“Seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.”—Arjuna, the Bhagavad Gita

Today, as I look into my mother’s furious eyes, I feel the temerity of Arjuna. He is the great warrior in the Bhagavad Gita who must go to battle and slay his relatives, friends and teachers.

My mother is 85 years old, a dear friend. I am her primary caregiver as she negotiates the perils of losing her sight and breath.

“I’ve already given you so much,” she says to me as I sit at her bedside. “I don’t see why I should also pay you.”

About six months ago, when her needs increased, I asked her to pay me for the time I spend managing her household. Though she went along with this plan, she is now struggling with it. Her idea of family is that, out of a sense of dutiful love, we go to any lengths to take care of one another.

Her anger strikes like a spear through my heart. It is true, she has given me a great deal, but I too have given to her. While she has always been a strong advocate of my writing and life path, I helped her through cancer, addiction and suicidal grief.

So as I sit across from her and look at the fire in her eyes, I shiver.

In this moment, I am slaying the concept of family love.

I call on the Divine and ask why this came up. I see that a part of me is also uncomfortable with the arrangement. Though she can afford to pay me, the notion goes against my concept of what a dutiful daughter should be.

It is time to pull out my bow and arrow.

“Mom,” I say. “I love you and cherish the time we spend together (for which she doesn’t pay me). But I have given up writing work in order to care for you, and I need to be compensated.”

There have been times—many—when I gladly sacrificed all harmony, and my connection to God, in order to help my family. That is no longer the case. I now know that in order to give love, I have to give to myself first.

Slowly, the angry crease leaves her brow, and she once again looks lovingly upon me with her sparkly blue eyes.

We are all Arjunas, poised at the edge of a battlefield of our life creation. Our job is to take the Beloved’s hand, wield our bows and arrows, and slay these illusions that we hold most dear.

“Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth,” says the 19th-century satirist Ludwig Börne.

Family itself is an illusion. In truth, my mother is not my mother, as I wrote in a previous post. She is really a soul with whom I share karma.

We are soul, nothing but the essence of the Divine ocean.

Only upon illusion’s grave can we be free. And when we are graced with this freedom, a funny thing happens: We can fully enjoy life.

All transmutes into love.

At the end of the day, Mom and I order takeout food and laugh together.

And the photo? That is my kitty, Arjuna, with her hunter’s eyes.

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