Your dad was a kind man.
...he gave me the room to discover and express myself.
He was a charming, risk taking entrepreneur.
Michael was a magnet for his crucible.
He was steady, solid, a natural peacemaker and diplomat. I cannot recall one moment of anger. Of course that had its drawbacks. But he hated confrontation and had developed an eloquent toolbox to avoid it: encouragement, negotiation, mediation, humor, serenity and cajoling, among others. Did I mention shoulder shrugs and food? Diplomatic white lies? In this regard he was truly a gentleman employer.
Losing a parent at any age can be devastating. My dad left us when I was 17, my brother was 15. I have been collecting memories of him over time, asking many to share their stories of friendship as I plan to organize a memoir, in simple appreciation. This testimony will be something I can pass onto my kids and anyone else who may be interested. For years I struggled with the idea of my father and what happened to me when I placed it next to my own experience of him. The two were not the same.
Turns out my dad had an extraordinary talent for bringing amazing people together. He created an atmosphere of safe collaboration in rehearsals - while being the guy in charge writes one actor. Nobody ever heard him raise his voice or get angry. He built a theater company with a cast of loyal, trustworthy and respectful players. Forty years later, they are still close friends. Now that is a 'family' legacy. Many consider him a positive influence, a real game changer in their careers, a gentle visionary that grew their talent beyond imagination.
When I do the same thing with my mom, juxtapose my idea of her next to my reality, I find a real distinction. Because she is still living and we have been experiencing each other for my entire life, the gap is not so great. When I first realized that my 'idea' of mom was causing me pain, I began to let it go. It took me awhile and it has improved our relationship much. Living in reality is way more rewarding than residing in fantasy. Using my imagination to inspire my steps forward is a useful tool and it can be fun. If I get lost wallowing in it, swimming in my dreams without any action, nothing happens. Literally nothing. Maybe I myself am a "risk taking entrepreneur".
I listened to this podcast on How to Create Conscious Intimacy and I agree wholeheartedly that we all need to grow ourselves up. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/how-to-create-conscious-intimacy-in-your-relationship/id1317823455?i=1000487886473
So now I want to redefine my role as parent.
In a recent coaching session I explored my 'first chapter'. It was an eye opener to say the least and it has changed the way I view myself tremendously.
I chose to be born six weeks early. Meaning my mother did not hold me from birth. Instead I was carried away to the embrace of a clear sided box for warmth and protection. My beginning was hard, a fight of sorts, it can be considered a dramatic entry indeed and it has colored my life greatly. The attention of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurses and my mom holding me through gloved arms delivered the nourishment that carried me forward. Challenge is my birthright. Survival is my game.
And here we are in 2020. Maybe I am built for this? I am not afraid of what is happening now, and it is scary. I am an alchemist. I transmute struggle into opportunity. My courage is forged in the fires of challenge. Although I love to learn and welcome unfamiliar, this year feels like a particular test. Overwhelm is the constant and in this place I am being asked to define myself, again and again. I am shedding parts of me that are no longer necessary. I enjoy lightening my load. I am a generator as well: a natural guide, an intuitive mother a creative soul.
Being a mom is something I always wanted and it eventually became something I needed. I know I was attracted early on to the 'caring for another' bit. Some of us are wired for nurturing. My dolls were lucky. It soon became my outward expression, I would call others toward me so I could feed them in some way. Doing for others was a big part of my existence for a long time.
And I had no idea, really, what being a mom would entail. The 'caring' part of parenting for me is actually such a small piece of the relationship. It is fundamental in the beginning, no doubt. Babies are a full time job of attentive giving. Everything changes when they begin to think and do for themselves. We begin to share the space of our relationship, their budding personalities activate and demand. I took everything personally back then, which only increased my confusion. I distinctly remember the tug of keeping up appearances and how messy it got as my marriage fell apart. Juggling, maniacally.
What surprises me the most now, after a decade plus of parenting, is my courage to face the truth. Here we are living in a world of prescriptions and it is the last thing any of us need. In my opinion, I have lost my innocence and my curiosity. I have been listening to others tell me what to do because I have been consumed with the notion that I am supposed to fit in, be normal and succeed according to society's terms. I am watching my kids every single day and I don't envy them. Exponential comes to mind. Nothing is as it was 40 years ago. So much has changed. Drugs are no longer mellow avenues for exploration, they are killers. Our current measures for success are unattainable. We are in the midst of a major overhaul, a massive re-invention. We are upside down while living through it. Unbelievable. Not many of us could have ever imagined what is actually happening in our world today.
As a parent, one in particular who aims to listen to her children, I have slipped down many a rabbit hole as I believed what I was being told. I wonder often if denial has a hand in this? Especially when I hear "Mom, why do you always assume the worst" or "Why can't you trust me"? In these moments I completely value the questions. And this is what I know, my body tells me, in my gut I know something is off. Right then and there I get stuck because nothing I say will translate intellectually/rationally. How much weight does "Just because I know" carry? And then the lovely words from their mouths flow: "That is so unfair" and "You make no sense." I have bellowed often how they can make their own choices later, when they move out! That while they live with me, under my roof, I can be open to suggestion but I get final say. This sounds great on paper, I know. It is a roller coaster ride in living practice. But I hold it close, through the challenges, as it is the best thing I've got at the moment. I suppose they know my game.
Maintaining a space where we can co-exist as our authentic selves is really appealing. As well as enjoy each other's company. I get to design, as matriarch, our home and all the rules that live here with us. It is my right. It is also necessary for the health and well being of our pod. And as much as I know this, I am reflecting here that it is really hard to do. I see two major parts: 1. Vision and 2. Participation. The details of my design are specific to what I think we need, they do not necessarily fit into the larger culture around us. Owning this with confidence can feel fleeting. 2. Getting my kids on board is a similar situation in that a lot of what they want comes from an inherent desire to mimic what their friends experience. While setting ourselves apart and defining our base of operations, we all feel like I am dropping a hammer. At every family meeting I repeat: "This is the structure we are going to operate with for now. We can discuss revision later, as needed." I am a broken record.
It has taken me a long while to cultivate the words "No, not for me" with a strong sense of acceptance toward both parties. This line from Charlie Chaplin says it well: As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is Authenticity.
The greatest news is everything changes. What works for me today may not work for me tomorrow. I find comfort in this. I am a growing reality. Manifesting, encouraging, releasing, and inventing, to name a few. If I look at the words "everything comes and goes" I can feel the power I have to ride the wave, paddle out for more or rest on the beach. It really comes down to this, what do I choose for myself in any given moment? I want to be true to myself first and foremost, this demands space and deep listening. I want to hold my children as beautiful beings, filled with their own insights and resources as they prepare themselves for flight. What I know is this, I am here. Attaching myself to other does not serve. I can care, I can comfort, and I can support most happily. Like a tree, branching out, my sheer existence can serve in multiple ways. My living? It is done for me alone. This is my gift to the world.