How we suffer when we believe the stories we tell ourselves

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The guilt was coursing through my veins and my mind was filled with regret; ‘It’s too late. You’ve missed your chance.’

I was sitting outside on a warm, sunny autumn day, attempting to meditate. It was a day that was supposed to be filled with celebration, but here I was, crying my eyes out, my heart breaking open.

I had suffered with an inner restlessness for days, avoiding the emotions that wanted to come up and be acknowledged. When I now finally sat down to feel them, they welled up in such intensity it was overwhelming. But I stayed with the process, as I knew I had to face this inner turmoil that was bubbling up to the surface.

In my mind’s eye I was transported back in time to the day when my eldest daughter was born and how, from the moment she looked at me with her piercing blue eyes, my life would never quite be the same. I remember being so surprised that she would calm down with just the sound of my voice or the touch of my hand, and that she even knew instinctively how to breastfeed. She knew how to be a baby, how to have a relationship with me, and I had absolutely no idea how to be a mother.

It dawned on me when she was born that I had no roadmap to follow and no one who could guide me. I had been through a dysfunctional childhood, causing me to leave home when I was 18, to get as far away as possible. I spent five years travelling around Asia, in search of the pieces of myself I had lost when I was growing up. Eventually I learned to love myself enough to be able to be with someone without running away, and I settled down in England. And now, here she was, this beautiful little princess. I was not prepared for the overwhelming love I felt for her, or how I would gladly give up my life to keep her safe. But I had no clue how to best be there for her.

Erika, my mum and me, just before my sister’s wedding and christening of my sister’s eldest daughter (they had both ceremonies at the same time).

Erika, my mum and me, just before my sister’s wedding and christening of my sister’s eldest daughter (they had both ceremonies at the same time).

So I prayed. I prayed to be shown how to be the mother I was meant to be, how to love her the way she needed to be loved. And my prayers were answered. My little one showed me how to be there for her. It was as if she just knew, and the broken pieces in my soul started to mend; I realised that children truly are here to teach us about love, not the other way around. When she was little, there was so much love in the house, so much laughter and happiness, and I felt so lucky to be blessed with this beautiful ray of sunshine. When her sister came along I felt doubly blessed. I thought I had finally cracked the ‘how to be a mother’ code.

Then teenage years came. Nothing could prepare me for this either. My little princess, who once had seen me as one of the most amazing people in the world, now looked at me as if I was something the cat had dragged in. My ego had a problem adjusting to this, and this caused needless frustration and conflict. Of course I was not aware that it was my ego that had a problem with this – I just thought I was ‘right’ and the problem lay elsewhere – until I realised my ego had gotten in the way. So I surrendered and asked the Divine for help. And again the help would come, in the form of insights I needed, to allow happiness to flow again. These insights were different from when my daughter was little. They were more about backing off and trusting that she would find her way. The more I backed off and trusted, the more she relaxed. The moment I became too worried and ‘helpful’, she immediately showed me she did not like it. I could see how this new era in our relationship was providing me with opportunities to heal issues with allowing people to be, and trusting that all would be okay, without my help (or control…).

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And here she was now, 18 years old and ready to leave for her first day at university, to start a new chapter in her life. She was beaming with anticipation and excitement, and I was sitting here crying, because all I could see in my mind’s eye were the moments I could have given more, I could have loved her more, I could have been present more. The regret was overwhelming, because I knew that her childhood had now gone, and our relationship would change forever. Yet at the same time I was so happy for her. She had done so well, she was going to the university of her choice, she had her whole life ahead of her. I knew in my heart she was going to be okay. And that insight lifted my spirits, but I could still feel this inner guilt, so I prayed to the universe for guidance. I surrendered my pain and regret, and asked to be shown what I needed to know so I could be there for my daughter on this very important day of her life.

I went inside the house and was met with the same piercing blue eyes again. She could see that I had been crying. She knew that many mums had been crying as their child went off to university so she wasn’t surprised (one mum had even sat crying her eyes out for hours in the café where my daughter worked). I hugged her and said, ‘I feel I should have been there for you more, I should have been more present.’ She started laughing and said, ‘And I felt you were always there. You were even working from home, so I never got rid of you.’

In that moment I knew my prayer had been answered. This was the insight I needed. I may have felt I should have been there more for my baby girl, but what she needed more from me was space! How amazing is that!

In a flash my guilt and regret were gone, as I realised that they were based on something that was just not true. They were fabrications of my mind, created by fear, causing me to believe the story that I was a bad mother, that I had failed, that I had not given enough, that I should have been with her more. My daughter had instead actually felt I was there too much.

I started laughing at the ludicrousness of it all. How we suffer when we make up stories that we believe are real.

With this insight, it was easy to forgive myself, because there was nothing to forgive – just a thought I had believed to be true.

And with a happy heart I could drive my beautiful daughter to her new life at university.