mom that I knew was a horrible listener, impatient and - like any human being - cynical about any new possibility, especially something like Landmark.
I was really committed to a breakthrough in my relationship with my mom though, and so I offered to pay the hefty sum for the first course so that she could get a taste of a different reality. I wasn't sure if it would do anything, but I figured maybe. Just maybe.
Fast forward half a year later and my mom is in a Landmark leadership course and she's a totally different person. She's driven by possibility, optimism, takes responsibility over her behavior and is peaceful.
I emphasize peaceful because that's truly the general feeling I have with my mom now.
The old way of being that was slave to the mechanics creates situations of drama and conflict constantly, both in myself and her, and peace is only there through withdrawal. What I have with my mom now is a sense of active peace - we can be around each other, be open, handle disputes or differences of opinion or mechanics acting up and both come to the table with something to take ownership of.
I learned at one point in my life that "peace" and "relief" are often confused. We tend to think of things like peace or, even freedom, as a state of being free of circumstances. This is relief, and it is all about staying in your comfort zone.
True peace and freedom come in being within the circumstances and dancing with them.
It's truly amazing, and the most amazing part is that my mom is living proof that no matter how stuck you think you are - that it's never too late for transformation.
My mom is an avid painter, and she always wanted to get her artwork out there - now she is creating a business platform to market herself on the internet. She's inspired, making new friends, getting out there and being active - all the things we would talk about until 2 in the morning but now she has lit her own candle and fuels her own fire.
I am so touched, and proud of her.
I am proud because among the people closest to her, I judged her the harshest. I blamed her for trying to control me, for not listening, for being unworkable and sentenced her to a future in my reality that was fixed.
(This is what we do, by the way, with everyone.)
But to my least expectation and wildest dream, my mom and I actually have a real relationship now. She is an amazing person that I love actively and we have a whole new take on life. Little squabbles happen, but we don't let those mechanics run us into the ground anymore. We both have the ability to observe ourselves and between the both of us it creates a relationship that always bounces back to love without any baggage being held over from the day to day dramas.
We are open with each other, we listen to each other, we communicate about feelings and have conversations that were literally never present there before. It's not a more, better or fixed version of what we had before - it's something totally different.
When you let all that stuff go and there's nothing, everything is available. I am reminded of the idea of "getting to know" a person - we often think that we need to be with a person to "get to know them" so that a relationship will work. We have to get to know their preferences, what they dislike, how they "are" in certain situations and so on.
But if you sit back and think for a bit, all of that getting-to-know someone is really just their identity, or collection of mechanical responses to stimuli. While those are important for understanding how to minimize conflict, that part of the human condition is predictable and limited.
There is nothing new there, nothing endless, unpredictable.
My relationship with my mom right now is unpredictable - and I mean that in the best way possible.
When you are in an active kind of love - where you are both engaged, aware and bring that engagement to the table in your interactions, it becomes a dance. You have the chance to author that experience, let the mechanics go and create an unpredictable ending to your story for that day.
My mom will always be my mom. She will always worry needlessly, she will always give me her 2 cents on things that don't need it and so on. But you know what? I've let go of a lot of what that meant to me in the past so I can see it for what it is - nothing. Those little details aren't significant, because at the end of the day life is too damn short to worry about petty shit.
And this is why life shouldn't be just fine. Do not settle for fine - at least in the areas that are most important to you. It took me 30 years to find gratitude and appreciation for my parents, and now, Lord willing, they have a few good years left on them.
But you never know, and one of the worst things a child can experience is missing the opportunity to express that gratitude.
This is why I urge you, with your parents, to look at your own life and see if your relationship is "just fine." Are your interactions predictable? Have you sentenced them to a fixed future in your mind? (They are this way, that way, they will just say this, or that, etc.). As an only child I took my parents for granted for a long time, and I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to change that around while they are still alive.
Now I enjoy spending time with my mom, getting her opinion (on some things, let's not get crazy here), hearing about her new adventures that she's up to and, most of all, resolving issues when they come up with lightning fast velocity where we both take ownership of our crap and move on back to love.
I never thought it was possible, until it was possible.
Thank you mom for having so much love for me all these years despite getting very little of it returned. I wish I could have discovered what I know now and given you more years of gratitude, but I'm glad you are still with me and I am excited how the next good years of our life will turn out. I am so proud of all that you have accomplished, all that you are possible now and most proud of how you proved my cynical old self wrong.