Posts Tagged ‘Mothers’

“Mother”, poem by Nagase Kiyoko

March 7, 2014

March is International Women’s Month.  I can’t think of anything better to post here than what I do below. Nagase Kiyoko probably is the best woman I can think of to celebrate this month with.  (In fact, she is also a great woman to celebrate Mother’s Day, this day that is painful for many ACONs).   Politics come and go, but a poet speaks through the centuries.  Certainly Nagase Kiyoko goes deep and rattles my bones like nothing else I have read lately. She opens my heart to what is true and fundamental in being a woman.

Rollo May a 20th century psychotherapist has written about creativity.  In his “Courage to Create”, he writes that creativity is generated by our encounter with opposition.  Certainly Nagase Kiyoko, who wrote poetry at her kitchen table while her children and husband were asleep, and suffered the issues of older Japanese women faced this head on.  Her poetry inspires and she is a prime example of this courage to create.  She is a good grandmother for all of us women poets.  Actually, for all women, poets or not.

Lady Nyo 




I am always aware of my mother,

Ominous, threatening,

A pain in the depths of my consciousness.

My mother is like a shell,

So easily broken.

Yet the fact that I was born

Bearing my mother’s shadow

Cannot be changed.

She is like a cherished, bitter dream

My nerves cannot forget

Even after I am awake.

She prevents all freedom of movement.

If I move she quickly breaks

And the splinters stab me.

—Nagase Kiyoko  (1906- 1995)

Nagase Kiyoko wrote poetry for 65 years.  She never called herself a ‘professional poet’, but referred to herself as ‘a useless woman’.  She was a farmer, and wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn, while her children and husband were asleep upstairs.  Because of her sensual and cosmic verse, Nagase Kiyoko is considered by many Japanese women poets to be the “Grandmother” of modern poetry.  Just a short reading of her verse goes deeply into the heart of the reader.  She is ageless in her verse.  She died on her 89th birthday.

”The Peace that Surpasses All Understanding’, Part 2

August 27, 2011

I’m using this title for an entry because it seems to be a continuation of the previous entry, dated August 20th.

I have a friend, who happens to be a neighbor, close enough so we can work out together during the week.  I’ve known her about a year, and we have circled each other carefully.  She’s a high powered woman, and in the beginning she had little filter to her mouth: what she thought came out with little consideration about subject or audience.  I didn’t know her well, but I called her on it.  I was surprised because she immediately apologized  and from there we relaxed.  We’ve become good friends, and I value her highly.  She’s the sister I never had.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t done things that annoyed her; I did, and after a rough spell, we realized   we had much more in common than not.

She’s a decade younger but she has an energy about her that can be exhausting; it also can be invigorating.  As I got to know her better, I saw such worth and also such pain.

We get together to do the Callanetics dvd, laughing at the 80’s hairdos and the funny leotards.  B. was doing something called ‘bootcamp’ for the last year, serious 5 times a week running, serious exercising, push ups, crunches, and she was tearing up her joints. B. is also a breast cancer survivor. She was having to go to physical therapy to recover from the bootcamp.  We decided to do this dvd together. 

Isometrics versus Bootcamp.

So far we do the ‘Stomach’ dvd, only 20 minutes, but we both are groaning and sweating at the end.  I am awaiting the full hour Callanetics dvd, something I had in vhs 10 years ago  and recently dumped. Vhs was on the blink.  It is a killer exercise regime, and  Callan Pickney is part sweet, Southern Nazi,  part ballet dancer. 

When it finally arrives we are in for it.  I remember not being able to reach down and tie my joggers because my stomach muscles were screaming.

So we manage to get that 20 minutes in, but we spend about an hour (or more) just talking.

B. is an amazing graphic artist.  She’s been at it for 27 years, and did my bookmarks and cards this spring for the three books published by  They are so beautiful.  I really admire her abilities.

We’ve been exchanging stories but  I have been listening closely.  B. comes from a very abusive childhood home.  Her mother’s abuse is only now muted by senility.  She still has a foul and berating mouth on her, and uses it to instill control and power over B.  I won’t repeat the language this elderly woman uses on her daughter, but it’s shocking enough that a mother would  say these things so easily.  She was like this, however, before the clouding of her mind.

B. is  a dutiful daughter.  She is patient with her mother, she seems to accept what is nothing but abuse and she has been deeply impacted by a lifetime of this narcissistic behavior. 

And that brings me to a point: When a woman has such  a parent, especially a mother, who abuses her, allows no independent opinion, tears down her self-worth with cruelty, what is finally left of that person?

Well, for all of us, until we get ‘wise’ to the issues….women who make bad choices in life, women who can’t set boundaries, women who sometimes have to hit rock bottom before they can begin the recovery process.

B. is finally blessed, as I am, with a good and knowledgeable therapist.  Actually, it’s not easy to find a therapist who is versed in the issues of Personality Disorders, in particular Narcissism, and many will try to make you ‘swallow’ the abuse of a parent because we are so indoctrinated to take abuse from parents.

A mother’s love is the earliest and most influential part of a child’s life. And when we are children, we have few options.  When we are adults, we have choices.  But the influences stick, and we come from these ruinous relationships with many issues. (These are called ‘fleas’ by some) Bad choices are very much part of this; setting boundaries seems to be the very hardest for women.

Perhaps it is hardest with our mothers.  Recently, I realized this and just gave up. I also realized that I lived in ‘fear’ of her. (this fear is many faceted.  Still working it out)

 I had hoped  there would be some ‘half-way’ ground where my mother could acknowledge my boundaries; where I could express my opinions without her contempt or rudeness. Her rudeness, when it isn’t  outrageous dismissal of an opinion,  usually is expressed by her turning away and showing her impatience with anything said. She doesn’t want to hear you.  This is where narcissism shows it’s ugly head.  If it isn’t about her, it doesn’t have value.

The problem really came down to this:  I never really set boundaries with this woman.  I didn’t know how. I was still hoping  as my mother, she would wake up someday, change.  But she’s a narcissist; in fact, she’s an ignoring narcissist.  In a way, it made it easier for me to walk away.  And that is what I did: I just gave up any hope that things would change between us. I faced a reality that she wasn’t  capable as a human being of any change. She liked the way she was. Narcissists have no inner self-compass.  They don’t question what they do or their effects.  They don’t really have the wiring because they are devoid of empathy.  They may make a show of great emotion and tears, but it’s usually about themselves, or rage that they aren’t getting something.  They really function like 6 year old children, retarded emotionally to this age.

 Six decades of no change, so what was I expecting….the Second Coming of Christ?

Over the years, I have changed.  It hasn’t been a straight line progress, more like the Russian Army: two steps forward, one step back. Or something like that. Hobbled by many things.   Perhaps becoming a writer, and applying myself enough to publish three books so far, and having a good and stable marriage, and certainly this blog helped.

It’s also having a great and comfortable therapist.  Over the past 5 years, she has become the “good” mother.  She has set an example of what motherhood should be, without any preaching.   She’s elderly, too, enough so  I can see her as my mother….and I can mourn all   those years of disruption and grief with my ‘real’ mother.  I can get past the anger and lose because she wasn’t capable of so  many things.  I can’t  really get angry anymore because I feel pity for her. Coming to that was a process. You can’t get angry at a cripple. 

Having the good therapist was so helpful because a mother raising a child needs good influences around her. My child is in the Navy, and almost 24. I feel  I made so many mistakes when he was younger. He survived my rotten parenting, and is thriving and making us proud. So something went right in those early years.  Now I understand so much more about being a mother, and I wish I had the chance to do it right, with what I know now.

No I don’t, I am enjoying my freedom.  He’s a great kid, and somehow the human spirit is so resilient.  I take hope from this.

What I have learned is this: empathy is the key issue in our relationships.  Being able to truly feel what the other feels, to put yourself aside and listen, to try hard to connect with that other person, to be there when they need you most.  Perhaps this is what it means most to be human.

I am hoping my friend B. will find the strength within to walk away from her mother’s horrid abuse.  Like me, once she does, she will start examining very closely all the other relationships in her life: friends that are verbally abusive, friends that are users, friends that really don’t come up to the standard of friendship.  Family, too, will come under this microscope.  Luckily for her, B. has some great sisters.  And she keeps me laughing with the stories of confusing and diverting the mother’s constant abuse.

She’s a good friend, and she deserves support and encouragement.  Mostly, she deserves peace.

Lady Nyo

Out in the marsh reeds

A bird cries out in sorrow,

As though it had recalled

Something better forgotten.

—Ki No Tsurayuki

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