I stand at my desk looking at the sunshine out of the front window in the house where I became a mother, twenty years ago. I’m recalling the months after my middle son was born. I was desperate to feel my body as my own again, so I started doing yoga for the first time. Hot yoga. And I started walking every morning very early with a friend who lived down the street. (I don’t know if she still lives down my street. We grew apart after I did the project that became my memoir. I liked her immensely. I wish we could still walk.) And I stopped eating butter. And I got the flu, lost almost ten pounds, and kept the practice of drinking Better Than Bouillon chicken broth every morning before setting out to walk. And I lost more weight, and felt thin for the first time in my life.
And now, seventeen–seventeen?!?–years later, after the joy and sleeplessness of their young childhood, decades of depression and panic inside, of learning that my heart could crawl and walk and run around outside me in the bodies of my children–still true–and after pushing through fear and panic and flailing to try to fix myself by doing the project that became 500 pages, and our marriage ended and I moved out and lived in a lovely downtown apartment for seven years and lost my mother to cancer and broke into pieces and moved back to this house (that I still co-own with my ex) four years ago; and now that I finally feel like I–me, the real me, my Self, the one I finally love–really inhabit this house, now, I know in my gut that what I did seventeen years ago is my body’s best path. My gut says to go into that sunshine for a walk today–now, not tomorrow or later.
Because I finally inhabit this body, feel more IN my body than ever before, more comfortable even though I’ve gained back weight from grief’s I-possibly-want-to-leave-this-earth-and-join-my-mother barely eating skinny in the years after she died, gained weight in the past four years’ stress of befriending my demons. I want to wake to salute the sun in yoga, drink some broth, and head out to walk every day. I’ll do other physical activity, yes. But this is, has to be, my core. The way I greet the world (instead of “what Should I get done today” being the first question of the day). How I will resonate. Align my notes to the music of the world.
How I will allow to rise what has been in me all along, through the upbringing and guilt and fear and panic and love and heartbreak and the overarching exquisite joy and heartbreak of motherhood (Would you like my life for any of my children? I would give it, no hesitation. Will I still commiserate with my ex over the mental gymnastics and moods of teenagers? Yyyup. Ah, motherlove.). How I will allow the all-consuming labor of therapy and finally “processing my trauma” and healing healing healing to finally birth what is now in me–no, what has been me all along and from the beginning to finally rise up. To RISE.
To live. Openhearted. Lighthearted. Intense. To fully live even in the midst of pandemic solitude. To finally begin creating that which comes out of my imagination and heart, wholly, undiluted from fear or scarcity.
I have made so many mistakes raising my children (Where’s that handbook?), but I can finally forgive myself–disinfect our relationships from guilt–because I taught them to live from this place that I never knew until now. The core of themselves, with no apology or expectation to be anything other than who they are and who they want to be. How unsettling it was to be someone not living from the core to be around those who are! But now, oh. so. good. So freeing. So challenging. So invigorating.
So heartbreaking to look back on all the time spent not living like that. But–and this JUST happened, in this moment as I make thoughts and feelings into words–I would not exchange it for anything.
Oh my god!
I would not exchange it for anything!
The gifts of that darkness and pain could not have come without the discomfort and agony. Those understandings are made of the same stuff. Soul stuff. Universe stuff. Existence at the root. And I stand here writing and feel in my gut that I wouldn’t change a thing, and I straighten up and stand taller and breathe deeply.
Such love! What joy! All anyone can ever do is their best, and I have. Stumbling, tripping, flailing Best.
It is Motherhood, but it is also what is at the root of motherhood (or fatherhood, all iterations of choice/non-choice and how to live life): Personhood.
Motherhood is a person who has children.
A Person first and at the root, even at the end when all falls away. Respected and honored for all motherhood entails, yes. But recognized as Worthy as a person, no matter what and apart from the Shoulds and Have-to’s and Should-have-done’s. No matter how motherhood goes, the core of it, underneath it, is personhood. Worth itself. Fully a mother because fully Self.
So I will walk tall and dance into going over to my ex’s later and submit gracefully to being honored for this holiday. We will laugh and eat tacos (requested) and watch something and commiserate over the State of Things in the World Today and how many people at Lowes weren’t wearing masks and tease and cajole. And I will look at these children who upended my world twenty years ago and now.
And I will marvel at the miracle of them.
I will imagine the arc, the vector of them in the world beyond me, of personhood and strength and healing, of Being, of Love.
And I shall rejoice.
But first, yoga and a walk.
Note: This was first published on my Facebook page on 10 May 2020, Mothers’ Day.