Arms Length

As I prepare to write this post, my heart is hurting.  It has been a hard week for me.  Not because anyone has done anything to me.  Not because anyone has hurt me.   My heart is hurting because I have realised that I have hurt myself.

I have hurt myself by trying to protect myself against being hurt.  I have painstakingly maintained the barriers that I erected years ago, instead of tearing them down.

I have hurt myself by not really believing that I am loved, or loveable.  And because I haven’t really believed that I am loved, or loveable, I have kept people at arms length.

One of the people I have kept at arms length is my mother.

Looking back through photo albums for pictures of my childhood tonight, I found it hard to find a picture of my mother and I together.  (Sorry about this pic – it is  actually a photo of a blurry photo lol)


What I did find is photo after photo of me having fun in all kinds of different situations.  I found newspaper clippings and report cards.  My mother took photo after photo, and documented so many of my achievements.  She was proud of me.  She loved me.


But for me many of those happy memories were overshadowed by sadness.  My mother chose to let me down when I was 14 and I had to leave home.  I think I understand the reasons why she decided to stay and to let me leave.  I think it was fear of losing everything.  Or perhaps fear of being alone.

But from that traumatic time onwards, whilst i appeared strong on the outside, deep down I have really believed that I was not worthy of real love.  Not even a mothers love.

For many years after this, my mother and I did not have a lot of contact. She continuously reached out, but my walls kept my heart ‘safe’.

But eventually, her circumstances changed, my circumstances changed, and I began to let her in a little.

Since then, time and time again, my Mother has been there for me. Financially, helping me out of some tough spots.  Emotionally, being a listening ear in times of crisis.  And Physically, dropping everything to come to my aid.

But I have not been there for her.

I have kept her at arms length.

I have not been the daughter that I should be.  I have done things out of obligation, and I have done things to be polite, but I have not really been there.

At the end of last year whilst on holidays, my mother had what appeared to be some kind of heart attack.  She went to the hospital and ended up being okay, but they told her that some damage had been done to her heart, and when she got back home she had to see a specialist asap.

For a couple of months she has been arguing with her GP who refused to give her a referral to a specialist, saying she is not a risk factor for a heart attack, and that there must be something else wrong.  Finally at the urging of many people, she went to a different GP and managed to get a referral to a heart specialist.

So on Monday before seeing the specialist, she dropped into see me at work.  She had a quick chat with my boss and I, and one of the things that she said to my boss was, “You won’t find a harder worker than Michelle”.

She had so much confidence in me.  She was proud of me and I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

That afternoon, Mum contacted me to let me know that the appointment with the heart specialist didn’t go well, and she was booked in for surgery in 3 days time.  They thought that she had a least one blockage and had to have stents put in straight away.

That’s when I realised just how lucky I was that she had not died.

All these years I have carried around all this hurt, using it as a barrier to keep out more hurt.

Then I thought about what it feels like when my daughter (who is 10) is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to open up to me and how that hurts.  It must really hurt my mother to only be involved in the periphery of our lives.  To have to constantly be the one to reach out for information.

In the face of losing her, to think she might not be there tomorrow, that I might not ever be able to talk to her again, the things that happened in the past all felt pretty insignificant.

I felt petty and small.

I realised I need to tear down these barriers.

I need to love and I need to be loved.  

I need to realise I am loved.  

I am loved as a Daughter and I am loved as Mother. I am loved as a Wife and I am loved as a Friend.  I am loved as a Sister, an Aunt and a Niece.

I deserve this love just as much as all of the people that love me deserve my love.

So the good news is that Mum had the surgery and they found that she didn’t have any blockage that required stents.  She does have a problem with her Aorta that can be managed with medication, managing her blood pressure and managing her stress, and keeping a healthy diet and moderate exercise.

I have another chance to love.

I have another chance to be the daughter I should be.

I am grateful for this chance.

I won’t let me down.