Hoʻoponopono for our Mothers

Apr 20, 2022

I am sorry
Please forgive me
I love you 
Thank you

I love the Hawaiian concept of “hoʻoponopono,” which is a loose translation for “causing things to move back into balance” or to “make things right.” As Mother’s Day nears, I feel that this is an appropriate prayer for our mothers and ourselves. Coincidentally, the word “Gestalt” means “flowing into form.” I love the idea of flow—and how we all have the capacity to heal. 

I don’t know if there is any perfect mother-daughter relationship. I sure don’t have one and don’t want to “fake book” it. The truth is, I am 60 years old, and I always thought that at this time in my life I would be enjoying my work with the horses and traveling with my husband. 

My life plan did not work out exactly the way I wanted it to happen, but I am slowly learning patience and gratitude for this journey. My mom is now 87 and is able to walk with a walker. She is good at cooking soup, never wearing shoes, leaving messes, eating gelato, watching the Price is Right, and singing songs to my dog Trigger, which he seems to enjoy. She is slow at responding to my requests to clean up after herself, but she is lighting fast at getting ready for a fun outing. 

The last two years of COVID-19 have been difficult for her health and stamina. She was always a swimmer, but when the local Y was forced to close, her physical strength declined rapidly. I was exhausted at becoming the incessant drill sergeant: weights, dance moves, chair squats. She was declining fast. So as I do with my Art Soul and Horses clients, I helped her create a goal and vision. One day I proposed an idea, “Want to go to Hawaii?”

We made it to Kauai after dragging luggage and a walker through LAX. I now have the utmost respect for those mothers traveling alone with their kids, suitcases, and strollers. I am grateful for compassionate people out there who were kind and helpful to my mom and me as we made our way to paradise.

Fast-forward to poolside in Kauai—

Something dawned on me while my mother was happily enjoying her afternoon cocktail. I raised my glass, then looked to her and her and smile. Despite the ongoing frustration that surfaces from me becoming a full-time caregiver, I acknowledge that my mom was always there for me as a kid. Though not perfect, I know realize that, after working on my my “unfinished business” (a Gestalt term), that she was doing her absolute best. She always picked me up from school, took me on some great trips, and made sure I had some pretty cool art classes. I never got that Easy-Bake Oven, but she taught me how to bake full-sized cakes and allowed me to experiment in the kitchen. I was a world traveler by the age of 13. She believed that travel was the best way to learn. She was a disciplinarian and way harder than my father. Navigating my dad’s illness, she took on a second job at night to pay for his expensive meds (though we did have health insurance); however, his meds 30 years ago were equivalent to the cost of a house mortgage.

She drank during this time, and her behavior elevated to the point where she would make mean comments to my father, brother, and me. I learned, through my Gestalt training, to have compassion for her. Gestalt taught me how to sit in her pain and understand what life would have felt like to have a 55-year-old husband who was dying. She drank to escape and numb her fears. As I sat in that energy of overwhelm and fear, I began to understand the world from her viewpoint and learned to truly feel compassion and forgiveness. Most importantly, I began to understand that she was probably doing the best that she could. I believe that most of our parents are doing just that. I understand and forgive her for the times she drank and got angry. I can’t imagine how she must have felt as her world was falling apart. 

Today, her 87-year-old mind does not remember any of the bad stuff, and I have learned to reel myself in when something she does triggers my rage. In my lowest moments, I have wished that my dad was still here, and she was gone. I have to share this darkness because although I coach others on self-love and compassion, I also have struggles. The difference is now, I have much more awareness around my emotional triggers. As my compassion for her grew, I began to stop thinking about ringing her neck and started to stand in gratitude for who she is: a tough lady who did the best she could for her kids and husband. She has been a teacher to me in many ways. I am determined to celebrate these few days we have here by the pool in Kauai. We will enjoy the water, and I will make sure this sacred time creates lasting memories. We may even plan a return visit.

May the power of hoʻoponopono sink into your heart, mind, and spirit. My wish for those of you who may have difficulty with your mother: Please know you are in my heart. Don’t give up. I hope you will find a way to navigate your relationships by bringing the energy and compassion into your daily practice. Try not to buy into the fairy tale version of Mother’s Day. Instead, start to honor the beautiful lessons you have learned along the way to this very moment. 

Aloha, Viv, Luca, and Skye Mama 

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