Mothering Myself

I have always envied women who have a great relationship with their mother. One where the mom sees them as a whole person, and doesn’t burden them with her own expectations and beliefs. A relationship based on mutual liking and respect and shared interests.

I did not have that with my mother. She did a good job: I am confident, well-educated, independent and had a very happy childhood. This is all despite the fact that she was burdened all her life with (untreated) anxiety and depression and spent more than half of her first 9 years in a displaced person’s camp in Germany. The suffering all around her and the hunger and the uncertainty of her family’s situation most certainly impacted her all the way to adulthood. And though my grandparents were successful and prosperous in Europe, they were just impoverished refugees here in the US. I don’t think my mom ever got over what could have been had they not been forced to flee and leave everything – including their elevated station in life – behind.

So through her life – and mine – my mom had some incredibly down times. When I was a kid she slept way more than other mothers. My dad was really the primary caretaker. He cooked, cleaned, did homework. My mom would come home from work as a teacher, go to sleep until dinner, and often go back to sleep when we were done. She hated the politics and bureaucracy of the public school she worked in would ruminate about it for hours. But despite her issues with the principal or other teachers she loved her students and loved teaching. For 35 years she poured her heart and soul into it. I think it was truly the most important thing to her. She loved watching kids learn and helping them discover what the world. Unfortunately, and for no reason other than anxiety, she was eternally fearful she would be fired and seriously overcompensated because of that. She would work while dreadfully ill, then have to spend a week or more in the hospital because of pleurisy or pneumonia. When she retired she had something like 3 years of sick time accumulated – but she never felt she was able to take any of it.

As I became an adult we grew apart. My mother wanted me to be successful and “prominent” in a field that had status. She REALLY wanted me to be an attorney. I became a Social Worker. She told me that my MSW was not a big accomplishment, she had met some pretty dumb social workers.

I married a man who, she informed me on my wedding day , I would always have to support financially.  (PS – turned out to be hilariously untrue) I waited too long to have a baby. She felt it was because I couldn’t get my nose out of  a book long enough to get to it. I moved into a house she hated…The list goes on. The only thing we did well together was shop. In that sphere we were friends and equals and she always did love my sense of style and individuality. To go to the mall or the outlets was a good day out, and did give me a sense that maybe, some how, we did belong together like a mother and daughter.

But, there’s been no shopping for a while. My mom has Alzheimer’s and is really sinking fast. She also has terrible brittle bones and fractures of her back and hips. My dad continues to take care of her like he has done for 50 years this July, but he anticipates that by then, or maybe a little later, she won’t know who he is. I see her every 2 weeks and she talks less and less each time. And she doesn’t really know who I am – though she called me by name yesterday and truly startled me. When I answered her, she gave me a blank look and that was that…but there’s a little bit of her in there somewhere.

I felt different at our visit yesterday. More forgiving, less frustrated and frankly, less angry. The reason was a dream I had Saturday morning that I woke up from sobbing. I was with Harry and he held me and soothed me until I stopped crying and fell back to sleep, but I couldn’t talk about it with him – I knew I would cry. Last night Jack and I took a walk. He has known my mom for 22 years this year – we met in October of 1993 – and he knows what she’s about. He has gotten so angry on my behalf at the way she has treated me, and has always supported me and backed me up. So I told him my dream – and this is it.

My mom is healthy and normal. She’s walking along side me – and our arms are linked and we’re talking. She asks me, “What do you think of how you’ve lived your life so far?” (This is something that the real-life mom would never think to ask). I tell her, “I’m proud of how I live my life, the choices I’ve made, the love I have and the love I give. I really like what I do…but I know I have disappointed you. You wanted me to set the world on fire, and frankly my life is pretty ordinary”. And the mom of my dreams said, “The world can set itself on fire. You just keep doing what you’re doing”.

And I think I woke up crying because I knew my mother would never say that to me. But Jack pointed out to me  – I really said it to myself. And whatever happens I can give myself what I need. Deep inside I know what’s true, what’s real and important. As sad as it is – and I cried on the street telling Jack and I am crying while I write this – that is absolutely true.

So even though those words would never come from my mother’s lips – now or ever – she helped to plant the seeds inside me that allow me to see the that truth. As a mother she took me as far and she could and I think did a pretty good job of the rest. She could not always be there for me in the ways I wanted but I am grateful for the opportunity to understand that I don’t need external confirmation of what I already know. I can mother myself. And that’s OK.

 

 

 

Yoga and Me – a love story

 

yoga-love

A little less than four and a half years ago I was in a major rut. I was a mom and a wife – but feeling like I was doing each one badly. I felt sad, lonely and more than ready for something new- even though I had no idea what that “something” would be. I had been crushing on yoga for awhile, but the timing never seemed right. Yoga and me were at two different places  – I wasn’t quite ready to put myself out there into a studio with super bendy pretzel people who knew all the moves already. I still think of ballet in 4th grade – I could barely remember the moves THEN – all the other kids went left and I went….wait, isn’t this left? No??!!! It’s right? OHHHH!! No wonder I’m bumping into people! Believe me, the teacher was happy to take my mom’s check but I had no natural talent.

And yoga, well, yoga was busy. You know – spreading peace and ohm’s around the world. He just didn’t have time for me. Until…..a studio opened 5 minutes from my house. Brand new. I figured, “I am brand new to this so maybe if I go to a brand new studio then EVERYBODY will be new and I won’t feel like such a doofus because EVERYBODY will be going left when we’re supposed to go right and not be super twisty and..well…I can do this.”

I showed up for the very first class on the very first day the studio opened. That would be at 6:00 am on December 1, 2010. I was the first student. I was the only student! Which was a real boon to me – since Jessica, the teacher and owner – would say things like “downward facing dog” and I had NO idea what she was talking about. Plank? Nope.  Chair pose? Ah…no. OK – forward fold. I knew that one! So that first class was one-on-one. And something snapped into place then and there on a cold, early, Albany, New York morning. My yoga crush was going past the crush stage to…getting to know each other.

Not that yoga is always an easy partner. Like the best relationships, yoga transforms you and it doesn’t always feel good. In fact, sometimes it feels terrible. Stretching can take you places that we don’t go in every day life. Sitting with discomfort – not pain because yoga should NEVER cause physical pain – is not something we do. In fact, getting to know your own body and realize there is a difference between discomfort and pain is an eye opener to many people. So often we shun ANY discomfort by distracting ourselves with food, chatter, TV, Facebook, wine…to be able to sit and breathe and expand a little bit every time is simple…and difficult.

And to emotionally expand? To sit with THAT discomfort? I have cried on my mat – it is difficult to be  cracked open and see what’s in there. The good, the bad and the ugly. But to know it’s all mine and I can own it, nurture it, change it,  love it or move it on out? That is the ultimate feeling of freedom. For some of us, to open ourselves to the grace and peace that yoga offers us is even harder.  Every relationship we have should allow us to feel secure in the knowledge that we are loved and accepted for who and what we are. And yoga helps build that relationship with ourselves.

So here I am, 4 years later. I’m stronger, happier and more in tune with myself and everything around me. I am more patient, I am a better partner, mother and friend and I am much kinder to other people. and myself.  Yoga has proven to be very amenable. He travels with me – I have taken yoga classes all over the US. He moved to NYC with me – and I have a new home studio. He enjoys our open relationship and has no jealousy whatsoever when I run (which I do on the days we aren’t together). And he likes to keep things fresh – Anusara, Jivamukti, Forrest, Yin….there are many schools of yoga and so little time!

I am still not super twisty. I am not one of those gals making videos of their incredible inversions. I am not a yoga teacher. I am simply a consistent practitioner in love with yoga. Like my other important relationships  – I am in this one for good. Dedicating yourself to positive relationships allows you to grow in ways you never thought possible  – and nurtures you in ways you might never have though you needed.

I heart you yoga- thanks for everything.

 

Trying to control the weather

Changing the weather

I’m a dreamer – for me, there is always a next step. I’m a planner. I love to know exactly how to get to that next step. I’m a thinker. I can spend considerable amounts of time sorting through next-step options. These are great qualities when action is required. But like so many great qualities, they are double edged. What about when there IS no action required? Because you haven’t even gotten there yet??

Worse, what about when you anticipate all of the (usually) horrible things that could go wrong in the future and start to plan for those? I have contingency plans for the deaths of all my loved ones.  I have plans up to Z for my son’s educational future that are complicated by school acceptances and familial obligations. These plans all involve moving, changing, up-ending the current order of things….but I have them under control!!

But… of course I don’t. Who can control the future? Who can know it? Why my obsession with it? The plans I make are my cocoon. I tell myself that they will protect me against ANY possible eventuality. As if any plan could protect me from grief, confusion, or disappointment. As if a huge, unexpected KaPOW can’t come out of nowhere and change everything. As if I will even WANT to go through with the plans I make today, tomorrow.

Letting go of the future is hard! Which is ridiculous really – we don’t even possess it. But maybe it’s better to say, Letting go of my version of the future is hard. Letting the actual future come to me means I have to sit still. And wait. And feel uncomfortable. And be where I actually am in time and space and work and love and home. And realize I am mostly powerless about what tomorrow and the day after that will bring.

To rail against this natural order of things – today is today and today is what we have – leads to stress, anxiety, sadness and confusion. I have been reminding myself that everything I really need to face the future I already have – both internally and externally. My boyfriend Harry says he doesn’t make a decision before he has to. When you have to jump – you jump based on the information you have at that moment because it’s the most current and most applicable to the situation as you know it right then – in your present.

I am working on this! Giving up, giving over, giving in to what the future holds and being fully here –  so when decisions are necessary I choose my best options based on what is now.

You can steer the boat – but you can’t control the weather.

Hello! and Welcome! And if you are an origami aficonado you are about to be disappointed

freeingorigamibirdsfreeing origami birds by Miriam Thorpe

I am a 45 year old woman living in New York who has had the incredible good luck to be able to change, and grow and reinvent myself and my life at a time when I see lots of my peers shifting into neutral. My life is an adventure in self discovery (believe me, some of THAT is like picking up a rock and watching creepy crawlies slither out)  and adventure. I am a constantly striving yogi, an injured but determined runner, a loving but not always patient mother, a best friend, a social worker and an introvert who functions like an extrovert until I can’t anymore. I am also a wife…and a girlfriend. I live polyamorously – though my version of polyamory is much more of the emotional sort. My real name is not Clarathegreat – but I answer to it! I am a meditator and a seeker and a thinker and I hope to share whatever minor insights I have about life and change and moving forward.

And the title? We all fold ourselves into the shapes we THINK we should be. And that can be fine! And maybe we really become the shape and the shape fits us perfectly and we are the happiest cranes (daughters, sons, life partners, engineers) EVER. But maybe not. And unfolding that shape without tearing anything can be just as hard as getting into it. And it can be stressful. And maybe we do sustain a little damage no matter how cautious we are. But regardless of how carefully we unfold we will always be left with the shadow of the shape we used to be. And that is absolutely fine – and in fact – it makes the next shape more beautiful and textured and rich

Cheers to texture and change and reinvention! And cheers to you reader – nice to meet you!