My First Transformation in Life — and How I Reconnected with My Mom
by Truong Dieu Le, Partner, Mekong Capital
“If you do not want to stay in this course, you can leave now. We will return the money to you…” — the sharp and powerful voice of Poorani, the course leader, raised across the room. I felt frozen, by both the low temperature of the room and the challenging voice of Poorani. That was about mid-day of my first day of personal breakthrough program, called the Landmark Forum, back in mid 2007. I was sent to this course together with Bich Ha, who was responsible for training management for Mekong, to try out for ourselves, before we brought this course to Mekong Capital. The whole morning was about the intention of the course, what to do, what not to do, the rules, the requests, the instructions, etc… And after all those conversations, Poorani let us decide if we wanted to stay in the course or leave. Being intrigued by her power, I decided to stay. The next three days were a roller coaster for me. Most of the time I was confused. After the first day, I even made a joke to Bich Ha that I didn’t understand why Chris Freund had sent us to this course. Was it a form of punishment or something? :-) Only in the second and third day, some lights started to spark for me. The longer I stayed on, the more I got engaged in the conversations. What I was inspired and touched the most was the possibility of healing the relationship between my mom and me.
When I was eight, my mom gave birth to my younger sister, Linh. And from that point on, I became an ugly duck. All the attentions of my parents and their friends would go to my beautiful sister. I always felt left out in any events we had. One of the incidents was when I was fifteen and my family traveled to Hong Kong for the first time, and they traveled without me. I was left home, all by myself. That incident strengthened my view that I was an ugly duck in the family, and that my parents did not love me. From that point on, I never shared anything to my parents. When I had a bad day at school, I kept it all to myself. When I had a boyfriend for a first time, I hid it. When I was in the U.S. for my MBA, I had some difficulties because an acquaintance tried to steal a car that I just purchased, and I did not tell them either. I did not care to share, as I thought “well, they just do not care. Why bother?”… I tended to keep all of my feelings inside, and didn’t share to anyone, except my best friends. And I went on in life just like that, thinking that it was normal, until that very day at the Landmark Forum.
“You are a meaning making machine!” — Poorani’s voice grabbed my attention. “Someone says something, you make it mean something. Someone did not say something, you make it mean something. Your mother did not say she loved you, you made it mean she did not love you. Yes, it’s you who make it all up.” The message grasped me, putting me right in front of the mirror, showing me a reflection of my thought. I suddenly realized I had been making my mom wrong for no reason. It was me who caused the distance between us. It was me who put up all the barriers for communication. And it was because I had confused the facts in real world with my thoughts about those facts.
After the Landmark Forum, I returned home, and my first communication was with my mom. I shared with her that I had these negative thoughts in my mind for a long time, that I did not think that she loved me, or at least not loving enough. She cried and said that she loved me more than anything in this world, and that she was sorry that I felt that way. I told her that I must be the one who said sorry, and that I would never be distant from her again. For the first time in my adult life, I felt loved, connected and affinity in my relationship with my mom. From that point on, I can easily share with my mom anything, even the craziest thoughts. We reconnected, my mom and I. One of the things that I still regret till today is that I never had the chance to complete that with my dad. He already passed away before I realized this.
I’m sharing this story because it shows the power of distinguishing between what actually happened (the facts) and what we made it mean (our story about what happened). They are two different things. And when we can let go of what we made something mean, it can create an open space to have new and complete relationships like I now have with my mom.
Le’s mother and Le