If your mother was mean to you you'd understand.
The feelings of being bad, being a disappointment, being an embarrassment.
The feeling that what you did wasn't right.
With my Mom it's subtle but it's real.
And sometimes it isn't subtle at all.
For the month of December I'm singing in the choir which is going great.
My Mom is very happy because it brings me over to the little town where she's living, she who lived all her life on the beautiful north shore communities of Chicago, she who moved to Minnesota to be closer to her cabin up north and eventually to be closer to me and my children.
I used to joke that when you run away from home, the people you ran away from aren't allowed to follow you.
She did follow me, but it's okay.
I love my mom, so much that I forgive and forget and I appreciate who she is and I'm very proud of her.
I love seeing her.
I've been having an early dinner with her before choir, meeting at the cute pub in town, not far from her apartment or the church.
Both times she's made a big deal about who's going to pay the bill, and then getting mad when I did, and then giving me some cash at the end, all a big bluster every time.
She's always been difficult, or manic and sassy.
Me and my mom have a lot in common.
But I don't want to be this way, any of these ways.
Yesterday she called me on the phone to talk about how she wants to make Glogg...Swedish mulled wine....for the holidays.
The way she makes it is absurd to a person living in Sweden I think.
Her recipe sounds like the stocking up list for the liquor store owner.
It has a bottle of just about every hard liquor in it.
Why are we making this?
I don't know and I don't mind.
I'm happy to oblige.
We can pour it all back into the glass bottles and keep it for parties and give it as gifts.
It's lovely really, full of orange peel and cloves and cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and raisins and almonds.
It's a big deal kind of drink, especially in my mother's life.
Her Scandinavian parents used to make it on Christmas Eve and carry it out to the dining room in a "flaming punchbowl".
I've never witnessed this but apparently you pour a little extra Aquavit on top and light the whole damn thing on fire and then carry the silver punchbowl around your house while all your friends look on in amazement.
Okay, great, we're doing it.
Two of my three children will be here for Christmas so on the 23rd we're having their friends and ours all here at Rob's house for a party.
The Glogg will come in handy.
My mother is invited but she may not come because she doesn't really like parties that much, we'll see.
In the meantime, yesterday on the telephone, my mother started to tell me about the different outfits she's seen me in lately, which is a bummer because when she actually sees me in real life she never says any kind of "oh you look nice" or anything.
For the record I realize that I dress in a conspicuous way, and I love my clothes and I love to dress up and feel delightful for myself.
Most people don't comment on my clothing and I don't comment on theirs.
I love it when I feel free to be me and I feel that it doesn't hurt or offend or affect anyone negatively at all.
I love it when I meet a friend and we embrace and exchange a quick, "oh you look wonderful, it's so great to see you!"
And then we get on to the bigger and more important things in life.
I love clothes but I don't need to talk about how I acquired them, who made them, why I decided to wear this thing or that thing.
So yesterday on the Glogg planning phone call my mother suddenly hooked me in to my sickest place, a place where I am blinded by shame.
It was like I was frozen and couldn't stop her, or like I wanted her to keep saying the terrible shaming things.
"That coat you've been wearing is awful. It makes you look like an old woman."
"But Mom, that's my best coat right now and it's so warm and I love the leopard print with everything right now."
"And that dress you wore to church, with your breasts popping out, that was disgusting."
And on and on....................
It's like a sick torture thing where the torturer is getting something out of this and the person being tortured starts to believe it all.
By the time I said I had to get off the phone and said good bye I felt so sick inside.
I remembered feeling this way a million times as a child.
She said these things that made me feel filthy and sick and no good.
What do you do with your self loathing?
What do you do with your shame?
What do you do?
I started pacing around the house.
I thought of my mantra.
"I approve of myself."
I said it a thousand times, no one was home.
I said it out loud, louder and louder.
I put on my winter walking clothes and took my little dog outside in the frozen cold and we walked as far as he wanted to go.
I came back and rode the stationary bicycle in the basement as fast and as hard as I could and I said, "I believe in you Courtney."
I got rid of it.
Last night I had the privilege of driving out to meet a great friend for dinner.
She lives in New York and she's always been influential in my adult life.
We both got the walleye dinner.
It was fantastic.
We split a bottle of sparkling rosé.
I wore one of my filthy shocking dresses and my big leopard coat that makes me look like an old woman.
I felt fucking awesome.
"Baby how you feelin'? Feeling good as Hell!"
If Lizzo can feel good in anything and everything she wears so can I.
Stand back, Bitch, 'cause I am just getting started.
I don't know how every rebel is made, but one sure way to make a rebel out of me is to cage me up and put me down for years and years and years and then finally let me loose on the world.
That's what I am.
That's what you got, right here.
Sorry, but Mom is not getting the privilege of another exercise in crushing Courtney, not this holiday season.
She gets to do everything with the family, but no more one on one time with me.
I tried it, but it isn't working.
That kind of mental pain that gets inflicted, it's the kind of anguished feelings that lead to people cutting themselves I think.
The mental anguish of feeling so absolutely ashamed of your own choices of the way you choose to do things, and with no way to apologize, no way to make it right.
Add to that a sense that you wouldn't do it any differently the next time, that you did exactly what you wanted to do.
And if the persecutor is your mother, you have nowhere to turn because you want her to love you.
It is a fucking nightmare of a cage to live in.
I got out of that cage but I go back in any time she criticizes me.
Let It Go Courtney.
You Are Free.
Six Year Old Courtney is here to save the day.
Ten Year Old Courtney is sick of feeling lousy.
Six Year Old Courtney is ready to shine like she knew she was meant to shine.
It had nothing to do with her parents, it was hers and hers alone.
A great big shining star of Love and Light inside her chest, coming straight from her Heart to the world.
How dare you not be fabulous when you are a child of God?
Love and Light today!