Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Mother's Day

Muir Woods, Marin County, California, USA

Mother's Day, May 10, 2009

This essay, Mother's Day, is the fifth in a group of twenty on Parents: It was written at the same time as I am indebted to my mother Andee Platt who inspired this conversation.

Photography by Brandon Platt - Cape Town, South Africa - April 2009
Andee Platt
I called my mother Andee on Mother's Day.

Although we reside on different continents, we speak regularly by phone, my Mom and I. We talk about what's happening in her life. She likes the opportunity to share what's going on in her life. She likes the way I listen to her, getting what she says. She may not realize that's what she likes about our conversations. But I know she likes being listened to. Don't we all?

Sometimes the entire conversation goes by and the only thing that's happened is I've listened to her. When I have to go, I tell her it's time for me to go and I'll call her again. Then she'll say what a great  conversation we had. And she means it. For her, a great  conversation is when she's listened to. Her listening to what I say, on the other hand, may only be an optional extra.

Sometimes it'll sound like she's going to. For example, she'll ask if I've seen such and such a movie. I'll say "Yes I have", and I'll be about to share what I thought about it when she'll interrupt and say "Oh! I loved  that film!" (she calls movies films)  and then she'll talk for ten minutes or more non-stop about what she thought about it.

Being listened to is a gift I want her to have. But it's not why I called her on Mother's Day. I called her on Mother's Day less to listen to her than to speak. I called her to acknowledge her for being my mother. I called her to thank her for the gift she's given me: my life.

To do that, I had to start by interrupting  her. As the new conversation started, immediately teetering on the edge of the slippery slope  of the all too familiar free association stream of consciousness  blend of news, opinions, non sequiturs  and well meaning chit chat  which fills the space stoically but doesn't really communicate, I said "Hi Mom. It's Laurence. Happy Mother's Day! I'm calling to thank you for giving me my life.".

It went very quiet all of a sudden - that's very unusual for my Mom, to say the least. Then, so quietly I at first wondered if the connection had dropped, I heard her say "Oh ...". It wasn't the "Oh" of someone who was dismissing something I'd said. It wasn't the "Oh" of someone who was questioning, doubting something I'd said. It was the "Oh" of someone who had just been unexpectedly and deeply  touched, rocked to the core. It was the "Oh" of someone who's world had suddenly incomprehensively  shifted on its axis.

It wasn't a one in a million  shot. There was nothing random about its impact. What more appropriate way is there for me to acknowledge my mother than to thank her for giving me my life? She can't dodge  an acknowledgement like that. In the split second it took for her to say "Oh", I knew our relationship had irrevocably shifted.

It's a two way street. My mother was getting the kind of bull's eye  acknowledgement she could only get from her child thanking her for giving him his life. And I was seeing my already always listening  for my mother. Even though the tectonic shift  in our relationship was obvious, I noticed I was still expecting  the conversation to be hijacked  by and to devolve into the free association stream of consciousness  blend of news, opinions, non sequiturs  and chit chat. Except this time, now that she had been profoundly acknowledged, it didn't. Having thrown the opening pitch, I now also had to step up to the plate and bat - so to speak ...

My relationship with my mother is complete. My mother is the way she is and the way she isn't. She can change if she wants to and she doesn't have to. Or, to say it in the way Werner Erhard says it, "Rocks are hard, water is wet, and mother is mother.". It's the basis of freedom and peace in my life. I spoke briefly of what it's like to be alive at the same time as her, and to experience completion in our relationship. I shared with her the freedom it allows me, especially in my relationships with women, and though I'm not very big on making a point by comparing myself to others, I compared living being complete  with my mother to what it must be like living not being complete  with one's mother, and the jagged impact that has on peoples' lives.

Again, the almost imperceptible "Oh ...".

She opened up totally. There wasn't a change in her volume or tone of voice. She didn't speak any faster. Rather, it was simply the quality, the intimacy  of what she shared next which told me we're in new territory now. She shared both her parents had died, my Granny Lena and my Grandpa Ben, before she'd completed with them. She spoke for a while, dispassionately, just telling it like it is, what it was like for her to not have had (ie to not have taken)  the opportunity to complete with her parents while they were alive. But if the truth be told, at the time her parents died, the very notion of completing with one's parents  wasn't even a blip on the radar of the world conversation yet.

So I said "You know, Mom, it's certainly preferable to have the chance to complete with your parents face to face in conversation while you're all still alive to enjoy it. But the truth is you can complete with anyone - dead or  alive.".

A pause ... and yet again, the almost imperceptible "Oh ...".

Something was different. I could sense it. It was palpable. And then I got what it was. What was so different in the quality of this conversation was she was listening. She was really  listening. That's the first part of it. The other part of it (which was even more noticable) which was a bigger celebration for me, was I noticed I was speaking  to her in way that she could hear me  and get what I said.

She got the part about completing with her parents even though they're no longer alive. She even asked "How?". I suggested as there's no longer an option to have a face to face conversation for completion with them alive (there's simply no more access to it), that she have a conversation for completion with her experience  of them. I suggested it wasn't face to face alive people with whom she's incomplete. Rather it was with her experience  of them she's incomplete. And she does have access to her experience of them ...

Again ... "Oh ...".

And so it went.

The conversation ended when it ended. There wasn't anything left to say. She said "I love you Lar" (her term of endearment for me). I said "I love you Mom.". Then it was over. There was no awkward silence.

Transformation is, in my book, nothing less (and nothing more)  than a privilege. Having transformation real, thrilling, and alive is in a class of gifts which humanity refers to with one word: a miracle. To have transformation AND  to have successfully shared it with one's parents is a life shifting experience, arguably even beyond the life shifting experience transformation itself is.

Happy Mother's Day Mom! And: Thank You.

Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2009 through 2023 Permission