Updated: Jun 8
| This is the 573rd story of Our Life Logs® |
To this day, it feels as though my mother was here just yesterday, and at the same time, never here at all. And yet, her life affected me so profoundly that I could not do justice to my own story without sharing hers. So, let me first introduce you to Michelle Lee Gieck, my mother.
Michelle, born and raised in Canada, believed that “Your only limitations are those in your mind.” She was never limited by the fact that she hadn’t received a high school diploma. However, her passion for reading and learning sustained her through the years. Her quest for learning was not from a role model or parent. It was an agreement she had between herself and the universe. She could read a book in an hour! In fact, she was an avid reader and therefore almost lived a hermit-like life. Having few true friends, she did have one close confidant in her sister with whom she would have phone conversations that could last hours.
My mother was also kind to others beyond measure. Sadly, this was not always good. People would often try to take advantage of her and her delicate, open heart. This hurt her tremendously and fostered her desire to be a recluse, thus rarely engaging with the outside world because of the cruelties she experienced. Over time, her anxiety towards the outside world increased causing her to gradually become addicted to alcohol as a salve to her pain and difficulty sleeping at night.
It is important to note that from what follows, to the point when my mom met my dad, reads like an American tragedy. Still, I want you to know that my mother was more than that. She learned to ride horses, became an exceptional interior designer, and managed to become a licensed airplane pilot. She was that and more. But still, I must continue with her conflict.
My mother’s pain and suffering went all the way back to her formative years. Because her parents didn’t get along, she was shipped off to an aunt who was known for using a baseball bat as a form of discipline to her own children and others who lived with them. She was also sexually assaulted numerous times by her cousins. Trauma like this doesn’t just go away. Sometimes, it becomes a part of your identity.
It wasn’t until she moved into a family friend’s home at the age of twelve that she became free of abuse. But holding on to this secret life of abuse made her sick.
As Michelle became of age, she carried the weight of the world. She was pregnant with twins but was forced by her father to get rid of them. Being raised a strict Catholic, abortion was out of the question. Because she couldn’t bear what she’d had to do, she ordered that there be no way for these babies to contact her when they came of age. This secret became her cross to bear.
My mother, Michelle, in her early years.
Finally, she met dad. He nearly worshiped her. He believed her to be the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. A lifelong courtship and marriage ensued. Bouquets of red roses every month, as well as romantic getaways, were bestowed on her. Although a romantic, my father was a highly dedicated businessman. A deep believer in the tenets of hard work, he did so to the point of neglecting the emotional needs of the ones who needed him the most.
Ultimately, it was not a match made in heaven. But together they remained, eventually having me in 1984. Which is where I come into this story.
I was a curious child with an insatiable love for reading and for caring for others. I suppose I grew to take on my mother’s habits because I adored her. At an early age, I would gaze at my mother as she made herself presentable to the world. I remember watching her dip into her powder, mull about, and decide between blouses. She had an inborn sense of style, beauty, and etiquette that I too wanted to embody.
My mother, how I remember her.
Frequently, however, I would see my mother with one of two things: a book or a drink (or sometimes both). As I become older, I realized her drinking was the result of a long-held pain that she never overcame. Perhaps it was the processing of her childhood. Perhaps she was coping with a difficult marriage. Perhaps.
Nevertheless, she was a high-functioning mother who utilized her vast thirst for learning and spiritual teachings, along with her unconditional love for her children, as means for living with purpose and comfort.
When I was 16, my mother died of cancer. The woman who had been so crucial and involved in my life suddenly faded. I was just a teenager watching my mother grow weak. And when she was gone, my father was not the type to take over her caring spirit. He was simply not supportive. He buried his grief in his work. He left me to deal with my own issues.
First of all, I had difficulties with boyfriends. After her death, I started dating a guy who was a compulsive liar. I stayed in the relationship because he had a very loving, warm family. They helped me tremendously at the time when I was grieving through discussion and compassion. It felt like I was their adopted daughter. I didn't feel alone.
After high school, I moved from Canada to Los Angeles where I became best friends with the daughter of a single mom. This woman was my guiding light. She taught me to be more discerning in my relationships. Like a mom, she gave me the courage, wisdom, and strength to break free from destructive relationships with men and guided me to stand on my own two feet.
Throughout my childhood, I was very skinny. I never had issues with food or weight-gain, but things had changed. I now had food issues to deal with. After my mom’s passing, I began to use food as a comfort mechanism. Whenever I went out with friends, food was the social centerpiece. When I was feeling lonely, which I often did, I would eat to numb the pain. This way of life followed me when I made the move to NYC.
I began studying acting at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a particularly lonely time for me, almost like living in a vacuum. The teachers were very strict and critical. I would find myself crying as I kept pushing myself so hard to please them. Within 2 years, I had put on 40 lbs. I tried all the fad diets like The Zone and Jenny Craig. What I really needed was a whole different approach to life.
I became celibate for two years. I delved into healthier practices such as yoga and meditation. I even became a certified yoga instructor. One thing I really want to note is that I called upon my inner compass and wisdom to guide me. I had a deep-rooted intelligence that saved me. The weight came off within a year as I began instructing others and being of service. I gradually grew out of focusing on myself and through the help of others, healed my inner pain. I also became a certified nutritionist, life, and business coach.
The work I started doing was guided by my mother’s energy and philosophy to “do better, be better and give more.” I gathered all the hurt and perseverance of my life and funneled that into other women. I began guiding women to become financially independent through my knowledge of building meaningful businesses with an entrepreneurial mindset.
As my core strengthened and the momentum just kept building, I met my husband. He is the most caring, genuine man I had ever met. Now we live in Canada with our two daughters.
There are several important things I do with my daughters so that they don’t suffer from self-esteem and body image maladies as I did. First of all, there is no food-shaming in my home. But more importantly, almost every day, we do mirror-work exercises together. One of my favorite authors, Louise Hay, came out with a ground-breaking book and course on mirror work in 2016. Her quest has always been to help people with their emotional and spiritual well-being. In this particular teaching, she says, “The more you use mirrors for complimenting yourself, approving yourself and supporting yourself especially during difficult times, the deeper and more enjoyable your relationship with yourself will become.”
My daughters and I use this technique to say powerful affirmations. It is not an act of arrogance, but rather self-appreciation. We say to ourselves together, “I am confident, intelligent, and beautiful. I can do anything I set my mind to.” I am hoping that this will give them a strong foundation and technique that they can use throughout their lives and by-pass much of the suffering I did for so many years. My mom, Michelle, was a huge fan of Louise Hay, 40 years ago. Unfortunately, she did not grow up with such training.
In conclusion, my mother was an anomaly. For me, my mother’s traits for the unquenchable desire to learn and the compassion to help others are both gifts from mom that I will in turn pass down to my daughters. I know that with great pain comes a happiness one can only get from overcoming, and I do hope that I have been able to continue my mother’s journey to joy and self-worth in some way. Through the work of teaching self-love to not only my daughters, but in all my work with clients, I know my mother would be proud.
This is the story of Lyndsay Chollack
Lyndsay’s mother, Michelle, struggled with her own traumatic childhood well into her adulthood. Despite this, Michelle was a wonderful mother who instilled a love of learning and compassion in her daughter. After Michelle died of cancer when Lyndsay was just a teenager, Lyndsay had to learn how to pick up the pieces of her own life and continue her mother’s journey to find true joy and self-worth. Today, Lyndsay lives in Canada with her husband and two daughters.
In 2000, after Lyndsay’s mother, Michelle, died and the laws of adoptive adults seeking their original parents were lifted, both of Michelle’s grown babies sought out their families of origin, and Michelle’s secrets were demystified. They have become an extended family who get along greatly. Thus, Michelle’s wounds have been opening up and healing as her angels continue to work tirelessly for her posthumous peace.
This story first touched our hearts on February 28, 2020
Writer: Pamela Goldman | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker