By Gayle Kirschenbaum
Did you ever feel like you were born into the wrong family? I did. From head to toe, there wasn’t anything right about me. My nose was too big, my butt too fat, and my hair too frizzy. According to my mother, I couldn’t do anything right and my brothers couldn’t do anything wrong.
Little did I know, the obstacles I faced in my childhood would end up providing the biggest opportunity of my life. By facing those challenges, I figured out the secret to finding forgiveness and the power and freedom which that gives you.
Growing up in my house was like growing up in enemy territory where you’re the only one captured. I was the youngest of three, the only girl. I grew up hearing that I was supposed to be Gary, but they didn’t get Gary. They got me, Gayle. I often wondered if that was what got us off to a bad start. As soon as the bump on my nose started growing, mom’s relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job started and didn’t stop for decades.
My brothers were mom’s bouncers. When mom wanted me out of her way, she had my brothers put me on top of the refrigerator where I could not get down. My father, who endured an abusive childhood, had a short fuse, which he often directed at me. He was the German shepherd that my mother would sic on me.
There is one evening, which mom refers to proudly as the night she pulled a Mommie Dearest on me. (Remember the movie about how Joan Crawford was abusive to her daughter Christina?) I was a teenager and out with my friends. I came home a bit later than she expected. When we pulled up to my house, my mother was standing on the street with a glass of water in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other hand. With my friends watching from the car, and the headlights shining on us, my mother threw the water in my face, and told me to walk the dog; she didn’t care if I got raped. That was just the beginning.
Desperate to get out, I left at the end of my 16th year and went to university. By middle age, I was at the top of my career—a television producer and filmmaker—and winning awards along the way. Underneath it all, I was still seething with anger towards my mother and hanging on to being a victim. If I were going to find peace, I would have to forgive my mother. I just didn’t know how.
I asked my mother if she was willing to go on a journey to resolve our relationship on camera. She agreed. What resulted was a feature documentary called Look at Us Now, Mother! It is about forgiveness, and the hardest and most important film I have made.
Gayle Kirschenbaum is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, television producer, TEDx speaker, and coach. She is the founder of the forgiveness movement called ‘No More Drama with Mama,’ which was inspired by the humbling reaction to her film, Look at Us Now, Mother! The film is available on Amazon, Netflix, and other venues. Visit LookAtUsNowMother.com for more information.