The talks with her late night. In darkness where we both feel safe enough to be who we really are and share our unplugged selves with each other. Those are what make the ache and the sadness and the heartbreak all make sense. Pain being the touchstone of spiritual growth is what I have read over and over again. It is what I lean on when hope begins to leave me like the last gasp of a sinking ship. It is what allows me to remember that I am not the ship, but merely a passenger. I have choices. And I choose hope today. In this moment. And each following the last. I choose to swim. Like a mermaid sometimes, like a shark others.
She reflects me. Her wispy hair, her fiery temper, her faraway gaze, her thought-filled mind, her ability to melt into the arms of someone who loves her completely and without judgment or reserve. She tells me her fears. the words she chooses draw me into her twelve-ness. And the depth of her thoughts. As she navigates this new direction that her life has taken. The unexpected current swiftly taking her. Taking all of us.
She tells me she sometimes feels sad that we are not under the same roof. But that it feels better than it was. When there was so much yelling. So much anger. So much hurt. I know she can rest today. Her young nerves are no longer in constant surveillance. Wondering. Bracing. She can let go and be twelve. Its all I want for her. I tell her I am sorry she has to sleep in two beds. That she is made to travel like a gypsy. That she has to cross through the space between and again. The space that feels like an emotional desert at times. That just when she gets comfy, she has to get up and move. That her roots are split. She tells me its ok. That she’s ok. I remind her she has my heart. And that she is brave. She tells me the same. In her twelveness.
She’s been through it with us since the beginning. Born shortly after the honeymoon that we never took. She’s absorbed it all like a dry sponge. She knows. She came between us. Innocently. Unknowingly. With nothing more than simply her smooth, sweet-smelling existence. I resented her and resented myself tenfold for that. My feelings of abandonment. His judgment of me being in that space of need never left us. My disclosure forged the lens through which he began to see me. Though I was open and willing and honest, though I didn’t want to feel those feelings, they were there. And I found myself in a fair amount of unspeakable shame. It was the beginning of my understanding that I was alone to deal with my feelings. Perhaps he didn’t want to help. Today I think I understand that he simply didn’t know how to partner me. Perhaps I didn’t let him. I realize now that he has an emotional handicap, as do I. Not the vengeance that I assumed for many years. It just slowly unraveled, the threads of our fabric. Perhaps because we were tending to the garden and forgot the foundational acreage, perhaps because the foundation had cracks to begin with, from the beginning, that became crevasses underneath us. There was no earthquake, just years of slow steady vibration widening the gaps. Unfelt at times, until there were spaces a mile wide. Across the mile, I nurtured myself. Desperately trying to feel loved again. Or just trying to distract myself by keeping my hands busy.
The gift of this pain: Motherhood. For real. The way I dreamed it would be between my children and I. Not always on the outside, but sometimes. I am an artist, you know. So there’s that. But slowly, understanding how to truly mother. deeper. Truly. That’s it own unfinished masterpiece. During the years which led up to the surrender, I spent a long time reading blogs written by mothers, wives; viewing photos of the lives I wanted, the relationships, the love I desperately craved but could not feel, the pure satisfaction of family. I tried to match my outsides. but looking back, in the most aesthetically beautiful photographed moments of those years of my life with my children and family, all I feel is my longing, the inadequacy, the self judgment, the pride, the unrest.
I surrendered. I surrender. daily. Often multiple times.
I am no longer hearing the judgment, real or imagined, quite as loud. From myself or from my partner. Or others. I know that I don’t have to rest my focus there. I am no longer reflected back to myself as my worst self by another. Or by myself. I have learned to look in the mirror, and see the balance of the beauty. I have allowed myself to feel loved by those who see my worst self and still find me beautiful. I believe them. Through tears, generally.
Mothering for me has grown through the observation of others. Since I was old enough to know I wanted to be a mother, I have walked around with a little mental notepad, collecting the shines and sparkles of great moms I have encountered. Over the past couple of years, I have turned these collected gems into inspiration, rather. And continue to explore what feels good to me. Authentic. What is it that I truly feel is best for my children, for who THEY are, and who WE are today, not who we should be or who others are in comparison. Just us. Pure. Simple. Through reaching out to loving positive kindred, I am allowing myself now to believe that, though my training was minimal, examples were few, I can do it. I am doing it.
In my swimming, I sometimes mistake others for landing spots. It’s hard work, navigating this sea sometimes. Perhaps the trick is to realize and make peace with and even find joy in never reaching land. To dive deep into the mysterious sparkle of turquoise without seeking treasure. Finding temporary solace in the midst of kelp beds or rest by floating during the really difficult times. To allow myself to be held in the near-drowning moments, by the hearts of others. a show of surrender and vulnerability. To allow to the current to take me. if I stop fighting it, it feels amazing. To all of us, really.
She holds my hand at every opportunity. Still. I don’t reserve. She can have me. Unless it hurts. But I teach her how to love. I show her how to love. And how to listen to what feels loving. And what does not. Because I have learned how. Because I am learning how. Through her. She feels the lovelight flowing into our home today, when she is in the mood. (She IS Twelve. Remember?) Pure love is one of the fruits of surrender. I have never connected with her like this. At least not out loud. I thought at first maybe it was just her coming of age, but I know that isn’t it. Because I feel it with my boy as well. His words are Six rather than Twelve. But the depth of his heart is the subject of an entirely different prose. Many pages.
There is more space for love today. In my heart and in hers. I let go of the dream of finding the mom I had been wishing for, of the envy of the photographic gloss of the lives of others, and made the choice to become their mom. Maybe the one they wish for, but I know I can only try. Perfectly imperfect. Always willing, or at least praying for the willingness. it feels so good to be the arms that hold the space for her to curl up into and let herself go. To be the arms that are strong enough to catch them both sometimes when they are freefalling. And everyday I do spiritual pushups, sometimes not by choice, in order to keep the strength in my arms. For her. For them. They deserve it. So do I.