Opening the Door to Discernment…Among Other Things


My fingers trembled and my stomach had excited butterflies of anticipation in it as I dialed my mom’s phone number. After almost 10 years of no contact, this was a HUGE leap. One that needed to be done. A door that needed to be opened, yet the anxiety that it initially created was no less real within my body.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve sort of went into a writing shell. Almost hermit-like if you will, processing and discarding, over and over, various details and revelations of my relationship with my mom. Our relationship, when I was quite young, was good for the most part. What I remember most was the hour in the early morning before everyone else was awake in the house when we would sit and talk…about everything and anything. In that sense, we were pretty close. Then, things started changing. She started changing. Drinking, partying, becoming distant. The relationship that we had built as mother and daughter slowly fell apart and disappeared into the background until at one point in my adult life I just said enough was enough. I couldn’t take the toxic behavior anymore – no more alcohol, no more pills, no more DUI’s, no more lies. No. More. And that…was that.

Until now.

In talking with a friend the other day, it was brought to my attention that it would behoove me to look a bit deeper into my own beliefs and feelings that I held about depression, anxiety, and alcoholism; that my beliefs may hold the key to working through some of the blockages within my own journey of self-discovery. My first reaction to that suggestion? I wrinkled up my nose and my gut clenched in resistance. Yup. There it was. That damn knot anyhow. Well…I decided…I’d better get to work then, cause I didn’t come all this way to just stay stagnant now, did I? So, I sat on it for awhile. I got my mom’s phone number from my sister…and then went into defense mode as I began to mentally make up every excuse in the book to not call her.

Absolutely exhausting…

With perfect timing and what hit me like a ton of bricks was a story that I read within the next few days from Elizabeth Gilbert about her guardian angel:

“When I was a bartender at Coyote Ugly back in 1993, there was a customer who used to come in and cause all sorts of disruptions. She was an attractive and completely sane-looking businesswoman, who would enter the bar, calmly order a drink…and then order another…and then by the third drink, she would undergo an Exorcist-like transformation to a screaming, spitting, aggressive demon.

Of course, after a few such outbursts, she was given notice that she was forbidden to enter the bar…but the problem was, these two sides of her identity (sane/insane) were so different from each other that she was unrecognizable in each form. Which means that sometimes she would sneak into the bar and calmly order a few drinks before any of us realized it was HER.

So one day I’m working, and she comes in all smiling and elegant, and I completely didn’t recognize her, and I served her a few drinks, and she started to transform into her Mr. Hyde version of herself right before my eyes. I managed to catch on right before she started spitting and screaming, so I took her hand gently and said in a low voice, “You know that you can’t stay in this bar, right? You know that you have to leave now, right?”

With great dignity (and no protest, to my surprise) she stood up to make her exit. But right before she walked out of the place, she turned around to face me. And with a tired expression, and in a completely calm and weary voice, she said, “If I had known how much trouble it was going to cause me to be your guardian angel, I never would’ve taken the job in the first place.”

AND THEN SHE WALKED OUT — never to return!

And I was like: WHAT THE FUCK???!!!!!!! Did I just throw out my guardian angel?!!!

It freaked me out then and it freaks me out still. Those were really tumultuous years in my life (and a lot of the tumult started at that bar) and the airy-fairy superstitious side of me can’t help but wonder if she really HAD been sent to protect me — and if she was just trying to cause distractions to keep me from taking certain ill-advised actions. (Because I damn sure took a lot of ill-advised actions in those days.) And I definitely needed a guardian angel back then. Even a drunk one.

Or maybe she was just nuts.

Or maybe I was?

Wild, right?

Any thoughts?

Years later, when I met Richard from Texas, who really did become my guardian angel, I would think, “Of course my protector is a recovering alcoholic and junkie…” Somehow it just made an odd kind of sense, that someone who’d been cracked and broken by life would be so full of just the kind of light and wisdom I needed.”

So, taking all of this in and looking at the behavior (both my own and my mother’s) from a different perspective, I started to reflect back to that conversation with my friend earlier in the week…the one about my blockages and limitations within my own journey of self-discovery regarding my belief system surrounding alcoholism, depression, and medications, and what we would label as “poor” life choices.

What if, stepping back and looking at this from a subtle shift in perspective, just what if those choices, some of which I duplicated myself in younger years, were actually simply tools that the Universe had implemented to help us discover and embrace our own inner light? What we label as “bad” or “poor” choices could just merely be our lack of discernment of what their lessons are in the grand scheme of this human experience we call life. Maybe, I pondered, rather than discriminating against and judging ourselves and others in these instances, it would behoove us to practice a more intrinsic level of discernment, allowing ourselves to see a clear separation between the person’s true nature and the event or behavior, to step back with clear vision and see the situation for what it IS rather than what we initially perceive it to be through our own projections. We could give ourselves permission and allow ourselves to deepen our level of compassion with our own “stuff” and in turn, give us perspective and insight to be that much more aware, loving, and compassionate about other’s “stuff” in the process.

Tears started flowing when this little realization knocked me clean upside the head. Beautiful, loving, happy, it’s-time-for-a-change tears.

Once this ah-ha moment hit, calling Mom didn’t seem so scary or intimidating. In fact, it felt liberating. Exciting. Empowering. Freeing. I was actually beginning to feel a sense of great anticipation for our first conversation in all these years. In digging through, cracking open and discarding some of my old, out-dated beliefs, I discovered a newly found sense of freedom.

And the coolest thing of all…

That door that was slammed shut all those years ago…that very same door is now open…and the first steps have been taken to initiate healing a heart wound that for the longest time I believed could never, ever be mended.

“Sometimes the greatest gifts we receive from going through a period of crisis are the recognition of our own vulnerability to life and a deeper capacity to empathize and support others who are suffering, as we now understand this aspect of our shared humanity.” – Mariana Caplan

One thought on “Opening the Door to Discernment…Among Other Things

  1. What a journey life leads us through huh? My father was an alcoholic and a brilliant man at the same time; he had a photographic memory. His death came at such an early age (48) but his pain and suffering ended and I believe God was there to show his love, letting him know he would never be hurt again. I too have struggled with my own demons in my teens through my 30’s … and I thank the good Lord every day for loving me enough to not give up on me. I’ve apologized to my children over and over again for what they had to go through. I’m not sure who my guardian angel has been but I thank him/her for taking on the task of watching over me. Life could have been so different …. I very well might not be able to write this now if it weren’t for that guardian angel.

    Congratulations for taking that leap, contacting your mother. Her pain should never be your pain … her demons are her demons and not yours to fix. Sometimes all you can do is just love her … if for no other reason but because she gave you life. I send loving, healing thoughts to you both.

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