Mama Love

This week I said goodbye to my son who is going to teach English in Austria for a year. It’s a dream job in a place he loves and in his world, things are pretty great right now.

I am thrilled he gets this opportunity.. I really am. It’s just that… um.. (insert spontaneous crying jag here).

Whenever a child leaves my company.. it aches–bad. This usually occurs when they’ve been home visiting for awhile and then they leave.

I believe a mother’s physical bearing of a child contributes to why it feels like such a palpable loss when they leave. It’s almost as if they are once again being expelled from the womb and there’s a part of you.. maybe like the placenta.. that wants to hang on. Once again, it’s like they are being torn from you. Only this time, they are doing the tearing. It’s usually for right and natural reasons. It’s also incredibly painful.

Loving a child is an experience of unrequited, unreciprocated devotion mixed with the sensation of constantly being in labor. Nothing incestuous implied here, but mother love has that corporeal history that other kinds of love do not. Maybe that’s the reason for the sickening ache at separation. There are definite physical undertones.

You madly want them to understand the depth of what you feel, but they can’t. Once when I was seeing my oldest son off at the airport, I told him that I adored him. His response? “I know you do, Mom.” I viewed this as a sweet acknowledgment of something he will probably never fully understand.. even though he now has a little boy at the center of his own adoration. I’m pretty sure fathers don’t feel this the way mothers do..although, I know they deeply love their children.

Sometimes I wonder if this is so acute for me because I had five children–my life was full of little ones and their lives for so many years.

I have a friend, a mother of four grown children, who refers to the events of children coming and going as “little deaths.” She’s right, you know. It’s that tearing away.. and saying goodbye every time that feels like grief incarnate.

And it’s not because I don’t have a life, other interests or important people in my life. It’s not because I sit around all day dreaming about my children or wishing they were at my side. And no, it’s not because I am jealous of their lives or wish to exert control over them.

It’s just that mother love is so different from any other kind of love. It’s unique in that it stays strong and deep and doesn’t really evolve. It just is. In every person’s life.. mates, friends and others come and go.. but a mother is tied physically and emotionally to her child in a way that creates an impenetrable bond for her. It doesn’t matter who else is around or who else they love, a mother will almost always experience this ongoing depth of feeling for her son or daughter.

I know of mothers who don’t feel this way. They have children, they raise them.. and they even love them. They just aren’t attached to them. Sometimes mothering just doesn’t ‘take’ with certain women.

But I’m not talking about them. I think they represent a relatively small sector of the maternal population. Most of us are crazy in love with our kids.

A mother can be, and often is.. a child’s best friend, even a confidant. But her offspring will evolve, grow.. and develop other lasting and meaningful relationships–usually with a spouse and children. Once again, it’s right and good.. and you rejoice and then you cry because your child never feels the attachment like you feel it-at least they don’t feel it for you.

It’s sort of like having a crush on a rock star you never outgrow and that is never fulfilled. You have to learn to live with it.

I believe grown children love their parents in new and different ways. They begin to finally understand the cycle. Daughters in turn will get to experience that fierce mother love.. that longing and intensity for another person who can never return it in just that way.

Oye, the emotion.


Terror has eight legs

During a lull on Oprah tonight I went to tidy up the kitchen.. and in a peripheral glance I saw something scuttle across the floor. My heart stopped as it always does under such circumstances.. especially this time of year when one can expect to see an occasional ‘big one.’ It wasn’t as huge as some I’ve seen, but large enough to induce the paralysis that settles over me when I catch a glimpse of one of these bad boys.

Spiders and I have a checkered past. No, that’s not true.. there’s nothing checkered about it. It’s been all bad. Tonight, alone in the house with no one else to take care of the dreaded eradication, I got mad. This is my first instinct. “What do you think you’re doing here??” I say to no one in particular. ” This is my house! No! You don’t belong here!” I feel my blood start to boil. Scared and mad.. that’s how I get. Granted, it’s an overreaction– but oh, well.

In the past I’ve resorted to any sort of aerosol.. which seems to slow an arachnid enough to really do some damage. Tonight the closest thing was cooking spray. I grabbed it. Spiders really hate spray of any kind.. and with good reason–it usually kills them.

The spray cornered this big guy.. then.. it crawled up under the cabinet (shudder). I ran to the garage and got the hard stuff.. Raid. I sprayed up under the cupboard.. again and again. I haven’t seen it since.. and I’ve spent the remainder of the evening checking the surrounding area.. and anywhere remotely close to my bed. Nothing. I sincerely hope that its sticky, rotting carcass is plastered to the cabinet’s underside. This spider’s notable absence from his family and friends should serve as fair warning to any others who may dare enter my domain. They should prepare to die.

Tiny spiders on webs drifting out of nowhere and even those little jumping ones get a free ride around here. But those bigger, beefier, hairier ones get the ax–ASPCA and PETA aside.

People say.. “Oh.. spiders are so useful.. they eat insects, and they are actually quite fascinating to watch.” Great. Let them go watch and sing the praises of these horrifying pests. I’m sorry.. but when I spot a 2 and a half pound creature with long, hairy legs roaming around the place, I prepare for carnage—-his.

Bedding up off the floor? Check. Bed moved away from the curtains? Check. My rapid heartbeat subsiding? Gradually.

Meanwhile, the can of Raid is poised for action. I’m taking no chances.

Abundance vs. Scarcity

I think this particular meditation, though titled something different, is really about practicing generosity.

My friend, The Writer Mama has taken generosity and shaped it into an exquisite art form. Her writing and her life, it seems.. is all about how much she can give away.

It has been my habit, especially in late years, to pull back: Will there be enough? What if I do it wrong? What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t get enough attention? (Ouch.. that one hurts, but it’s true)

This pinched and limited way of being in the world never works long for me–at least not very well. I start feeling stifled, untrue to myself and others and exhausted. Every time I plunge into scarcity mode I view my retreat as protection from hurt or pain. The irony is, a scarcity mentality only brings more hurt and pain, not to mention isolation.

One might think I would learn the lesson I need to one of these times and stop the spiral. I think it’s getting better.

From Christina and others like her, I do continue to learn that putting the focus so wholly on someone else doesn’t diminish me as a woman, a writer, a mom or a human being. In fact, in some cosmic way, it makes me better–much more useful to others and happier than I would be hogging the spotlight for myself. And it’s refining somehow.. even relaxing.. to not have to be the center of the universe all the time.

Oddly enough.. when I’m generous with time, talent, money and ideas–the abundance I gave away–and more–comes back to me. When I employ a death grip hanging onto whatever I’m afraid of losing, I’ll lose it for sure.

I think this is called something–karma, the law of retribution or something else I can’t remember. Whatever it is.. it’s not magic.. it’s real.

I believe it’s in our natures to give, emote, share and nurture. And without trying to sound ‘woo-woo,’ I know this because of experiencing light and wholeness whenever I engage others in this way.

It can be exhausting to give–just like pulling back is. But if it’s done with the right intention, it’s a different kind of tired. It’s the kind that makes you want to get up in the morning and do it all over again the next day, rather than stay in bed with the covers over your head–something I’m sorry to say I’ve practiced a lot.

This is what I know: If we lovingly give away what we have, even if it’s everything we can muster– somehow–and probably in a way we won’t expect–we’ll get it all back in spades.

Waxing: The Facial Frontier

Not long ago, thanks to a salon visit, my face, except for eyelashes and eyebrows, was devoid of hair. It was as smooth as butter. I felt beautiful, desirable and 29 years old again–for about 47 minutes. That’s when those little nibs of hair started to grow back. 47 MINUTES! I guess it could have been a little longer than that, but not much.

Advancing age has made it necessary to regularly exfoliate so I don’t morph into someone resembling veteran actor Ernest Borgnine–or, even worse, Bert from Sesame Street, sporting an unrelenting uni-brow.

Since I turned 40, finding hair in annoying places has become a common occurrence–one I hate.

Today I was thinking about this: Every woman if she lives to be old enough, will most likely experience this lovely phenomenon. First, the little hairs coming out of the chin.. then the eyebrows get shaggy and without sufficient warning grow out of control.. then.. and here’s the kicker.. facial hair starts showing up all over the place–tiny protuberances everywhere that grow into full-blown hairs. Yuck.

That’s right– every woman. That means Halle Berry, Queen Elizabeth, Angelina Jolie, Condoleeza Rice, Miss Universe.. and me. And any other female that doesn’t subscribe to a more simian look and feel.

It comes down to the very real possibility of spending an hour or more every day in front of a mirror with a pair of tweezers–even after a facial wax.

I no longer look at a woman and wonder why “she doesn’t just pluck that thing off her chin.” She’s either taking a stand, is tired of the daily procedure or doesn’t care. Whatever the case I applaud her.

But since unwanted facial hair drives me nuts, I pluck, wax and tweeze with the masses. Waxing hurts, but for the momentary pleasure of experiencing a nubile face on a body that’s, well, not quite ‘all that’ anymore, I do it. And it feels really gooooooood.

Until the next time..