I Hate Mother's Day

It is true.  I hate the build-up, hate the commercials and hate the fact that is a multi-million dollar industry.  As if you could put a price tag on a mother's life.  I hold my breath waiting for the day to come and exhale when it is over.  Pick any other word: loathe, despise, abhor, detest.  I feel all of them.

I hate Mother's Day because it reminds me of what I have lost, my own mother.  On good days, I imagine us sitting on a beach in Ireland at sunset, wild horses racing back and forth on the narrow crescent of sand, my head on her shoulder, her arm around me, sitting up against an old log thrown up on the beach.  She lets me talk and talk and gives me advice and I feel stronger.  On bad days, in the dark I lay in my bed alone, silent tears slip down my cheeks and I wonder what I did to deserve this.    

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  She should have had more than 2 years with my nephew Connor, more than 6 years with my nephew Canaan, more than 19 years with my brother Benj, more than 30 years with my brother Jason.  And certainly more than 33 years with me. She will never get to know Audree, my little 3 year-old spitfire great-niece. Sometimes, like now, when I think about it, the tears well and I become overwhelmed with sadness.  

This is not a ploy for pity.  It is how it is.  Those of us who have lost our mothers know what this feels like.  Most days are good days, now, almost 14 years later, but still I cannot ask why for more than 2 seconds or I become quagmired in a question never to be answered.  I choose not to be stuck and move forward, though most times I am never sure of my place in this world.

Our mother equals our first home in this world.  And all of a sudden the ground beneath my home gave way and I started falling an endless fall into an abyss and I am not sure that fall will ever stop.  Perhaps most forms of grief are like this when you lose someone you love.  I wish I could go to lunch with her, buy her flowers, take a walk with her.  Some days I could really use her wisdom.  I would trade 10 years of my life for one more hug from her or one more day with her.  My rational mind knows it to be impossible but the child inside keens for her.

They say I will see her again.  Perhaps that is true, but fuck platitudes.  As if that is supposed to give some relief or some comfort that maybe someday, when I die, I will see her again.  It is what people say when they have no idea what to say.  And I don't blame them because it is hard to know what to say.  Most things come to an end, but this, for me, this will never end. I am glad Mother's Day is over for another year, because I hate it.  

 

 

The Untethered Soul

I've been reading this book, called "The Untethered Soul", by Michael A. Singer.  This book came to me by way of Marie Forleo (www.marieforleo.com).  She is one of my spiritual "teachers" though we have never met.  In a recent email, she recommended this book as one of her top three.  I had no idea who Michael Singer was, or thought I didn't.  But then, of course, as soon as I looked him up, I recognized having watched him on one of Oprah's Super Soul Sessions.  

Today also happens to be Mother's Day.  I lost my mom in December of 2004, the 21st to be exact.  I miss her terribly, of course.  But she was also an incredible gift to me.  After reading, Chapter 13 in this book, entitled "Far, Far Beyond", I understand better what I mean when I say she was a gift.  Not just in her life, but also in her death.  This is not an easy conclusion for me to come to, and it has taken me years of internal work to be able to step back and objectively see her life in this way.  

What my mother's death did for me was send me out in the beyond.  Everything I thought I knew simply fell apart and I knew nothing would or could ever be the same again.  If she had not left, I am not sure I would have become the person I am today because I had no choice.  All the things that used to work didn't anymore, and I had to reconfigure my entire life.  If she were still here, I am truly not sure that would have happened. 

Michael Singer says, "Going beyond means going beyond the borders of the cage.  There should be no cage.  The soul is infinite.  It is free to expand everywhere.  It is free to experience all of life. This can only happen when you are willing to face reality without mental boundaries.  If you still have barriers, and you know what they are because you hit them every day, you must be willing to go beyond them.  Otherwise you remain within your cage.  And remember, decorating your cage with beautiful experiences, fond memories and great dreams is not the same as going beyond.  A cage by any other name is still a cage."  

I had the good fortune to spend a month in Ireland in January of 2015.  One of my destinations was the Cliffs of Moher.  Absolutely breathtaking, hundreds of meters above a sheer drop to the Atlantic ocean.  I am not terribly fond of heights, but my desire to walk the path on the cliff overcame the need to be safe.  At one point, the path looked like it swung dangerously out over the ocean and I knew I would fall to certain death.  So I stopped and had a talk with myself.  I assured myself that we would be okay, that I would take one step at a time, and that if the path became too dangerous I would turn back.  And then I reminded myself that this was what I had come to Ireland for and I refused to let my own fear define my experience.  As I approached the point in the path, it was much wider than I had first believed and I proceeded to walk the entire southern length of the cliffs.  That little tower you see in the distance,  I walked all the way there and all the way back.  On my trek back I welcomed the incredible views of the ocean instead of being afraid of them because I went beyond my edges, in a very literal sense, and came face to face with a beauty I had only imagined and seen in picture.  Now I had actually lived one of my dreams!  To walk the Cliffs of Moher.

I don't know why it takes an event like that for some of us.  It forced me to come directly into contact with a whole lot of things I never expected to deal with.  I also became a person I don't ever think I would have without first the solid foundation of her love, and then her leaving.  The truth is I still feel her with me and still talk to her.  Even now, 13 years later, I still want to tell her things and then remember I have to do it in a different way.  It is a spiritual relationship now, rather than a physical one.  I often have dreams where I am looking for her and cannot find her.  But the truth is, she lives on, just in a different way.  

Michael Singer also says, "Eventually you will realize that it cannot actually hurt you to go beyond your psychological limits.  If you are willing to just stand at the edge and keep walking you will go beyond.  You used to pull back when it got uncomfortable.  Now you relax and go past that point.  That is all it takes to go beyond...you realize that you will always be fine.  Nothing can ever bother you except your edges, and now you know what to do with them.  You end up loving your edges because they point your way to freedom.  All you have to do is constantly relax and lean into them.  Then one day, when you least expect it, you fall through into the infinite.  That is what it means to go beyond."

His words touched something in my soul and it all came tumbling together and I teared up.  I understood, maybe for even the first time, how her death taught me as much as her life.  I was forced to confront my edges, pushed to the very limits and then beyond what I thought I could ever imagine.  And as I sit here, typing, with her pictures on my desk, I miss her and at the same time I am so, so grateful to her.  She gave me everything I would need to navigate this life.  I love you Mom.  

 

 

 

My Mom WAS the Shit.

I don't like this day.  There, I said it.  A constant reminder of what I don't have, and what everyone else seems to have, their mom.  Now, I know that is not true.  But, on days when pop culture wants to rub it in your face every chance they get, that is exactly what it feels like.  

Now, moving on.  My mom was the shit.  Period.  If I could have had 30 more years with a person half as awesome as she was, I would never trade her.  Not for anything.  She taught me about the most important thing in the world: LOVE.  Not only that, she taught me a lot of other important things too.  So, I'm going to share some with you.

1.  Say sorry.  Even if you have done nothing wrong, sometimes you need to say sorry anyway.  That apology builds a bridge towards the other person.  I experienced her doing that, and watched her do it.  And it worked. 

2.  Find out why someone is reacting the way they do.  A person's reactions are never what they seem to be about on the surface, look a little deeper to find out why.  She did that with us often.  She listened to understand. And again, I watched her do it with others.

3. You may never pass this way again.  One of my favorite things she used to tell me, when trying to figure out if I should do something or not.  And often this helped me make the choice.  If I never could do this thing again, would I regret it?  

4. Jump the fence.  Another gem.  Basically, get through the limits you might have set for yourself and don't be afraid.  Go for it!

5. Do what you have to do, do what you need to do, then you can do what you want to do.  I learned so much about how to prioritize my life this way. Some things we just have to do, so get those out of the way.  And do them well, no matter how small they seem.  Then do what you need to, like laundry or groceries.  And then do what you want.  

6.  Do something you love.  Whenever I was restless, upset, mom always encouraged taking a pause to do something I really enjoyed.  That might be reading, watching a movie, taking a walk.  She taught me the joy of simple pleasures.

7.  Practice your craft.  Every day.  I rarely remember a day going by that she did not play the piano and sing.  Music always filled our home.  She read and she wrote too.  TV was usually reserved for the evening, maybe a few shows.  

8.  Share.  I cannot tell you the amount of people who cycled through our home, and not just our relatives.  She always found a way to share what she had, whether it was food or the space of our home or herself.

9. Start fresh.  We can always start right where we are.  Even if yesterday or 2 minutes ago we messed up, right now, this present moment is new.  I cannot count the amount of times she told me this.

10. How to love.  She was love.  Mom was no regarder of persons.  She didn't care if you were the CEO, or a checker at the grocery store.  I watched her look at people, not through them.  If you met her, you knew she loved you instantly, there was no guile.  She was strong, and never afraid to say what she felt. She loved through difficulties, disagreements, even in spite of her own feelings, still she loved.  I watched her take meals to a homeless man in Grant Park day after day, take care of our neighbors, while never once making us feel neglected.  She gave the best hugs and had the warmest hands.  

Julia Cameron says art alchemizes our lives.  And that is exactly what happened today.  I never know how I am going to feel on Mother's Day.  It started a little rough, so I sat down to do morning pages.  And about half-way through, my attitude shifted, ever so slightly, about this day.  I still don't like it.  But, I choose to write about what mom taught me, and how much I love her.  I am sad that so many never got to be in her presence.  She truly was magic. My hope is that pieces of her live on in me, my brothers, my nephews.  This is how we share her with the world.