Monday, November 02, 2009

Rosary Truths & Painful Motherhood (long)

My truth about the rosary is somewhat emotionally void. I really struggle with this prayer.

For years (about the last 8) I've struggled with the reality of who Mary was to me. I've spoken of this to so many of my friends, it seems odd that I haven't written of it in the 3 years of my blog.

My first reality of motherhood is my mom. My personal experience of motherhood has not left me with warm-fuzzy feelings. My relationship with my mom has been hard. There's things it's not polite to write. The openness I desire to share with the world is tempered by the love I desire to show my mom. Even the word mother is struggle for me to define for myself, let alone explain or write down. If you've had a relationship like that, you understand. Our ongoing reconciliation (because there's always more hurt - past and present to get over) is an act of obedience from me to God. Loving my mom is an act of will on my part -- only because it's what God asks of me that keeps me in the relationship. It is God's choice to have my mom in my life, not mine. It's an ongoing, difficult relationship.

My mom has feelings of love for me -- but my mom is not a selfless person. She makes an attempt to show me love, but somehow it rarely hits the mark. And often, there is shrapnel embedded in her arrows of love. In years past I've tried to protect myself, but it's pretty hard to show love to someone while you're hiding behind fortress walls to protect yourself. So, now, I try to minimize the casualties in my heart and rely on Jesus to protect and heal me -- so I can allow her access to my life -- how else do you show love to someone? It's hard.

On the positive side of motherhood was my Grandma Handlin. My grandmother loved me, and I felt loved by her. That one sentence and the word love does little to encompass the depth and breadth of what that relationship was and is to me. A source of strength and a longing to be more than I am because of all she was to me.

So, my understanding of motherhood has been colored by years of pain and struggle. Because of my grandma, I do know what the outline of what true motherhood is supposed to be, but the nuances of what that looks like in real life elude me. I've had to make it up as I go with very little direction of how to get where I want to be.

I've got a disconnection in my mind -- I'm trying to become the kind of mother that the emotional half of my brain screams doesn't exist -- Mothers are dangerous and they can hurt you -- but I have to find a way to become this person -- so my daughters don't have a mother that hurts them.

Now, in my life is Mary. You know, the Mother of God - that Mary. Lots of people have a relationship with Jesus. There are people, lots of people, who can help you with that. Having a relationship with someone who isn't bodily in this world has some challenges, but you can get there -- there are some helps along the way.

Mary is a different story.

At least half of my friends would be a little suspect about attempting a relationship with a dead person, even a saint, who doesn't happen to be God. A divine being (like Jesus) can overcome shortcomings in a non-bodily relationship -- regular dead people, even holy ones, still aren't God. Even my closest, most intimate friends would have pastors who say I'm off the mark in desiring a relationship with Mary. But my closest, most intimate protestant friends are of the most loving variety -- and they love me in spite of my Catholic quirks if not because of them - although they can't give much direction on how to have a relationship with Mary.

I don't get much help from my Catholic friends, either. Either they're on a different spiritual plane than I am, or I'm too emotionally unstable for them, or they can't relate because they had great moms, or they're just too darn busy having babies to help me psychoanalyze my relationship with a dead, albeit holy, non-Deity. Or maybe I've been too hung up to ask.

Another issue is that Mary is mom. We're talking -- Ultimate Motherhood kind of thing. As related above, I have some motherhood issues. My motherhood issues tend to slow down a relationship with Ultimate Motherhood. Remember the emotional screaming half of my brain? And that's the side that's kept me safe for many years -- that's the side that I listen to. It's that still small voice inside when it's not screaming at me. (Please disregard all inferences to multiple personalities. Honestly, I walk around this neurotic all the time -- say a prayer for poor Dave who has to live with me).

So, I'm left with

  1. my ever-struggling relationship with my mom
  2. my depth of love for my grandma
  3. the many people inside my head
  4. my daughters who need a mother
  5. a dead, albeit holy, non-Deity who represents Ultimate Motherhood
  6. my desire to be more than I am

So, I've been praying to Mary for the last decade. Not nice, sweet prayers - more like chip on my shoulder -- so I'm left with YOU, who I don't want and don't trust and it's not like you're here anyway, but I'm desperate so where's the help already -- kind of prayers. She has answered me time and again with nurturing women who come into my life and love me -- protestant friends, Catholic friends, loving strangers -- women who surround me and hold me up when I'm about to fall with the weight of the world on my shoulders. This is the love Mary has given me.

NOW - we're in the present (believe it or not ALL THAT was background and baggage). Mary loves me and helps me. She's still not bodily present to do my dishes, but I have no doubt of her existence in my life. I'm still learning how to be a loving daughter, but I'm better than I was a decade ago, mostly because of Mary's help. Sometimes I'll start a prayer to Jesus and I don't have peace -- I know I need a mother (I still have a hard time saying 'my mother' about her).

The rosary is the prayer to Mary. It's boring. I'm sure all my issues factors in. I've read books, histories, meditations on the rosary -- it's still boring. I don't pray it often and it goes in spurts. Most of my Catholic friends are WAAAAYYYY more faithful than I am. There's so much stuff I don't get "Why would Mary want a boring prayer?" stuff like that. yada yada eternal realities are different than earthly circumstances. yada yada the Catholic Church has 2000 years of truth...I know. It's still boring. When I'm desperate or lonely or sad or worried about someone -- I'll say my rosary - I say part of a rosary about once a week and get interupted and don't go back to it.

I don't have a good end to this. I'm still working it all out...with help.


  1. Jenn, I just finished reading Rome Sweet Rome and thought of this post as I read about Kimberly Hahn's "trouble" with Mary. She has a lovely way of explaining how she came around when it came to building a relationship with Mary. I would quote her, but I don't have the book on hand as I let a friend borrow it. But a part of it goes like this in explaining the rosary. They compared praying the rosary to when your children come and tell you that they love you. We don't get bored when our little ones run to us and say "Mommy I love you!" And that is how the rosary is to Mary. It's saying "Holy Mother, we love you!" I recommend that book to you and hope that you continue to grow in your relationship to our Holy Mother. Prayers for you!

  2. Liz, I LOVE that book. I don't have my copy on hand, either, because it's loaned out!!

    Is it terrible to admit that I DO get tired of hearing my kids extol their love for me while they're sneaking cookies behind their backs?

  3. LOL!! Jenn, I must admit that I completely understand you! I suppose that for some, the rosary is just more difficult and there is no way around it. I'll keep praying for you!

    I have been suffering lately in my life as well because of the rosary...and my lack of praying it. But today was a whole new day for me and things are already getting better!! You actually inspired me to write about it on my blog!!

    Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts. I admire your willingness to put something like this out there for others to read. It's great to learn from others and know that we are not alone in our struggles.