Saying goodbye

by tamarjacobson

I dedicate this post to a very dear friend, who some years ago sent me Nuala O'FaolainAlmost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman.

In her note that she sent with the book, my friend wrote: "Dear Tamar, I just finished this book. Thinking about you at so many places. Find time to read a few pages each day. I believe you will find it worth the time. Much love …" 

I finally got to reading the book these past two weeks, and I felt a great deal of appreciation for my friend for thinking of me through it.

Quotes of the day:

A memoir may always be retrospective, but the past is not where its action takes place. (Page 52)

because it is a precious thing to be allowed to talk about yourself in public, not for reasons of simple exhibitionism but because the attempt to describe your experience to an audience pushes you forward into an understanding of it. (Pages 60, 61)

Surely the self has begun to move toward health when it takes itself seriously enough to tell its story? (Page 192)

Maybe I'm climbing toward the light all the time though I don't know it … Today it seems to me that there is no closing of the account with parents … I think I will be haunted by my mother forever. It gives me hope, all the same, that I'm not sure anymore that the best thing to do with her is forgive her. There's more at stake now than ever before, and it is much, much later in life. Why not steel myself to split up with her this time? Tell her to manage by herself at last? … I'd say, "Goodbye," and even though I'd never forgive myself, I'd turn my back on her and walk out the door. (Pages 274, 275)

Nuala O'Faolain: Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman

Recently, I read a couple of memoirs of people who survived very difficult childhoods – physically or emotionally. Resilience in the face of abuse of any kind is always fascinating for me. Most recently, my therapist helped me face that I am one of those survivors. Needless to say, it was a difficult session for me, and I survived that too! In fact, it was validation of a kind that I have not experienced before, and ever since that day I find that I am starting to feel a different type of calm – reinforcing for me, once again, that validation is an essential component of the healing process. Just being able to say to myself, "this happened to me," has been so important. Indeed, it has opened me up to a deeper understanding of my mother's life, and more importantly, that her reactions or behaviors toward me had nothing to do with me – I was not to blame – another essential component of my healing process.

Reading the second part of O'Faolain's memoir, I was intrigued by her conclusion (above), where she allows herself to contemplate that saying goodbye and walking away from her mother could be better than forgiving her. I like to think of it as her description of a feeling, rather than the act of leaving her mother behind. I identified strongly with the sentiment though. For, in point of fact, twenty six years ago I did just that. I said: "Goodbye," and left the country. Of course, at the time I was not aware that I needed to physically leave my mother in order to survive. As I look back now I realize that was what happened. Creating that distance in miles helped me discover my own mind, and reality other than what I had been taught to feel and believe about myself. It took years for me to come to terms with all of this – some of the times were lonely, frightening, and very painful. 

In the end though, while I physically turned my back on my mother when I left Israel twenty six years ago in order to save myself emotionally, in learning to validate my experience, and understand my mother's life more deeply, I chose to forgive her.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Bag of guilt