Featuring Rev. Patricia Cagganello
Life can be funny, in a twisted sort of way. The year I celebrated my fiftieth birthday, I got divorced, went through menopause, and battled depression while being a single mom to my two hormonal teenage daughters. To tell you it was easy would be silly. I was hanging on by a thread.
Once I stopped mourning the loss of my relationship with my ex-husband, I focused on recovering a healthy relationship with myself. However, it seemed that any self-love or self-esteem I was trying to establish was blown away with even the slightest amount of teenage angst my daughters directed my way. Normal adolescent behaviors—like rolled eyes, a tone of voice, correcting me, wanting to hang out with their friends instead of me, and even not cleaning their rooms—would send me into a tailspin.
To say I was sensitive would be a gross understatement. I took everything my girls did personally. Every word or action was a specific judgment of my value and the ability for someone to love me.
“Patience, patience, patience,” I would tell myself. “Just breathe. Don’t take things so personally. Slow down. You are lovable. Just breathe.”
But relentless waves of emotional challenges kept getting in my way. Arguments with my girls erupted almost daily. They said I was moody and hard to deal with. They felt I was picking on them. But to me, they seemed insensitive and self-centered.
We had more “start overs” than we could count, our way to deal with disagreements or misunderstandings. In the past, we’d been able to release any lingering blame or hard feelings and move forward simply by agreeing to a start over. This strategy worked great when they were little, but eventually, even a start over couldn’t fix things.
My girls kept trying, though. They saw the mother that they had always known changing and their support, their foundation, cracking. I know it scared them; it scared me. They reached out to me in their own ways, trying to help me. They fought to restore some semblance of normalcy in their lives.
Each morning, I woke up and resolved to make it a better day. It was going to be a kinder and gentler day, not only for me but for my girls. I would be calm, nice, and less critical.
Sometimes this happened—but most days, I would see myself and the people around me through my distorted lens of emotion. I would take offense. My feelings would be hurt, and I’d lash out with wounded and angry words. Most nights, I went to bed deflated and mad at myself, resolving once again that I’d do better the next day.
My older daughter would challenge me and question my behaviors and emotions. Seeing my weaknesses unnerved her. She wanted to see my strength, wanted me to fight. What she didn’t realize was that I was fighting.
We both knew the script by heart; our disagreements seemed unending. We were like two performers in a play, forever acting out our roles, performance after performance, in a drama that should have long closed.
But my daughter’s capacity to love is boundless, her capacity to forgive is great, and her resolve is strong. Even after the worst disagreements, she would always come to find me, to try and make it right.
“Mom, I love you!” she would say. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t believe you,” was my typical reply, as I turned my face away from her. Too hurt and ashamed to look her in the eye.
“Mom, look at me! I mean it. I love you, and I don’t want to fight.”
“I don’t know what to do,” I would sob, truly at a loss.
“We love you. You have to believe me. It’s going to be ok,” she would promise as she reached over to hug me.
“I love you and I’m sorry too,” I assured her, overcome with remorse, hugging her back and praying my reactions would improve.
I had needed a break, just for a few minutes, to calm down. That was my new strategy: I’d remove myself from the argument before it escalated. I began to pace the floor, trying to clear my head.
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Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from just one of many Sacred Stories of our time. Powerful voices from around the globe that speak to our shared human experience. May they inspire you and give you great hope. Order your personal copy of CHAOS TO CLARITY: SACRED STORIES OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE today and discover hope for the future and a blueprint for your life ⤵︎