I’ve come to appreciate her – the moon that is – and her patterns of gaining and losing light over the course of the month. The predictability of waxing and waning, waxing and waning, waxing and waning is as constant as the sound of the surf, and just as comforting to me.
One of my favorite things about living on the coast in California is that I get to see her descending and setting into the Pacific. One of the (few) things I don’t like about living on the coast is that during the spring months, the marine layer* creates overcast skies. So I’ve been missing the moon, and have really come to see, as I’m walking through yet another period of change and growth in my life, how disturbing it is when her consistency isn’t there.
It got me to thinking about the psychodrama training group that I facilitated last weekend, where much of the work was about inconsistent and disappearing mothers and the toll that it has taken. The psychological world has really come to understand and appreciate the immense importance of being able to attach to our mothers – physically, emotionally and spiritually – as very young children, and just how damaging it is when that doesn’t happen.
Healthy, loving relationships require that you open up your heart and keep it open. If you grow up with inconsistency, typically one of two things happens – you get into relationships where you attach too quickly, and especially with people who can’t meet your needs (ignoring all the red flags), hoping that they’ll be the one who is different and the one who can really love you this time. Or on the flip side, you become relationship avoidant – why would you open up your heart if you “know” you’re just going to get hurt? It’s safer to be alone.
So why don’t we get to attach? In many cases, it’s due to physical or mental illness – cancer, addiction, depression, workaholism, etc – while for some it’s due to a life event, such as a divorce or even death. Babies naturally cleave to their parents, and in so doing, get to develop a sense of who they are inside. Developmental psychologist Erik Erickson described that first stage of life as “trust vs. mistrust.” If I don’t get to attach properly, then that imprint travels with me, and many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone to attach to, as a way of attempting to repair the damage that has been done. I’m certainly no exception.
In my case, I was born into a family where there were already 6 children (and only so much time, attention and love to go around) and then my mother had a late-stage miscarriage when I was about 2 years old, from which she never recovered emotionally. She became depressed and her drinking escalated to alcoholism, which eventually took her life decades later. I was lucky in that I had older sisters who were able to attend to my needs, but they were kids, too, and even though they did the best they knew how, they weren’t my mother. Then when I was 6 years old, her first grandchild was born and my mother, being the lover of infants that she was, all but abdicated the role of mother for the role of grandmother. That inconsistency and abandonment took it’s toll, and I learned to reach outside of myself, for fear that people would forget about me. On the surface, that sounds relatively harmless, until I started to realize that I learned to over-extend myself – to take care of you instead of me – and I became incredibly self-reliant.
Of late, I’ve been looking at my relationships – with people and institutions – and have come to see my behavior and patterns in a whole new way. I have stayed in these connections despite the lack of reciprocity in them, and in these cases, I’m cleaning house (a really good thing to do during Mercury Retrograde) to make space for new connections. It’s not the first time I’ve done this kind of relationship Spring Cleaning, but with these relationships, it’s been far more insidious, so it took me a long time to see them for what they are.
It requires me to sit still and wait – to see if people move towards me or not, and to not reach out when I start to feel forgotten about. I’ve been asking myself, am I the one always reaching out by phone to connect or am I feeling like we share in that? Am I the one always making plans that people flake on at the last minute, or are people wanting to make plans with me? Am I working harder than them in this relationship?
Maybe it’s time for you to go through your “relationship closet,” too, and get honest about the people and organizations with whom you’re connected. Maybe it’s time to assess if your needs are being met, or if it’s always a one-way street. Maybe it’s time to ask some big questions and look for answers.
Maybe if you ask the moon, she’ll help you.
*The marine layer is thick clouds that can be thousands of feet deep, brought on by a large difference in the land temperature and the cooler water temperature. In Southern California, it’s particularly common in the Spring months and is nicknamed, “May Grey” and “June Gloom.” It’s typically present early in the morning, clears up by late morning or early afternoon and then returns in the late afternoon.