"Mother is the heartbeat in the home; and without her, there seems to be no heart throb."
It was my mother`s birthday recently and my mum seemed to be very happy. I made a hazelnut-cherry-cake, bought her flowers, and we went shopping together in our local Asian supermarket. I am grateful I could be home with my mum, given it is lockdown and all her family and friends are isolated in their homes. When we had coffee and cake at home, I was aware that I wanted to connect with her and have a deeper conversation. Although we see each other every day (given I am currently at my parents` home), I have been busy with my business and personal change, and probably, as most of us, taken my family`s presence for granted.
I have already observed with myself since my college time, when I moved out, that whenever I was with my family, I seemed to drift away, following my own thoughts and not really listening to my parents or being truly with them in the present moment. Of course, soon I would feel guilty, knowing that having a family is a gift. We have been healthy, financially stable, and alive. We are also able to be together during the pandemic - something I know is not common for everyone. While I have improved my mindfulness skills to be truly present with my family as well as feel deep gratitude for the time together with my family (esp. for me being single), I have still noticed that I didn`t seem to have the strength to give more love, attention, and time to my family.
Now you may need to know that I am very sensitive. Whenever I look back at past family pictures (or videos are even worse), I would always start to cry. I don`t know whether it is melancholy, the memory of good old times, or the love I remember as a child - I have never understood it, but my tears would always run when looking at family memories. I also knew whenever my parents tell my sister and me about their youth, how they met or emigrated from Vietnam to Germany, I would immediately feel compassion, which can sometimes be too much.
My parents had worked at factories in the Czech Republic during their very early 20s, when they left their home country in Vietnam to unknown Europe. They would tell about both blissful times of freedom and excitement, but also about discrimination and the hurdles of not speaking the local language. Whenever I hear this, I would feel an ache in my heart feeling compassion for my parents` hurt and struggles, being good people as they are, never without an intention to deliberately hurt anybody. Maybe it is the realization of how much my parents have endured and worked for, for my siblings and me to have better chances with a better life. Maybe it is my own pain and experiences with discrimination being in a minority foreign group, that made me compassionate and sad. Whatever it is, it is not the easiest, most casual conversation with my parents, when we dig into their past.
Despite these emotional factors, I have felt the urge to understand my parents` stories better and get to know them more. Not only because I have heard that learning more about your ancestors gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself, but also because I genuinely wanted to know who my parents as human beings are. As children, you often grew up seeing your parents working and then you yourself were busy studying and working. I have heard from others before that they were working on sort of memoirs based on their parents` stories, and I was sure that my parents, too, would have an amazing life story to tell, with love, twists, challenges, breakthroughs, and wisdoms. One friend, for example, has started a book project after her mother had died, so I am aware of the gift to be able to talk to my mum directly (although I know for my friend, that her mum has not left her ever since).
While I am sure some things will materialize when the time is right, I definitely wanted to deepen my relationships with my parents. I just didn`t know how. Whenever I would open up my heart, I would somehow feel drained quickly, and then guilty. So I explored my often cited mantra: "step by step".
When we had coffee and cake on my mum`s birthday, I took another sip of my cappuccino and then started to ask her questions, that were not too complex or emotional. I asked her, how old she was when she decided to leave Vietnam for the Czech Republic (19). I asked her where her wish came from to move to a foreign country, as this was quite uncommon and rare during Soviet times (she always dreamed to go to Germany because she heard of other Vietnamese sending a lot of material items back home, which she found impressive). I asked her how it was to fly for the first time (quite scary, but still exciting given the whole plane was full of Vietnamese young workers on the same programme). I asked her about her time in the Czech Republic (they were all housed in dormitories with other workers from Vietnam, Cuba, Poland, and had an amazing time with needs taken care of and supervisors to contact in case of help). I asked her about her work (she worked at a wool factory in a division that coloured textiles). I asked her about her decision to move over to Germany (when the Soviet Union fell, her working contract dissolved, and she and my dad decided to follow a friend to Germany; it was a blissful time in Germany while waiting for asylum with other fellows, with hope, joy, and anticipation).
Yes, this short conversation touched my heart, as I had foreseen, and even writing about this now makes me emotional. But I am glad I gave my mum, esp. on her birthday, room to tell her story, to be listened to, and to share something from her own world. I took this "step by step", taking a pause before I asked the next question, or also bringing the conversation back to me, such as my own wish to move to London. What was important for me was to also give time for myself afterwards to (emotionally) recharge. My heart was wide open, so it was time to re-fuel my heart again, giving love now to myself, esp. because I am not used to be listened to myself, so I need to give this to myself, too. (As we have learned, we can only give what we also have ourselves.)
I definitely want to continue this conversation with both my parents, with self-love in mind and giving their life stories and our relationships the time it needs to unfold. This is my wish for you - to not let your fears or uncomfortable sensations hold you back. Sometimes we escape into our books to read from other inspirational leaders, but sometimes the inspirations (and love) that we can already get can be right next to us, we only need to connect and open up, step by step.
How is your relationship to your parents? Let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – I very look forward to hearing from you! :) PS: Subscribe to my #mindfulmagic Newsletter to stay in touch for upcoming posts, free offers, and news :)
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