The gift to myself of a clean slate for my mum-in-law

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I’ve known my husband for 31 years this month and by association, I’ve known his mother, Elma. Over those three decades our relationship has been interesting; we are both strong-willed women and at times we’ve clashed head-on whilst in times of crisis we’ve supported each other un-conditionally.

when John and I took the decision to live in Wales, with Elma, it was a life changing decision from which we knew there would be no going back. We knew mum would feel safer and less isolated if we lived closer to her, we knew we wanted this to be our last house move and we also knew it would be a challenge to find somewhere that suited all of us, with very different lifestyles. Our greatest concern was that we’d find it a huge challenge to live too close to each other, as we all like our own space and wanted to be sure that would be respected.

within a few weeks of Elma arriving in Wales, I began to struggle with our relationship; I found I was losing my temper frequently, feeling undermined and taken for granted. When I started to resent her for having fun in her volunteering work, which she goes to every day now, I knew I had to challenge my feelings or we were doomed to failure.

“I don’t know what to do differently” I said to John, “I’m doing everything I can to make this work, but mum is just driving me mad. She’s doing nothing to contribute here, she’s out enjoying herself all day while we’re working our **** off…”

This was one of those moments where I’m reminded why I love my husband and why we’re so good together; he helps me see things so differently.

“I know mum’s upset you over the years, I know she’s said and done things that really were pretty bloody awful, that you’re still unable to think about without getting angry or tearful. So how about letting it go? How about giving yourself the gift of a clean slate?”

“A clean slate? You mean what about forgiving her?” I was getting angry, could feel myself thinking that, yet again, I was going to have to back down for the sake of peace and quiet.

“Not forgiveness, you don’t really believe in that, you hang on to feelings and then you end up going over and over what it was that upset you. No, I’m talking about totally wiping the slate clean, behaving as if our life with mum starts here and now, today. No “history” together, no details of who had done what or said what in the past and no blame. A new beginning. How would that feel?”

i had to think about this idea for two days; mulling it over in my head, looking at why this might actually be a clever idea and also looking at whether I was able to stick with it, to actually let go of these memories that served no purpose in my life other than getting me angry and feeling hard-done-by.

This was about ego, my ego! This was me choosing to stay angry with Elma for things she’d said and done already, some of them many years ago. How was this serving me? What was I getting out of staying attached to this stuff? Honest answer – nothing positive or helpful was coming from it and it was making me stressed and not that nice to be around.

The following day, I got up with a new slate, fresh and clean in my mind.  I decided to give myself that gift, to allow myself to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is, to experience my own joy and not allow my head-talk to go back to past experience, focussing instead on the now.

Six months in to our new lives, the slate is still clean and I’m possibly the calmest and most content I’ve ever been. I’ve learned something hugely important about how I had remained stuck because I dwell on things that seem ‘unfair’ that are not resolved. I’ve also learned that somethings will never be resolved, simply stirred up and re-lived with many different versions of people’s truth.

Wiping the slate was a real gift to myself, one of the most precious ones I’ve had. It has given me a new life and a new sense of happiness I had not experienced before. Who is holding you back and keeping you in a place of anger or self-doubt? Imagine what you could achieve if you started with a clean slate in that relationship…

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