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I'm Okay

by Chana Klein

There she was again. My jaw tensed. I was at an OA (Overeaters Anonymous) meeting. I purposely went to a meeting different from the one I attended yesterday just so that I wouldn't be in the same place that my mother was. Obviously, she too was looking to go to a meeting where I wasn't and here we are again at the same meeting. It was torture for me. I came to the meeting to participate and share. We all knew that it's not about the food; it's about how we deal with stuff. And I needed to share. But there she was again, my mother.

She had left me when I was ten years old. I had been battered and deserted and after my friend Eleanor's mother took me to the hospital, it took the police 2 days to find my mother to sign for a surgery.

By that time osteomyelitis had set in and they wanted to amputate my left leg at the hip. She signed for a surgery and not for an amputation and then left. After several years, I had a miracle and walked again, thank G-d. It was decades since I had seen my mother and now that I moved to California, she was showing up in every place that I went.

I joined a gym to do aerobics. I stood in the front row directly in front of the mirror in an aerobics class. As I was stretching, my eye caught the tights and leopard leotard of the woman next to me. My eyes then traveled up to the woman's face. It was my mother. In Los Angeles, there seemed to be a gym on almost every corner. But as it turned out, my mother joined the same gym as I had and even though there was a class every hour, she joined the same class that I did. And now she was standing in almost that same spot that I was standing. There we were next to each other.

I felt paralyzed. I tried not to look at her and eventually succeeded. But knowing that she was there made it impossible for me to give the aerobic workout my usual bubbly energy. So, I gave up and left the class early. As I walked into the locker room to change my clothes, I felt my stomach do a somersault. My mother was sitting on the locker bench putting on her shoes. In my effort to not look at her, I hadn't noticed that she too left early, probably in an effort to avoid me. She left the locker room before I did. Whew! I felt some relief. She was gone.

Having left the class early, I had some time to make some copies for some personal business in the copy store next to the gym. I entered the store and approached the copy machine, only to see my mother standing there making a copy. I turned around to leave and as I was walking out the door, I heard her at the doorway calling out to me, "Don't invite me to the Barmitzva!" I realized that she knew and remembered that one of my sons was approaching the age of 13. It was like another stab. It hurt so much.

Flashbacks of 12 years before filled my brain. That was when I had called her to tell her that I gave birth to my second child. When I told her about it, she screamed at me on top of her lungs, "You're always giving me bad news!" And then she hung up on me. My knees buckled under me as I had hung up the phone. I couldn't understand her behavior toward me. I never could. It just ached so deeply. It left me with such emptiness.

I knew she was very vain and later realized that my giving birth to her grandchildren meant to her that she is getting old. When I was a child trying to have a conversation with her, she would talk to the mirror instead of looking at me. She was constantly making up her face, and at a young age, underwent many face-peels and other cosmetic surgeries to get rid of the signs of aging.

I left the copy store quite upset. The next day, I decided to go to an OA meeting that was an hour car ride away from my house. I got directions and finally got there after getting lost for 20 minutes. I was so relieved to finally be going to a meeting that is so far away that there is no chance of running into HER.

I walked into the meeting place, which was in a modernized church in the middle of a lot of beautiful trees and colorful flowers. A friendly, blond woman in her 50's, wearing loose slacks and a sweater, greeted me and so I sat next to her. I looked up at about 15 women sitting in the chairs placed in a circle. My stomach turned that sick feeling that was becoming very familiar to me. My mother was sitting across from me. I didn't hear what went on at the meeting. She was probably there in order to avoid me like I was avoiding her. I didn't speak. I couldn't think clearly. I was throbbing so. I remember having the vivid thought and realization that if I were drowning and she stood on a boat nearby with a life preserver in her hands, she would never throw it to me. She would prefer to watch me drown. She would actually enjoy the sight.

What was I to do now? I went home and wrote one of my daily letters to G-d. Please G-d, I beg you to help me. I discussed it with a friend. If I drown out the feelings, I will end up overeating. I meditated and I let myself feel the pain, the pain of having a mother who didn't want me, and who didn't care for me, or love me. Here I was in my 30's and still suffering. Would I ever heal? Does one heal from such a thing? "Please G-d, please, relieve me of this pain." I kept writing my feelings and begging G-d for help.

Then, something happened inside of me. I felt freer. I felt wonderful. The title of the book - I'm Okay, You're Okay came into my head. But it was different for me. It was more like "I'm okay, you're NOT okay." I looked at my situation. Here was a mother who was cruel to me. I didn't ask to be born. Yet, she treated me like I was guilty of existing, as if it were a crime. She told me that I was an accident before I even knew what an accident was. I didn't do anything wrong. But she did! She was hateful to me. She didn't treat me as if she were a parent. She didn't protect me from herself or from anything else. She was the guilty one, not me. I'm okay; she's not okay.

Now I was ready to encounter her. I was ready to look her in the eye and say. "I'M OKAY and YOU'RE NOT!" I was ready to sing it to her and to everyone else. I'M OKAY!!!! It was like an awakening and I was ready to bump into her anytime, I was ready to speak at the meetings whether or not she was present. No more fleeing from her. She can try to avoid me.

It's her problem now, because I'm okay.

During the next week, I went to the meeting. She wasn't there. I went to the gym. She wasn't there. I went to the copy store. She wasn't there either. She wasn't anywhere I went. I never saw her again. It's more than 30 years later and I never encountered her again.

This experience was my first awareness that when a problem keeps showing up in my life, it's because there is something that I'm supposed to learn from it. When events repeat, even if it's with different faces, it's a message that that there is something that I must work on. The problem will refuse to go away until I learn the lesson and act on it. As I become aware of what I am supposed to learn and I do it, the difficulty disappears.

In this situation, I had to internalize that even if my own mother wouldn't love me or even speak with me, I'm okay. I had to develop that foundation within myself, for myself. Had I not come to that, I believe that she would have kept showing up in my life. The pain would have gotten worse and worse until I would be ready to change.

I believe my soul came into the world, into this cruel family, with things that I had to learn from previous existences, previous lives. Perhaps they were lessons I did not learn in those lives. So I was placed in a situation in which I would cry out to learn the lessons that my soul had to learn - the lessons of being okay despite abuse, despite rejection and despite abandonment. I believe I needed those lessons to do a Tikkun, a correction of my soul. Had I been born to a loving mother or a kind family, I could not have possibly been open to such difficult lessons.

So the pain that I experienced was really a gift. It forced me to newer and deeper wholeness within myself.

It is, now, with gratitude that I look back at the horror I went through. Now, no one can shake foundation of self-esteem. No one can belittle me without my permission. No one can rob me of who I really am and the knowledge of that. Today, I still have lots of growth to complete. But I know who I am, where I have been and where I want to go. Even more, I am flexible enough to go with the changes that I believe come from my creator and to face them with deep gratitude despite the pain that may accompany them.

When there is a source of recurring pain in some area of life, you might want to look at what you may learn from it. Look at what pattern you are repeating and how you can make the pain of it your ally.

May you be blessed to see the gift in your situations and may they be a source of uplifting you to rise to higher levels of fulfillment and accomplishment.

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