This week I got a little closer to something I have been sidestepping for a long time. My partner tells me how I subtly withhold my self, my thoughts and feelings, my vulnerability, my love – for her and for others. I measure it all out from a distance.
It has been a feature of our relationship, as she has her own ways of holding back in her love-giving. We have both been hurt in previous relationships and both had parental influences in our childhoods, where our patterns of withholding began. We are kind to each other over this, but we both long for the other to let go so we can drop into deeper connection.
So we are gradually learning to heal and change these patterns. For me it has been clear for a long time that the root, the tap root at least, stems from the time when I was sent off to boarding school. I coped with the pain of separation from my parents by unconsciously deciding that I would not show them my love. I learned to withhold to protect myself, particularly from my mother. I was probably angry as well as sad and lonely.My withhold included not telling my mother about my pains and unhappinesses over those years at school, as I grew up. It continued through my adult years, that I didn’t show her my love and I didn’t speak to her about those years and about my awareness, as it became clearer to me. I found myself stuck with this behaviour, unable to change it, except on rare occasions when I managed to offer her a kiss, or a quick hug. I don’t think I really wanted to change this. Maybe I was still holding resentment, even though in my maturity, I could see she had done the best she could as a mother.
My mother is now 91 and although she is mentally alert, she may not have too much longer to live. Suddenly this week I could see the possibility of speaking frankly to her and trying to heal the lifelong divide that has sat between us, unaddressed.
A few months ago I found myself speaking to her about a traumatic event that happened in a class at school, which ever since has left me with a fear of speaking in public, afraid of being shamed, as I was back then, and specifically now, unable to learn and speak italian for fear of making a fool of myself.
My mother was shocked to hear of what happened to me at school and how it has left me with a lifelong scar of fear around performance related things. She has mentioned it several times and I am now feeling a strong urge to speak more openly with her about all of this and to try to close the ‘love gap’ that has kept us distant emotionally since I was eight.
I won’t be seeing her face-to-face now till september, but when I go, I wonder if we can heal my wound (and hers) so that we can shed some tears, hug and be close in the vulnerability of my truth for the first time. And of course I wonder if the healing will bring benefits in all my other relationships, especially with my partner.