5 Lessons I Learned From Reading My Mother’s Diary

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I never expected to page through my mom’s diaries one day. To be honest, I didn’t know how much she wrote about her life until my sister found several scripted treasures when we sorted through mom’s home, looking for things that might keep her memory alive for our grieving hearts. My sister took them all home and obsessively read the diaries, sometimes snapping a photograph of a page or two and sending them to me so that I could read the sentiments with her. Now that I have the diaries in my possession, I find myself reliving experiences and fully feeling emotions that had been lost or buried over decades.

Reading mom’s perspective of life left me feeling more connected, empathetic, and determined to release the negativity I’ve clung to for as long as I can remember. As I begin to break through my burdens, it’s important for me to embrace the lessons I’ve learned from the life and circumstances I’ve lived alongside my mom. I am drawn to share them with you, so that you may also find solace in whatever is keeping you from releasing past thoughts, feelings, and experiences that have weighed you down.

5 Lessons Learned From Reading My Mother’s Diary:

1. Do what you can with what have and always strive for better.

There may be times in your life when you desperately want to get from here to there, totally skipping the journey in between. Some examples could be the wedding planning vs. getting right to the big day, grieving and feeling the loss of something vs. experiencing happiness once again, or studying for a degree vs. starting on your new career path. When you focus on your desires, you can dream and imagine the possibilities, leaning into all of the feels that will come during the journey and celebrating the arrival, or you can direct your attention on the lack of the not-yet achievement of the dreams you desire. In the first scenario, you have the ability to feel really good about what you want, but in the second one, you might feel different negative emotions because you don’t yet have what you want.

Is there something that you are longing to achieve? Are you relishing in the process or frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet? Take a step back to see which one fits you. Any time that you can thoughtfully enjoy the journey (do what you can with what you have), trust in the process, celebrate your progress (strive for better), it’s worth your peace of mind.

2. When I’m not good enough takes the stage, you must fight back.

A recurring theme of loneliness runs through my mother’s diaries. The longing for a loving relationship revealed a desire to feel wholeness and a sense of love and belonging. Alongside loneliness persisted an underlying theme, and that was I’m not good enough. For my mother, this plagued her during the lifetime I knew her. Not good enough showed up when others criticized her parenting decisions. Not good enough showed up when she wanted to enter into loving relationships but never believed that she could have a good partner to share life’s treasures. Not good enough showed up when she couldn’t afford to heat the house. Not good enough showed up when her waitressing job required server banking and the system made her feel inadequate. Not good enough showed up in every picture because mom hated the way she looked. Gosh, I hate to say this, but I could go on and on with examples.

When not good enough shows up in your life, you must fight back and win. Here’s how:

  • Listen to your self-talk. What do you say to yourself?
  • When you start down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk, stop and tell yourself: “I will not talk to myself that way.” Be consistent with this.
  • Stand up for yourself. You are your #1 cheerleader. Consider applying Mel Robbins’ High Five Habit, backed by science and aligned with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) theory and practices. You’ll start changing the way you treat yourself after consistently cheering for yourself.

Looking for a cheerleader to support your journey of transformation? Email me at jessicamadenford@gmail.com – Let me help you transform the language of your mind and take action towards loving your life.

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3. Emotional abuse can hold you prisoner in your own life.

After the divorce of my parents, my mom searched for someone who could be a good father-figure, who could help out at home, and make her feel whole once again. There were a few in the running, but one relationship, in particular, imprisoned my mom for years. Almost each diary entry shared some incident where this former partner demeaned her, manipulated her heart, and kept her in a negative thought loop about herself, her aspirations, and life in general. I lived through this relationship, the falling out, and aftermath in my youth, but to see my mom’s struggles scripted in front of me added to the experience. It broke my heart in a different way this time.

What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse can happen in any relationship and is all about control. It may seem insignificant at first, however, it may lead to physical abuse. No matter what type of abuse might be happening (or happened in your past), your mental health can be impacted and have lasting effects that pour over into other areas of your life. I’ve watched this from the perspective of a child, and what happened to my mom ultimately caused her invisible wounds to bleed out, seeping into relationships, causing burdens for others to carry, and leaving her in a pool of low self-worth without the right tools to get out.

Help is here. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse is critical, whether you are experiencing it or observing it play out with someone you love. The abuser seeks control, and that can show up as belittling, shaming, blaming, threatening, manipulating, and undisguised control for power. As the one receiving the emotional abuse, you might feel stupid, start believing the lies and constantly engage in negative self talk, stay in the relationship, find ways to cover up the emotional pain, or feel as though everything is your fault, you are alone, and you are stuck, forever.

There are ways to get help. According to crisistexthotline.org, there are ways to put yourself first and fight to save the life you want to live. In their article, How to Deal with Emotional Abuse, tell someone, anyone, what is happening. Text HOME to 741741 to connect immediately with a crisis counselor who can help you. Start thinking about a safety plan to prepare you for when you are ready to safely get out of the relationship. Connect with a professional who is trained with the tools to help you heal and experience future relationships in a healthy way.

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4. Spiritual connection does not require someone else’s checklist.

One of the most frustrating things that happened to me in the early days following my mother’s passing was the outpouring of condolences that were paired with the belief that my mother was in heaven IF AND ONLY IF she met certain criteria set forth by whoever believed the criteria. For anyone who has lost a loved one, hearing things like the following does nothing but add to the grief: “Did your mom have a relationship with Jesus? Was she saved? Did she go to church? Did she know the Lord?” Yes, I know that those comments were well intended, but at the same time, her relationship with God, Source, The Almighty, whatever name you prefer, was her business. What if I had answered no to any or all of those questions? What would the responses be then? How would the condolences have changed? How can someone qualify my mother’s rite to go to Heaven, the afterlife, or the spiritual realm based on some figurative checklist?

At one point during the funeral planning, my sister felt prompted to quickly page through one of mom’s journals for evidence that she knew the Lord. She found notes about scripture, feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence, and being in constant prayer. In that service preparation, we – my brother, sister, and me, wanted to honor my mother’s life of service to others. Through her gift of caregiving, she demonstrated the teachings of our religious beliefs. But we three felt compelled to show evidence proving that indeed, our mother checked off the boxes to go to the walk through the pearly gates. In the loss of my mother, I have never felt so conflicted with beliefs that others held and what I felt was spiritually inviting and believing myself.

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5. Vices will not solve anything.

According to Merriam-Webster, a vice is a “moral depravity or corruption,” and “a moral fault or failing.” A vice may be used to regulate responses to emotions. In some cases, a vice can be detrimental to your health and well-being if you allow your limiting beliefs to drive your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your behaviors. I watched this play out in my mom’s life, and reading her diaries gave me an intimate perspective of what thoughts and feelings manifested in mom’s mind, and why she responded with self-sabotaging vices.

What are examples of self-sabotaging vices?

  • Emotional eating or drinking
  • Depravation of essential needs to survive
  • Negative Self-talk
  • Self-harm
  • Abuse of any kind directed towards others
  • Financial recklessness

What do they look like in life?

  • Drinking alcohol to numb stress
  • Starving oneself to lose weight (think about eating disorders)
  • Telling yourself things like, I’m too ugly to find love, I’ll never lose weight, I’m too stupid to get the promotion.
  • Cutting, burning, or other self-injuring methods
  • Emotional, mental, or physical abuse
  • Spending sprees to feel good when you feel bad

Self-sabotaging vices can be very destructive. When conditioned beliefs are so strong, seeking professional help to get to the root cause of it all is an important step in healing and finding healthier coping strategies. Do you know if you are being held hostage by self-sabotaging limiting beliefs? Consider how you feel when engaging in the destructive vice or after you have finished it. You may or may not feel good while you are doing it, but what happens next?

Start paying attention to how you feel. After a while, you may find that you want to feel differently or better as a result of the negative emotions brought on by the vices that soothe your thoughts. Working with an NLP Life Coach can help you break free from the limiting beliefs and change the direction of your mind. You can take control and live a healthy life on your terms, but it does take the courage that’s already inside of you to make the change.

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Once I started reading my mom’s diaries, it revealed truths about my life that I already knew, but always had a difficult time understanding for myself. For years, I carried these thoughts and feelings from my childhood experiences with me, and used them as arsenal against my mother. I hate to admit this, but I blamed her for the vices I used because I watched her use them. My mom’s experiences were traumatic, and her mind went on overdrive to protect her. The safety net was covered in fear, and her mental health suffered.

The good news is that she persisted with prayer, faith, and hope. Despite the burdens she carried with her, she demonstrated strength and endurance. She may not have had all of the right tools during her life, but the lessons she taught those around her will appear in the lives of the ones she loved and cared for while she was with us.

What lessons have you learned from your life experiences?

How do you cope with your thoughts and emotions to benefit your health and well-being?

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