Mother’s Day Thoughts 2019
When I was a young adult, yet unschooled in the ways of the world, I had the idea that I needed to remove myself from the current culture and flow of life in general and in order to dedicate myself to a “spiritual path”. When I finally left the community I was involved with, (along with this idea), one of my first observations was that the typical path of human life seemed designed to be THE spiritual path. All that was required was to step into life consciously, to pay attention to LIFE. That in fact, this “real” path that everyone was on…was far more challenging than trying to master spiritual practice while sequestered from the world.
All of us, on a daily basis, deal with things that require us to hone our souls and spirits. Staying really awake and engaged is hard work, really hard work. Bringing our best on a daily basis, almost impossible. And yet that is what we are asked to do.
Mothering is the best example of this I can think of. Here I’d like to say that I broadly define mothering. I might define it as extreme and dedicated nurturing. This could be of an idea, a book, a work or company, an elder, animals or plants, or of a human child…really anything. It requires everything we have to give and more. I am going to go out on a limb to say that mothering is also not necessarily gender- specific. In my work, I am blessed to know so many amazing mothers. Across the board, they are stretched daily beyond their means to give. They receive almost no positive feedback for their hours of work. They struggle to find time for themselves and yet they give to others. The work of mothering is entirely unpredictable. You can do everything “right” (whatever THAT is) and everything can go horribly wrong. You can end up successful and yet you can’t take any credit in the end because you have poured your lifeblood into something/someone that is really not yours.
We do have a perfect example of this, one that we can follow if we dare…in fact, we stand on her back daily. On one of those perfect spring days when everything was radiant and in bloom I thought…here is the perfect example of mothering at it’s very best. It is no mistake that we call her Mother Earth…she too is involved in thankless work and yet she brings her very best to us still. I honor her today. I see her and you and all that we all do…every day.
This afternoon I took a walk over to Pen Park. This being such a gorgeous warm afternoon, the playground was packed! As I walked toward it, it just looked like a busy jumble of kids and adults who were all in motion and somehow managing not to bump into each other.
As I got closer, I first noticed a young stylish mother in a hijab pushing two happy kids on a "doubles swing" as a littler one stood by not so patiently waiting for her turn. The two kids on the swing next to them were trying their hardest to swing higher than each other as the swing squeaked loudly and they chattered (what I am assuming were), challenges to each other in Spanish. There was a small black boy on a tiny bike who obviously had just learned to ride a two-wheeler...he was going impossibly fast as his mom nervously watched and ran, alternatively shouting encouragement and trying to be ready to catch his inevitable fall. There were some little blond kids playing the huge chimes for an old couple who sat on the bench facing them, shoulder to shoulder smiling broadly, as the wind blew through their hair. There was an older man, a devoted grandfather I am assuming, who pushed a baby carriage so quietly that I imagined the child it contained had just fallen asleep after a long and napless day. There was also a group of Catholic school girls, still in uniform, chasing each other and a soccer ball and a little white boy whose mom was trying to teach him that sticks can hurt people...(I could tell he was not paying attention to her talk and really just wanted his sticks back...)
These are my neighbors. They share the park across from my home. They come in many colors, speak several languages, and represent the whole age range.
They were all there together, on a beautiful afternoon, in one busy jumble enjoying the day and somehow managing not to bump into each other.
I work as a postpartum doula. I am deeply honored to have worked with so many different women at their most vulnerable, but also often at their most resilient.
This morning when I got to my client’s house, she was as sleep- deprived, as it is possible to be and still be upright. (She has a new baby and a toddler). I took the baby so that she’d have a minute to focus on her toddler. From the other room I could hear her daughter leap onto her back and mom gallop around the room, making upbeat horse sounds. I could also hear her daughter’s delighted giggles. Where she got the energy to do this I have no idea. I stood there in tears holding her baby, thinking that I had just witnessed the essence of “ International Women’s Day”. She had done what we all do. Love takes us that step beyond what is possible. Not only could she NOT take the day off, she pushed well beyond her real physical limitations. She is indispensible to her family, she knows that, and embraces it.
Today I honor all the women I know who, after hours of exhausting labor, have managed to find the energy to push out their babies, the ones who have gotten up in the middle of the night over and over again to comfort the little or sick ones, or the ones who have gone above and beyond for a friend, or have sat for endless hours at the bed of a dying loved one. I honor the women who have created shelter and space with their own two hands, and cooked enough food to feed the multitudes. I also hold dear the women who have blazed ahead into hostile territory to clear a path for all of us, or have taken a stance when it was impossible to do that.
YOU are, (we are) the rock stars and we will find the strength to turn the current tide, because that IS what we do!
I wrote the poem below during a particularly dark period in my personal life. I woke this morning with the same image, only this time it felt like it had broader application. This one wasn’t personal.A good friend, who is a Sufi mystic, once said to me, “Disillusionment is a good thing. We must work to shatter our illusions on the rock of truth.” We have been shattered. Shattered by the extremes we have allowed to grow in our midst. Weather extremes, violence, harshness, floods of images and information, human extremes everywhere, extremes of money and excess right alongside extremes of poverty and exclusion. Mostly we have been shattered by the horrific discovery of who we, as a nation, really are sometimes. We have also been shattered by the realization that we were born this way.
The questions before us really are, what is left? Where is the bedrock? Is it strong and true? Really? Will it hold? Will it hold US?
Time will answer…these are questions we can not answer alone, they a bigger than us.
My hopeful thought this morning is: In my own life, when everything crumbled, when the illusions shattered, when there really was no “happily ever after”, what was left was the very best and strongest part. At the time, this was impossible to see. When I wrote the poem below, there was still a very real question about whether anything at all would be left.
What I learned from my personal experience is that when you have been shattered, you have two choices; you can stay broken, or if the base is strong and true, you can pick yourself up and build on the rock that remains….and…
If the bedrock IS strong enough to hold, THIS time, you’d damn well better do it “right”.
I pray that, together, we find the same ultimate answer here and now.
Worn down to that smooth impenetrable surface that is Timeless and unchangeable,
Glistening black under the turbulent flow
Hard and True.
Tears, sweat pouring out of my soul to create this wild river
Cut through all the layers.
Everything insubstantial carried away in the swift current.
The exposed layers a true map of time.
Layer upon layer of sand and crumble GONE
Layers of rock not strong enough to withstand the raging flow
Trees with shallow roots torn from the soil.
All swept away in the chaos
The question before me:
Will I desperately scramble up the sides
To try to rebuild my life on the sand?
Will I get in that boat and ride that current?
Trusting the bedrock to hold?