(Originally posted in the Huffington Post 10/04/2013)
I was a real family girl as a kid… well attached, loved my family to bits, substantially more prone to homesickness than my siblings. I remember the feeling of being curled up with my mama as one of the most all-encompassing experiences of complete goodness and safety.
And now? I live a long ways away from them. An ocean and a continent lie between us — about 8329.41 km (or 5175.67 miles).
Home has shifted. My new family is now “home.” My daily heart-orientation circles around them, even as I still dearly love and appreciate my family of origin, and cherish our rare times together in person.
Such is the common story of growing up, of course, while taking place in all styles and variations. Generally this is how it goes: we start out close with and fully dependent on our parents. We grow up. We move away and make our own lives.
Now here’s the thing: Up until becoming a mother myself, I never fully appreciated just what that meant for the parent, and in this instance, for my mother.
I didn’t realize, until having my own daughter, just how incredibly elastic, how flexible my mother’s heart had to be, to love so deeply and to let go so fully.
As said, it is a familiar story. It is the daily and normal. It happens everywhere across the planet: Mothers have their hearts cracked open by the love and care for the children entrusted to them. They surrender to the all-encompassing demands of this Love and Care. They adapt their lives, their beings and identities to make space for these new lives. They carve out space for their children, not just in their bodies, but in their entire beings.
And then? Their children get older, and, if all goes well, they grow up. They spread their wings and fly. Which is cause to celebrate. We know this.
We delight in seeing our toddler feel the surge of independence to walk ahead of us along the sidewalk until he feels the need to run to us for a “refueling” of connection.
We delight in watching our 8-year-old daughter take off with a happy wave as she skips hand-in-hand with her girlfriend.
We delight in witnessing our teenagers make their way into the world, find their passions, express themselves and begin to contribute to society at large.
We know that all the days and nights of nurturing, encouraging, loving, guiding, and comforting are for this: to create a foundation from whence they can fly, deeply nourished, equipped and ready to… take off.
We know it. We did it ourselves. We flew.
To stand as a mother in this impossible, yet (I think!) doable paradox leaves me amazed, stretched, delighted and, yes, at times unnerved.
To give everything I have… heart and soul, time and thoughts, body and care to my child… and then, to release.
Last night at 2:00 p.m. I woke up, and for whatever reason — perhaps the recent blossoming and growing up my 10-year-old daughter is doing, or various conversations had with girlfriends over the summer — this paradox literally rushed through my body.
Viscerally I felt it. A surge of crazy panic and, with a few deep breaths, mustering an “It’s all gonna be OK” simultaneously.
I lay there thinking of my dear girlfriends — four of them in particular who stand right at this ultimate juncture, having just brought their kids (almost grown-ups!) to university over the past few weeks. I thought of another dear friend, Chela, who recently shared the ache of separation she experiences as her boy heads off to kindergarten, which “feels like he’s gone off to college in another province.”
And really, all that comes to mind to say is: Oh my God. What a trip. And the felt urge to offer a deep bow and appreciation to the Mother Heart and its incredible elasticity.
Dear Mother Hearts,
“Wow”, and “thank you!”
I bow to each of you as you make your way from full-on surrender,
carving out of self
to accommodate another person so fully….
All the way to letting go, letting be.
Loving deeply, while releasing fully.
I appreciate you so.
I thank you for your courage and vulnerability.
I thank you for listening to when is time to hold on and when is time to let go.
I thank you for seeing that ownership of one’s child is an illusion.
I stand in awe of this epitome of LOVE that you are.
This practice of love embodied.
Contemplating what you are here to do and somehow manage to do
leaves me humbled, learning, stretched into the Unknown,
and trusting that it is possible.
May I expand my Heart to facilitate and enfold all the stretching required.
How I can do this remains an unfolding, daily quest and discovery.
That I do it, a daily prayer.
That’s all. This blog is not to suggest a fix, a way not feel or experience this. There is no way to avoid this (Yup, I’ve asked around). Consistently this is what I get from mothers and grandmothers alike as soon as I touch on the incredible heart elasticity required: “Oh… Yes,” emphatic nods, and, “Yes, so very, very, very elastic a mama-heart needs to be!”
This blog is simply to say out loud what so many mothers across the planet experience and must rise up to as part and parcel of the “job prescription.”
It’s to say thank you.
I wish you well, as you stretch your hearts across continents, life choices, new family dynamics, across all inevitable change.
I see you.
I honor you.