One... Two... Three... Triggered!
My Mama wasn’t allowed to be a kid. At twelve she started working outside her family's home, but at six she had been instructed to work inside. The third of twelve children, there was little opportunity for her to go outside and play. She soon forgot what play was. I wanted to remind her by giving her a day to let her Inside Kid OUT at Wonderspaces.
We had lots of fun... exploring, laughing, until we didn't. An hour after smiling for the camera, we were arguing with each other. Both wanting to be heard. Both wanting to be accepted as ourselves. Because, trauma. Because... Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Luckily, our communication has improved since my youth, and especially since I was in my 20s. 30s? Over time... awareness has been key. We never scream, rarely raise our voices, and have learned how to respond more than react.
It’s a process, but we’re doing the work. Having a healthy relationship with my Mama is worth the work. Which is why after I dropped her off, I went home and processed the sensations I was feeling. I practiced my favorite breathing techniques in order to calm down and hear my answers to the specific questions I asked myself about the argument.
What I learned is I am easily triggered whenever I hear my Mama talk about religion. When she does, my heart races and I feel like racing away from her. All I can think about is the God she taught me to fear when I was a little girl. A God who disapproved of my behaviors and threatened to send me to hell because of them. Her interpretation, her beliefs, not mine.
I know she wishes I believed the same. Sometimes I wish I did too. I have often wondered if I'd be happier. Especially because she only wants my happiness, which is why she feels compelled to share. She cares. Thankfully, I do too.
So this morning, I told my Mama that nothing would make me happier than for her to not discuss religion or judge me for not practicing religion, again. To my surprise, she not only agreed, she apologized.
We made an agreement to not discuss topics that make either of us uncomfortable, whatever that might be. It is not up to me to decide or judge what topics are acceptable for her. Only she can decide that for herself. The same goes for me. We agreed to check in with each other if we notice that a conversation is taking a turn and starting to shut the other person down. Such as the "warning signs" I displayed yesterday when she initially brought up religion. And ultimately, we agreed that it is up to us individually to take accountability for our own feelings and make sure our concerns are voiced and heard. Even if our voice shakes or ears ring.
Our play date may not have ended as happily as I had imagined, but the next time my Inside Kid is triggered, I'll trust my Mama (a bit more) to be the adult I needed. I love her and feel grateful to have this opportunity to heal from her, with her.