An Unlikely Calling

Renée Dineen
Apr 30 · 4 min read

It was January, 2016, an inaugural all women’s visionary gathering at Esalen Institute on the coast of Big Sur. On Sunday morning, I sat listening and cheering for women who stood up to share and claim their work in the world. A question fell on my heart.

What could keep these amazing women from doing this work in the world? What unknown or known, unresolved hurt, pain or buried experience could get in their way?

As the women stood up, I started to pray. I asked God or whatever higher power they were being supported by, to clear these wounds from their heart. To free them from any pain or suffering that could get in their way.

Then God asked this same question of me. What will keep me from doing my biggest work in the world?

The answer was clear. It was my relationship with my mother.

Within moments, I heard something else, what I now believe was a calling. God said to me: you will heal the wounds between mothers and daughters.

With that, he put four words on my heart. KNOW, HEAL, SEE, LOVE.

I fell to my hands and knees, tears streaming down my cheeks, shouting out to God from the depths of my being: anything but that, anything but that.


Because I knew that if I were going to get anywhere close to doing this work in the world, I would have to start with me. At that time, this seemed impossible. Unbearable. I was in so much pain I honestly did not believe I had it in me to do the work.

After a few weeks of digesting, I started to share what had happened that morning, and in that process, I started to do the work. I engaged my coach and we played through some specific situations where my heart had been broken in relationship with my mom. I recalled in detail what had happened, how I reacted, what did I want my mom to do that she didn’t or couldn’t, and what did I want to feel capable of doing, and did I? If not, why? And could I forgive myself?

At the end of a coaching session, the one that prepared me for the next step in my work, my coach asked me: What did I need from my mom now that I didn’t get then?

My heart stopped. I stood up from my desk chair and got into child’s pose on the floor. And there it was — my mother wound.

What did I need or wish I could get from her now?

• To be known

• Attention, her time

• Validation for the hurt, regrets, mistakes — intended or not

• To be loved unconditionally

The picture was getting clearer. At least I had words to describe my wound — the whole in my heart that had never been filled. I didn’t underestimate the power of this.

I reached out to my women’s network. I shared my calling. The response was beyond clear. I got more tears. I received massive encouragement to stay the course. I received validation to trust myself to do this work.

Flash forward to today, and a lot of hard work behind me, I have changed the constellation of my relationship with my mother. I have forgiven her, and in that, have also forgiven myself. I have found the capacity to hold her with more faith. As a result, she found the capacity within herself to finally say three words I didn’t know I needed but had waited my whole life to hear. “I am sorry.” And I believe her.

Prior to my calling, we were on a path where anger, resentment, blame, withholding of love, shutting down or shutting out, and denial took center stage. A path that took massive amounts of energy from both of us, with no return.

Today we are on another path. A path where acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, validation, and appreciation take center stage. At our best, there is a lightness and playfulness to our exchanges.

I don’t mean to make this sound easy, it wasn’t and continues not to be. I have to stay brutally honest about my choices today for being in relationship with my mother. I have to continue to share my story and all its dark edges and trust that this is an important part of the journey — this owning of my story.

And even as I bring this work into the world, I have to stay in my own work, actively and intentionally. Most importantly, I have to hold myself, my mother and our relationship with lightness and when it falters, grace.

For more information on my journey including an opportunity to participate in the mother daughter retreat that has been created in support of this work, click here:

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