Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Mother Thing

I've been writing more posts as a daughter lately, and not so many as a mother, you've probably noticed. Of course, where one begins and the other ends is not always easy to discern.

The fact of the matter is I'm trying to figure out some things about pain and anger and loss. There's love at the root of it, and I'm making my way toward something that looks like compassion, I think. But those other things are there, too, and they continue to bubble up unbidden, taking me and others by surprise when I don't know what to do with them. So, as N. might say, I'm moving toward them rather than away. I'm trying that to see what happens.

These three reflections have come my way recently:

1. An NPR interview with Patti Davis, Nancy Reagan's daughter, on her new book The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us.

2. I'm systematically reading everything Martha Beck has ever written. If you've been in a one-mile radius of me lately, I've practically shoved a copy of one of her books in your hands every other minute. Anyway, from one of her memoirs, Expecting Adam:

This was my first tentative, wary encounter with one of the greatest gifts I would receive from Adam: the understanding that the word mother is more powerful when it is used as a verb than as a noun. Mothering has little to do with biological reproduction--as another friend once told me, there are women who bear and raise children without ever mothering them, and there are people (both male and female) who mother all their lives without ever giving birth. The bad news is that not all of us have the good fortune to be born to our real mothers, or to stay with them as long as we need them. The good news is that, while mothers are often in short supply, mothering is not. Against all odds, despite everything that works against it on this unpleasant, uncomfortable planet, mothering is here in abundance. You can always find it, if you're smart and know where to look.

3. Finally, an email from one of the many women who continues to friend and mother me both when my own mother can and cannot:

Jen-Woke up early and started to do my usual routine. Hit the "favorites" on my computer scrolling down to my secret obsession, But somehow I clicked on Toddlerspit. Started reading. Oh. Felt your words so deeply that I had to slip in and out of them. Oh. Grabbed my sweet dog, Molly, and headed out. Headed out to "my place, my walk". The walk that takes me high enough to see down the hogback all the way to Pike's Peak. The walk that, if I'm lucky, I experience "The Sun to my left, the Moon to my right, the Meadow Larks started to sing". And I did.

And I had this "vision". I "saw" you with a heavy, heavy coat on. The coat contained all of it. Your sorrow, your anger, your grief, your loss and, most importantly, your hurt. And it contained all of those things for your mom and grandma (and their moms and grandmas) too. And, then I saw that it contained your love for all those hurt souls too. And then I saw you take it off, the coat that is, and you took it off carefully and gently without any of the previously mentioned emotions in the action. You just took it off. And when you did, oh my gosh, when you did, THERE YOU WERE! And you were beautiful. You were glowing. You were all you are and more. You were Jen. And you looked like a grownup but your face, your face was the face I saw when you held up your "pray first" project. And I cried and laughed all at once.

This is the meditation for this Sunday, the week before Mother's Day. This is the trick. To feel anger, sorrow, and sadness, and also occupy a space of tremendous gratitude for my own mother, who was such a part of my life for so long, and for all the mothers who continue to step into that space on her behalf now. What a precipice it is.

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