With Or Without You
an excerpt from the soon to be published ebook by the same name
Written by Happiness Specialist, Laila Ghattas
In spirit I feel the blessing of her understanding of who I am as I navigate my journey.
We’re getting to know each other in a new way, it’s a fresh kind relationship unburdened by history or misunderstanding.
This writing was inspired after viewing Mo Gawdat’s video about his book, Solve for Happy, which helped me recognize that what I felt on the morning of my mother’s funeral was what he calls COMMITTED ACCEPTANCE of a life circumstance I could not change.
It was my decision that morning to be at peace with my mother’s passing, for having had her as my mother in this life, cherries, pits and all. That’s why my heart was wide open to receive all the love in the room without conditions. That’s how the pure JOY of being present for Love could fill me and replace sadness.
I was available for the gift and benefit of that truth which I believe is this: Love is the container for our sadness and grief.
Grief waits and wreaks havoc for those in denial of their feelings, as disclosed by Prince Harry in an interview regarding feelings he ignored for 20 years after the loss of his mother, Princess Diana.
Equally true is that LOVE waits for those who grieve. That has been my experience.
Three years ago I had to face my empty home after returning from Bali, and living for the first time with the relentless physical absence of my recently deceased pet companions. They were my children and we were a very happy family together in our beautiful home for almost 18 years.
Life was hard enough so I chose to afford patience, gentleness and generosity with myself as I mourned.
This loss was harder for me than the passing of my mother which I’d been more accepting of, and frankly had a few years to get used to during her illness and prognosis.
One memorable midsummer morning, I literally felt the last of my grief for my boy cats lift off my body and float away. Words cannot express the Joy that filled me a moment later. Instantly, miraculously the gorgeous abiding undeniable presence of my boys came into my awareness, rushing in like a life-replenishing opened dam. It was a magnificent, totally unexpected experience.
The shift heralded the end to my sadness and suffering. The last of my resistance left that summer day, resistance to what I could not change or control. Little by little I had achieved committed acceptance.
The precious reward was in itself.
During my mother’s funeral 9 years before, the pure love I witnessed and allowed into my experience was, I believe, a prerequisite for this awakening. My heart had been opened wider. The gift of my boys passing enabled a quality of self-love I’d never known before, and which I’ve been nurturing ever since.
Both can be described as golden shining expanding luminosity; alive and brilliant.
Self-love enables acceptance of my whole human package- including flaws, quirks, mistakes and insecurities. More often I can genuinely afford the same towards others; it’s difficult to authentically give to others what you withhold from yourself.
My mother had made a pivotal mistake in the way she handled an event in my childhood. Unfortunately her attitude became default behaviour throughout my teens and young adult life which chronically reopened and compounded the wound.
Recently this closed chapter in my history was reactivated with unexpected news about those involved back then, information which provoked an overwhelming and powerful emotional response.
Eventually I was able to recognize that what I was in fact experiencing was not anger about my past, that was long gone, but rather a forgotten bubble of grief attached to a loss I had not articulated before:
My organically developing childhood relationship with my mother had been fundamentally interrupted.
The current news and my emotional reaction offered an unexpected opportunity to finally grieve the end of our way of being together as mother and daughter.
It was time to grieve that circumstances had shaped me apart and separate from her.
Articulation came for the long buried regret - if only nothing had interfered with our relationship.
The reframing of my childhood moved me beyond what had happened to me, and to the unexpressed pain of how my relationship with my mother was irrevocably altered.
I wept hard and then, with the Grace of God, in my release some space opened and a new thought emerged:
Had I not separated from my mother at a young age and continued to separate with each repetition of her unfortunate choices, I would not have been strong enough to follow my path away from our family culture.
I was able to basically disobey and weather her disapproval by opposing what she insisted was the best vision for my future.
My mother wanted me to become a pharmacist, I wanted to study art. She had her preference for the University to attend. I chose another which I thought had better programs and where she didn’t work, regardless of free tuition making my life simpler.
She said if I had to pursue my creativity, why not specialize in a career in medical illustration; I chose a more liberal education including painting, art history, humanities...
Halfway through university, she wanted me to train as a teacher to save me from the impoverished life of an artist. Although I complied and concurrently completed my B.Ed. degree along with a B.F.A, upon graduation I recognized that having a career confined to the routines of a classroom was impossibly counter to my personality, regardless of job security and benefits.
She wanted me to be a professional. I wandered into a sales career. She wanted me to marry. I did not want to be divorced so chose to brace that ongoing pressure rather than succumb to ill-fitting opportunities.
In my 30’s my mother was vocal in her disrespect for my choice to study psychotherapy, dubious of the profession in general, while certain that my therapist and I were blaming her for everything wrong in my life. I continued on to complete both under and post graduate studies part time and included Expressive Art therapy studies towards a new healing profession.
In my early 40’s when I left sales for self-employment in my new field, my mother fretted and often asked what my plan B was should I fail. I lied and replied "teaching" to sooth her even as my heart lamented the thought.
My choice to offer personal growth retreats in Bali was challenged with practical suggestions to stay closer to home in Ontario.
Yet creating opportunity to return annually to work and learn in Bali transformed my life. My mother’s soul knows that now.
That’s not to say I didn’t want my mother’s approval and recognition for my achievements or that all her suggestions were unfit for me. She had many good ideas, perspectives and wise words that did work out for my best interests and for which I’m deeply appreciative to have received.
What I realized is that the rupture in our relationship, the fact we were not friends in the easy way some mothers and daughters have together which I admire yet can’t relate to, this separation enabled me to say NO to her vision of security for me with well-meaning suggestions completely incongruent with my nature and my emerging vocational calling.
Ultimately at each turn I did not place her judgement, opinion and influence above my own intuition and reason.
That was the lonely prize in the high price paid for independence and self-actualization.
Other compromises were chosen over the salaried job that used little of who I was or the passions I was eager to explore.
It was only in her final year while visiting for one of our last beloved Scrabble game afternoons that my mother expressed her conclusion that she was different from me.
She said she didn’t have the personality or courage to live without her guaranteed paycheck, benefit plan and pension from a prestigious professional government funded career.
She was made of something different than me and finally at the end of her life my dear wonderful mother was able to see me as essentially different from her; not wrong, misguided or irresponsibly heading for disaster, just different in temperament, constitution and priorities.
She’d made her peace with my life choices.
This reconciliation mattered, delivering a closure I could not have anticipated before her death and face to face. I am deeply grateful for the profound freedom born from her insight and willingness to seize the opportunity to share it with me.
My mother repeatedly said to me when visiting my home and garden, “Laila, you really know how to live!”
Despite her concerns for my financial security, she grew to admire my gumption and willingness to reach for something untried yet which reflected my true nature, appreciating the beauty I’d created through my self-expression.
Out of the early separation between us, I was free to follow my own calling and through trial and error make a life that’s unconventional, adventurous, and profoundly fulfilling however precarious, stressful and insecure; however different from the norm.
Recently I’ve realized that my life is my greatest work of art.
Come what may, Love guides me.
What’s particularly glorious is my new venture and clothing label, Laila Goddess, builds on the wonderful legacy of my mother’s sewing skills and her teaching them to me as a child, instilling a creative spark for all the potential to be found in fabric and the pride in making something beautiful to wear.
My mother modeled a brilliant practicality which inherently inspires the design of functional, long lasting, high quality, classic wardrobe pieces that drape and flatter many body types.
In her honour I included her favourite colour- a periwinkle blue- in my very first collection of signature hand printed fabrics which enliven and infuse each garment with her brilliance, sparkle and mirth.
For my entire life with her, my mother’s persistent negative body image certainly sensitized me to recognize the similar state in middle age women with changing bodies.
My current workshops facilitate the transformation of women’s self-critical inner dialogue into kinder, gentler, more neutral language.
In spirit, free to be her very best self, my mother is with me enjoying every aspect of this huge unfolding adventure as I source out suppliers in Bali for my signature textile designs.
She’s helping me find mentors and tailors while guiding me to wonderful new pattern solutions. I think she’s even nudging me towards the gathering places of a growing audience of women receptive to truly loving their reflections again.
In death we have blossomed an otherwise impossible, treasured mother daughter collaboration.
My mother and I are now free to love each other with committed acceptance of our past choices and good fortune to have been together in this messy, rich and complex life.
We don’t look back in pain and blame anymore; too busy having a grand time frolicking in present joyous creativity.
Self-love releases me from the difficult family patterns that plagued my mother’s life. It’s my privileged opportunity as a daughter to evolve and move past the very best she could do with what she had at the time.
I was lucky to be loved in the best way she knew how and I reciprocated in my own imperfect, well-meaning way.
New paradigms beckon, invitations for daring, inspiration to hope, away from the known, the approved of, the familiar same old same old.
What do I know for sure?
It is possible to be happy. No matter what.
Love is right here in this moment waiting.
So go ahead and Love your Self.
No matter what she says or does, it’s all mother ever really wanted.
LG 04/2017, revised 01/18
View Laila's clothing label Laila Goddess HERE
Annual Bali Retreat details HERE
Please feel free to send comments .HERE
Mo Gowdat's SOLVE FOR HAPPY details HERE
copyright Laila Ghattas 2018