Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping … Into the Future
If the metaphor of life as a mountain is apt, then I am a bit past the summit, wondering how I missed it after all those years of working towards reaching it. Now, I am urgently trying to slow down my hurtling pace toward the valley. I thought the summit would be some grand career achievement. Looking back at all that hard work on my career, with all the other bazillions of mid-level executives, it’s not the career moments that have been meaningful, it’s the connections with other people that have provided meaning. And my most profound joy has been being a mother to my children.
So you would think Mother’s Day would be a happy day. It is more than a happy day. For me it is a day of intense emotion, so intense I don’t know what to do with it. Mother’s Day Eve, the intense emotion manifested itself as PAIN, from my heart, through my throat, and up to my ears. I first identified it as sadness and then realized it was mixed with anger. I don’t easily recognize anger, being much more comfortable and familiar with feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety. Sadness is easy, an easy disguise for more negative emotions. Anger is much more difficult and it takes enormous care on my part to identify it accurately, to not swallow it inwardly, but to express it constructively. Even harder is to acknowledge the mixture of sadness, anger, loneliness, regret, disappointment, longing for what might have been and to let them go. Or at least let them coexist with happiness, to allow room for what is funny or joyful. So much is happy and joyful about my experience of being a mom. How can that joy take up more room in my heart so that there is less emphasis on regret and nostalgia?
I feel such pressure on Mother’s Day to have some kind of outpouring of honest emotion to my mother. Another Mother’s Day has come and gone and I have failed at taking any steps that will bring us closer. I have felt the emotion of love, loss, anger, regret and all that is associated with being a middle-aged daughter welling up in my chest and my throat, but I said nothing new to my mother. Perhaps I will never say all that I would like to say. Perhaps I will never hear all that I would like to hear. It simply may be all that it can be. Perhaps one way to honor my mother is by being more open and honest with my children than she was able to be with me.
It was a segment on NPR’s Studio 360 last Saturday that released the emotion. Beth Greenspan read a poem that is meaningful to her, through tears, about that time in adolescence when you realize that your child is fully separate from you with a world of his/her own that is unknowable to you. And that is how it should be. Part of the parent-child relationship is that the child must create their own life which does not include the parent and it is the parent’s job to allow that happen. The most joyful and heart-wrenching moments of parenting are all those steps they take away from you.
For Mother’s Day, I want my children to be who they are: on the road to becoming responsible and compassionate beings with a sense of ease and confidence. I want them to be less careful and less anxious than me and more able to express their emotions, especially love. I hope they take advantage of opportunities and find pursuits that are fulfilling and fuel their passion. I hope they know that I love them more than anything, certainly more than my career. I hope they know I am proud of them. With my heart in my throat most of the weekend, sad and excited about what my children are becoming, I told them. I love them. Fly!
Into The Kingdom, by Mary Karr
As the boys bones lengthened,
and his head and heart enlarged,
his mother one day failed
to see herself in him.
He was a man then, radiating
the innate loneliness of men.
His expression was ever after
beyond her. When near sleep
his features eased towards childhood,
it was brief.
She could only squeeze
his broad shoulder. What could
she teach him
of loss, who now inflicted it
by entering the kingdom
of his own will?