How I Forgave My Mother

It all comes down to this…If I can’t forgive, how can I ever be forgiven? My sins aren’t any cleaner than anyone else’s simply because they are mine.

God chose my mother to be the one to bear me. She met His expectations. For my whole life, I have questioned why and for my whole life, I have focused on the wrong answers. Not because the right answers were not in front of me; but because I chose to blind myself to them.

During my journey of self healing, I forgave many who did unspeakable wrongs to me. But forgiving my mother seemed impossible. Not because what she did (or did not do) was worse than what others did, but because she did not meet my expectations thereby making the pain worse. If I am being truly honest, that is an incredibly unfair standard.

When you allow yourself to love, you choose to overlook shortcomings and focus on the good. That is what is at the heart of forgiveness. That is my choice today.

So many of the things I love best about me are rooted in her. I have been too hurt and angry to acknowledge that. But not acknowledging the truth is only perpetuating a lie. While the lies might’ve been necessary for survival, they are unnecessary if you want to live.

For most of my life I was one of those people. Today I am not.

So here are some of the things I am grateful to my mother for…

My Life. She was 19 when she gave birth to me. 19. I forget how young that is when it comes to my mother. She was a child getting through the tumultuousness of adolescence compounded by dysfunction, newly married to a mentally ill and often violent man. And then motherhood. Barely knowing who you are yourself then being responsible for an entirely new human being. How frightening that must’ve been. But here I am anyway. If not for fighting through the fear, I would not be.

My mother and me before I was me.

Style. My mother was a groovy 70s chick. She looked like a mod Liza Minelli. I used to love going into her closet, finding her patchwork denim bellbottoms, fringed suede bags and platform clogs. I dreamed of looking just as groovy one day.

My fab and groovy mother with me in my poncho made with love by my great-grandma Lily.

Feminism. My mother embraced the sexual revolution. Gloria Steinem was among her heroes. As a young woman who had been victimized more than many by the subservience to men, forced into silence, it’s no wonder she so fervently joined the movement to speak out. She subscribed to Ms. Magazine and bought me my most favorite record that was put out by Ms.’s publisher: Free to Be You and Me. I played that record on my victrola until I wore the needle out. There were songs, vignettes and stories of acceptance. That album was crucial in how I saw myself and the world.

The album that help make me ME. Yes. I have a copy (not the one I had as a child). Yes. It has the 12 page booklet.

Writing. The thing that is most essentially me undeniably came from her. My mother is truly gifted with the written word. Although I never had a lot of opportunity to read her writings, I was always left in awe of the way she was able to articulate her unique point of view.

Same blanket, facing in our own direction

A mother’s love is unconditional. That’s a two way street. As we mature into adulthood, the child inside lets go of the impossible notion of our mothers being superhuman and embrace their humanity. It is a priceless gift for both mother and child. And today it is a gift i am finally ready to give and receive.

I wonder what you were saying to me..?

I love you Mommy.

Love Yourself: Don’t Be Fearful of Telling Your Story

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Not because I haven’t had anything to say but because I’ve been allowing myself to operate from a place of Fear rather than a place of Love.

Both the great energies of Fear and Love are equally crucial. Our free will gives us the option to choose at any time which to tap into. It has been my experience the best use of Fear is as an instrument of survival but nothing grows there. Love is the energy from which all things flourish but you need to make yourself vulnerable first. I don’t like that…but the alternative is no better.

I choose to be better.

Happy Easter 

Easter is the celebration of the sacrifice. We are reminded that Jesus died for our sins. As a mother, i think i get that. If i could, i would take any punishment to spare my baby girl from suffering. But that is not always a good idea. I think that we need to be willing to face our own sins a little more often and accept their consequences. After all, being human it is a given that we are sinners. Being repentant celebrates humanity. Is there a more noble way to honor the life we have been given than to accept our frailties and find strength in one another for it?
Be kind. Remember, we are all in this life together. 


Is It Our Moral Obligation to Sin?

Long before Robbie Coltrane became Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, he was a “nun on the run.”  I love this picture.  If you haven’t seen it — and most people haven’t — I recommend it.  The plot in a nutshell is this…Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle are career criminals who, after a change in their gang’s hierarchy, decide to do one last heist to bankroll their escape from the gang and the UK altogether.  Things go wrong and they find themselves hiding out disguised as nuns.  Robbie Coltrane’s character, Charlie McManus, grew up in the Catholic church and uses his unique take on the doctrines to assimilate to their new surroundings in the convent.  It is this interesting view that I found most appealing in the film.  Here he explains the sacrifice…

” …it’s the doctrine of original sin. You see, we’re all born sinful, except for Jesus who was perfect of course. And he was sent to save us. But how could he save us unless we’re sinning? So we have to go on sinning in order to be saved and go to Heaven. That’s how Christianity works. That’s why it suits so many people.”

I was 20 when I saw this film. This monologue has always stuck with me.  I often said who I was 25 years ago is very different than who I am now.  But I realize today that is not true.  I think that who I was then is the same as who I am now and in all likelihood who I will be tomorrow; it is my perception of who I am, my place in the world and my behaviors that have changed through the decades.

After seeing this film initially, I reflected on this scene and asked myself…is it our moral obligation to sin?  My answer was a very strong…yes.   Anyone who knew me when I was 20 could easily see why.

Through the decades, as I have exited and entered different stages of my life, I have periodically repeated the question to myself…is it our moral obligation to sin?  My answer is inevitably…yes.  But where there was once shame and isolation attached to sin, today I see potential for growth and unity.

If you like silly, British humor with thoughtful moments peppered in, give this picture a whirl.
If you like silly, British humor with thoughtful moments peppered in, give this picture a whirl.

I grew up differently than most people.  I write a lot about that.  One of the best things about the way I grew up was that I was exposed to different faiths and, to an extent, learned their traditions, participating in many of them.  I was never locked into a single faith.  I think that this fed my desire to study theology, exploring a wide variety of religions and philosophies in order to create my own sense of spirituality.  In my home, I had a strong Catholic influence from my Abuelita and a strong Jewish influence from my grandmother who raised me, Mama.

Mama didn’t go to temple but always identified herself as a Jew.  She was proud of her heritage and passed her pride along to me.  We lit the menorah that she placed next to our Christmas tree every Hannukah.  We ate matzoh every Passover.  On Yom Kippur, we lit yahrzeit candles to honor those who died and, of course, we fasted.  Well, Mama fasted.  As a child under 13, it was not expected of me.  I tried anyway.  Some years I was more successful than others.  There was something about the tradition that I found comforting.  The tradition of fasting is done in order to make the soul feel uncomfortable by denying it the things that give our bodies comfort as humans: food, water, bathing.  Experiencing this temporary discomfort lends itself to sympathizing with others when they are in pain or discomfort.  It fosters a feeling of repentance for that which we have caused. During this fast of the body and discomfort of the soul, our minds are devoted to reflection upon the past year, our behaviors, interactions and sins.  Once a year this confession goes to God and forgiveness is sought.

Yom Kippur is "Sabbath of Sabbaths." On this day forgiveness of sins is asked of God.
Yom Kippur is “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” On this day forgiveness of sins is asked of God.

It took me most of my lifetime to understand that this day can be embraced with love rather than from a place of fear.  It is our sin that separates us as humans from the other animals we share this earth with and from the Divine.  In the past, I equated sin with “evil.”  It isn’t.  Evil is a separate entity.  While its possibilities live within all of us, it is not a necessary component of the human condition.  It is exceptional.  Sin is inevitable.  It is the burden of the gift of reason our species was blessed with.  We are not perfect.  We were made to fail.  We were made to at times inflict pain and at times to receive pain.  And because of this, we have the capacity to forgive, to be forgiven and to become better than we were before.  This, too, separates us from the other animals we share this earth with…but it unites us with instead of separates us from the Divine.

I think that it is the acknowledgement of the inevitability of sin that keeps evil away rather than welcoming it.  I am in a program that teaches me that life is all about progress, not perfection.  I think that when you set expectations of perfection, it necessitates deceit, repression and shame.  That is the breeding ground for evil…or at least for living in perpetuity of poor decisions made from a place of fear.

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah. God then waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews try to amend behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.
According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah. God then waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews try to amend behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

On this Day of Atonement, I face myself without shame.  I am human.  I am as I was created.  Today, I embrace my humanity and learn to forgive myself. I have always been the greatest obstacle in my own personal growth.  If God can forgive me, I should find a way to allow myself to forgive me, too.  Today, I meditate on what positive action I can take this year to become more, to celebrate my humanity and all that comes with that experience.

So…again I ask…is it our moral obligation to sin?  And again inevitably my answer is…yes.  It is also our moral obligation to ask forgiveness because that will strengthen our ability to forgive and grow regardless of what faith we follow.

L’shana tovah.  G’mar chatimah tovah.  

Sweet New Year.  May you be sealed in the Book of Life.

Forgive Them…Even If They Are Not Sorry

This is something that I struggle deeply with and work on every day.  I’ve made strides, successfully forgiving some who haven’t asked for it, some who don’t feel they’ve done me wrong.  When I realize that’s on them and the choice between resentment/hurt and forgiveness/release is on me and I follow through, I am astounded by the good it does for my well-being.

Forgive them even if they are not sorry

I’m not sure if I will ever be able to forgive those who have hurt me the most.  I know that I need to if I am ever going to truly heal.  Already about midway through my life, time is running out for me to reap the rewards of that liberation.  I’ll keep working on it.  I’m worth it.


Have an Attitude of Gratitude


A picture of absolute rarity.

I got an e-mail this morning from a friend of mine. Many of the e-mails she forwards me have to do with humility, thankfulness and God. This morning’s e-mail wasn’t any different. Some of them are hokey, most of them are reminders of perspective and some, like this morning’s, give me cause for introspection.

My friend’s faith was established in her from the time she was a child. Throughout her life, it was a constant and when she faced difficulty; her faith was there to help her through. Those of you who know me long enough or well enough know that I was not raised that way. For a long time, I pooh-poohed people like my friend, dismissing them as somehow weaker for having a Higher Power, like “God,” guide them. As I got older and wiser, outgrowing the “angry young (wo)man” identity, I realized that I was jealous of these people. I wanted the unconditional love and acceptance that they had. As I grew wiser still, I realized that I had it all along within me. Since coming to this realization, my life has not been perfect. Last year was the toughest of my life, in fact. But I did not fall apart (at least not for too long).


I am not ashamed to tell you that I live each day with Gratitude for each day the Universe has given me; not just the happy days or prosperous days or easy days but for the days that come with pain and loss and adversity. I have been given a life filled with people who care for me, the capacity to love them back, a sense of humor that has helped me and others around me enjoy good times to their fullest and carry me and others around me through some of our toughest times. I am strong. That is no accident. It is a gift. For that and so much more, I am grateful.


What’s on your gratitude list?


PS:    Here is the e-mail I got that prompted this morning meditation:

When I received this e-mail I thought…
I don’t have time for this.
Then, I realized that this kind of thinking is exactly what has caused lot of the problems in our world today.
We try to keep God in church on Sunday morning…
Maybe, Sunday night…
The unlikely event of a midweek service…
Or even no church service at all.
We do like to have Him around
during sickness….
and, of course, at funerals.
We don’t have time or room
for Him during work or play…
Because that’s the part of our lives we think we can — and should — handle on our own.
Why is it so easy to delete a Godly e-mail,
yet we forward all of the nasty ones?

Isn’t it funny how simple it is for people to trash God,
then wonder why the world is going to Hell.

Isn’t it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire,
but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing?

Isn’t it funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list
because you’re not sure what they believe
or what they will think of you for sending it to them.

Isn’t it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me
than what God thinks of me.

Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.”

Of all the free gifts we may receive, Prayer is the very best one

He keeps me functioning each and every day. Without Him, I will be nothing. But with Him, HE strengthens me. (Philistines 4:13)

Who the heck is Judy Cangemi?

There is no short answer to that question. How an anyone sum up who they are in 500 words or less? Let me tell you what’s most relevant about me right now.

I am in my late 30s and life has lead me to a place of freedom and self-discovery, although not voluntarily. After nearly seven years as the Business Manager of a successful real estate team in Queens, I became the latest victim of today’s economy; I was laid off. I don’t like being a victim of anything (and tell me, who does), so after I was done crying, wondering what I could have done differently and generally feeling sorry for myself, I realized there was nothing I could have done then or do now to change the things that already occurred and I decided to turn things around.
I am powerless over the economy. I have no nation-scale solutions there. If I did, I think Opportunity in the form of Mr. Obama might be knocking at my door. What I can change is ME. Instead of being a victim of the economy, it is my mission affect my own destiny. At times it is frightening. More often, it is wonderous. Will the things I try work or will I fall on my face? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am in charge of my own life. That is not to say that I am alone in the world. Not by a long shot. Join me on this journey through this blog. Chime in whenever you feel like it. I can use all the help being offered out there.