Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment

Untangling Pretending

As I enter the blogosphere, one of the most motivating reasons for me to write is to begin to unravel, make sense of, and share what’s rattling around in this brain of mind since my NDE (Near Death Experience) in March. People ask me things like “What’s changed?” or “What did you learn?” or “Are you back to your old self yet?”. There was so much packed into that experience that it may take me a long time to sort it out. Heck, it was already complicated in that brain o’ mine — this just added a few dozen more knots and layers!

Today I’ve been reflecting on Mother’s Day, not pretending, and delight. Bear with me as I untangle this knot. Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I still have my mother close by, so spending time with her was essential. My teenage daughter lives with me, so spending time with her was a possibility too. She had gone away with her dad over the weekend, so I wasn’t sure if she’d be home in time to hang out with me. Though a part of me thinks days like Mother’s Day were invented by Hallmark and shouldn’t be given much merit, another part really enjoys both honoring my own mom and having my motherhood celebrated and acknowledged. It’s a strange thing. Holidays like this can bring expectations, obligation, and disappointment along with the love, joy, and appreciation so widely marketed. Sometimes in order to not encounter those first elements, I pretend the holiday doesn’t matter. Truth is, this year, months after my NDE… it really did matter to me.

On Saturday, I tried to reach my daughter to find out if she’d be home for Mother’s Day or not. I caught her on the cell phone during a particularly playful moment with her dad. In coach speak, they were locked into a level 2 connection that was not to be messed with! My call was an intrusion as they were in a very playful space making it hard to get any straight answers out of her. For the first time in my life, I hung up on my daughter. Not in a fury… more of a simple disconnection… the gentle tap of the ‘end’ button on my iPhone. About 20 minutes later I did another thing I’ve never done – I texted a lie. “Sorry. Phone died.” As I dug around inside, I realized I was jealous. She was having the sort of connection with her dad that I long for with her. Heading into Mother’s Day on this particular year, I hungered for the sort of connection that no one could interrupt… where there was such laughter and joy that a phone call was just more fuel for the fun. When I finally got an answer through text that she wouldn’t be home that night, I went about planning how to spend my time and how to take care of my own heart in the matter.

On Mother’s Day, I had a lovely day with my mom. It was a beautiful spring day so we perused her gardens, walked about in the sunshine, went to the greenhouse and were filled with color and possibilities for the summer to come. My mom doesn’t get around so well anymore, so it was especially wonderful to be able to help her out with things she loves that she couldn’t do on her own. She’s so appreciative when I help her, and so enthusiastic when around flowers, that there was no way to not have a great time. I’m so grateful for this extraordinary woman in my life I get to call Mom. My NDE has definitely intensified my awareness of the fragility and miracle of life. It’s good to be at a place in my life where I can cherish her in new ways.

While I was with her, I had a niggling in the back of my mind that kept popping in and out. Would my son call? Would my daughter do anything special for me? The critical voice in my head begged me to pretend it didn’t matter.

Pretend it didn’t matter. huh….

I spent my childhood pretending. Whenever a friend was nearby the first words were always “Let’s play pretend” or “Let’s play make believe”. That was usually followed with “I’ll be Maria… and you be ___” But I digress! The point is, imagination and being able to pretend are wonderful aspects of childhood that bring us great joy and help us stretch into all sorts of possibilities for this life we’re at the beginning of. I don’t think our pretending as children is meant to be the training ground so as adults we can lie and pretend things don’t matter. Yet, how often do we do just that?

And so… when I came home to find flowers, two gift bags exploding with pink tissue paper and a card with MOMMY in big letters across the front… what was I to do? As is all too typical with me, I was raw and real and started with some failure. Though I started out pleasant, my daughter was immersed in a texting moment and I barked at her to stop texting and give me a hug. I hadn’t seen her in a few days and it was Mother’s Day, after all. Turns out, barking is fine for dogs, but not so lovable in mothers. I continued by letting her know that I loved that there were flowers and gift bags and that I wanted to enjoy them, but I needed to get clear of some other stuff first. I confessed that I’d hung up on her and lied. She couldn’t stop giggling, because of course… just as I can usually tell when she’s lying, she had guessed that I had been too. I apologized and told her that I’d felt hurt and angry when I couldn’t get her to answer my questions. When she said “That’s not how it was”, I cut her off. Though there was no intention to hurt me, the fact there was no room for me did indeed hurt. That is how it was – for me. No pretending. No saying it didn’t matter, because in that moment on the phone my heart was breaking a little. My experience isn’t the only truth or the only thing that matters, and it is indeed one thing that matters. Unintended impact is tricky territory, and sometimes it’s important to let people know what that impact is.

In the end, after giving myself some space, we hugged. We each apologized. We took the beautiful pink bags to the living room… and with zero pretending I opened my Mommy card first. Inside the message was simple ~

Happy Mothers Day.

I love you, and I’m glad
you’re still alive.


Inside the first bag was a stuffed monkey with his arms wrapped around a martini glass. I burst into tears. Those happy-I-Love-you-and-you-know-me-and-get-me-and-we-do-have-our-own-special-bond-don’t-we tears. She curled up on the couch with me later, we connected, and we continued on in our raw and real way. We played make believe with the monkey, yet we did not pretend with each other.


Comments on: "Untangling Pretending" (8)

  1. I shouldn’t have read this during staff meeting. How to explain my tears to my colleagues.

    Thank you so much for unpacking for us, seester.

  2. Mm; I’m really going to enjoy reading you, Helen. 🙂

  3. Annie Gelfand said:

    OMG, I love you so, so much my friend. You are truly one spectacular specimen of human beingness. Oh and ps…, you kick a** as a writer.

  4. minnesotagal said:

    You + Blogging = A Natural Fit! Just keep going with it, your writing is delicious. Given that I usually see you in this larger-than-life kind of superhero way, it’s somewhat comforting to know that you’re human too and make mistakes just like ME! Thanks for going there and being vulnerable. Lots of learning to be had – I love that distance doesn’t have to get in the way with this medium!

  5. Thanks for sharing. That really touched me. How is it that we WANT something so bad while at the same time acting soooo cool? How I am so desperate for the love of my children yet so often live in the “fatherly” (ie pretending) place?

  6. I love your distinctions around pretending and make believe. I know that it is important at all ages to keep growing our imagination and creativity and to learn to use those gifts to add wonderful dimension to our lives.

    And I know that lying and falsifying and living in denial are also forms of pretending and these things narrow and destroy aliveness in us.

    Thanks for using your life experience to help me and all who read this get clearer on those distinctions in our own lives.

    I love you sister.

  7. Hi Helen,

    Once again I am moved by you, as I often am, by your vulnerability, your self honesty, and your strength. You are a masterpiece and a mess all at the same time. I know this is also true of all of us, it is human. One of the gifts you bring is that you show us the mirror of both at the same time. And we can stop pretending for a moment and see our humanity and wholeness.


  8. “You are a masterpiece and a mess all at the same time.” <- Oh, I love that, Pat! Thank you! And thank YOU, Helen, for showing up as the brilliant masterpiece and totally human mess that you are so that we may see our own masterpiece/mess selves mirrored in you. What a gift it is, and, of course, what a gift you are. xoxo

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