Someone close to me recently suggested that I work on forgiving my mother. I really thought I had. I have great compassion for my mother. I am certain that she had a very hard early life and that meeting and marrying my father only compounded the difficulties, until she found she was completely unable to extricate herself from the situation.

I get it that somehow I have been the recipient of great grace, over and over and over again. Somehow, I have been able to avail myself of that grace. I believe that grace is always available, but that we have to be able to receive it, for it to be available to us. I have no idea why some people are able to receive healing grace and others do not receive it.

I can’t judge another person’s receptivity to grace. I cannot judge my own. I can only look into my own heart and ask “how am I doing in relationship to another person?” Is my heart soft or hard? Am I open to that other person? Am I open to that other person in the way that God remains open, in his infinite mercy, to me?

On this, I can pray for the openness and the willingness for that path between my mother and I to be open. At this time, I think the path is open. In my prayer, I have said, I am ready if that is what you want, Lord. I don’t know whether I should be creating a road to my mother, that is, setting out to meet her somewhere, somehow. What I have been thinking is that I sense that I have compassion for her, and that I am not afraid she can hurt me in any substantive way any more; I don’t expect her to behave like a nurturing mother, though I am still sad sometimes for the girl in me that did not get that. But I am now giving myself that.

In fact, recently, my disordered eating has come to a head. Somehow it has happened that I can see that I have been undereating and then overeating to compensate, for my entire life. It’s as though the scales have fallen from my eyes (no pun intended) and I am able to feed myself when I am hungry, relying on my own body to tell me what and when I need to eat. I have not binged for 2 weeks now or so. I have eaten 3 meals and one or two snacks each day. I am not as tired, and I sleep through the night. I am calmer overall.

I asked myself, why have I had this pattern? My first thought was, “because my mother didn’t feed me”. I thought about that. It’s true that my mother didn’t feed me; at an early age I started feeding myself, feeding my brother and sisters, and doing lots of the cooking for the family. I cooked dinner and made lunch, and I got breakfast for the kids of the family, and made my parents coffee. So the nurturing there came from me. But why didn’t I nurture with more rather than less? I ate sweets in secret even as a child at home. I made brownies just for myself while everyone was out of the house and then ate them.

When I cooked, I didn’t make balanced meals. I wouldn’t make a starch. I would serve meat and vegetables. I don’t know why. If I had to take a stab at it I would say that my mom was always on a diet and she thought sweets and starches were bad, so I followed suit. Kept me skinny in high school.

This part is about my control and perfectionism. My mom thought sweets and motherliness, and nurturing were bad. They were all quite suspect to her. She thought it was perfectly rational to not want anyone to know her very well, and I can see her point in her case — she had secrets, even from herself. But I internalized this: receiving love, laughter, eating good things — these are all somehow indulgent and for people who can’t take life as it really is. Harsh and cold and stingy: that’s life and any trying to get out of that marks a person as a fool.

I always wanted to please my mom, so I adopted this view too. I was competitive, strong, driven, to prove that I was tough and would merit her attention. This created a huge conflict in me because on another level I knew that what she proposed was opposite of what I wanted: I wanted to be a nurturing mom, I knew that God loved me and I had a relationship with Him — that made me some kind of a weakling in her eyes, an irrational weakling — I became a baker, and always had this vision of giving children good things to eat as a way to show them they were loved. Thank goodness I haven’t carried that attitude to its full blown conclusion. But still I have been loyal to that reality that giving yourself good things is a sign of weakness.

This is all so skewed, this negative stingy reality. But it’s the one I grew up with. It’s the one my mother lived in for as long as I was growing up around her. Her mother behaved in quite anorexic ways; perhaps it starts generations back. I suppose it had to have.

Today, I am nurturing myself. I don’t need my mother to do that. I still have feelings of sadness for what I have missed by my carrying on that stinginess with myself, and not even being able to allow others to give to me in that very nurturing way. It has cost me some friends, one in particular I can think of. As I am healing in this area of food, my relationship to a couple of my overeating friends has shifted.

I have realized lately that all the terrible things that happened to me have not subtracted from me, not really, in the end. They have added to me, to my experiences. I am a person who hold this particular type of experience and can say with all certainty, that God’s grace is bigger than this. God’s grace is bigger than any kind of abuse or pain and God’s grace can bring pain to a new conclusion. God’s grace can bring my pain and suffering to the place where it can become a fruitful offering to others, to show them God’s healing power and love.

Am I going to share that with my mother? That is the question of forgiveness.