Write From The Heart

Musings of an aspiring writer, about life, motherhood and changing the world, one day at a time.

Every year in May, there’s a day set aside for the Hallmark world of being a mother.

 

I think it’s great that there’s a day to celebrate mothers.  There should be.  But this day can be difficult for many mothers and Hallmark doesn’t always reflect the reality of motherhood.

 

Over the years, as both a child and now as a mother, I’ve embraced the love that comes with that day; the handmade cards, the sticky hugs, handprint trinkets and declarations of love and appreciation.  Today, it’s two teenagers who did things for me around the house.  That was the best gift ever.

 

 

But I can’t forget the mothers in war-torn countries, whose main priority today is keeping their children alive and safe.
I think of the mothers who became mothers to children that have severe disabilities, whose main priority is to fight every day for the child who has complicated needs and challenges most of us couldn’t imagine.

 

The mothers standing over hospital beds as their children battle prematurity, or cancer or other illness, or the mothers of children and teenagers who have mental health struggles or addiction or both.  They may be crying in the hallway of a hospital today, only wanting to take their children’s’ pain from them and pleading with God to relieve their child of their suffering  and give it to them instead.

 

I think of the mother’s who grieve their children;  a group that no mother wants to be in, ever.  These mothers  are left standing with their broken hearts in their hands, trying the best they can to put it back together, trying to keep breathing, one day at a time. Knowing that it never will be whole again, because part of their heart has gone forever.

 

Mothers who give up their children for adoption so that those children can have a better life, mothers who adopt those children and give them the love their birth mother so desperately wanted them to have.  Foster mothers and surrogate mothers, who give part of themselves so that those children can have a chance to have more in life. The sacrifice of all these mothers should be remembered on a day like today.

 

Mothers who are still here, who have loved unconditionally their whole lives, but now are old, or frail or have dementia and have forgotten it all.  They now need the mothering that they so lovingly offered you. Remember them. Be gentle with them.

 

Women who long to be mothers and can’t.  Be gentle with them too.

 

Single mothers, who are walking this journey alone.  It’s one of the hardest.  It’s doubting yourself every day,  thinking  that there’s no way you can go on, no way this can be done alone, but you get up the next day anyway and prove that it can. I celebrate them today.

 

Fathers, brothers, sisters and aunts and uncles who take over mothering, when a mother dies.  Doing it willingly, because they know that that child needs them now, more than ever.

 

Motherless mothers.  The ache of a heart today for a mother who has gone on to the next world but who you’d give anything just for her presence, even for a moment.

 

Teachers and nurses who mother by default because a mother isn’t available to nurture.

 

We celebrate all mothers, not just ones that Hallmark depicts.  Because motherhood, in whatever form it takes, is hard my friends.

 

There’s immense joy and pain and guilt.   There’s sacrifice, there’s relentless monotony, frustration and tears.

 

There are nights where you stand over the small bodies of children, or bigger ones, soaking in their scent, filled with guilt that you might be failing at something that society tells us should come easily to us.

 

Mothers standng in their living rooms waiting for their teens to get home safely, or those who take sharp intakes of breath if their phones ring in the night, fearing the worst.

 

Those of us who love our children for who they are, in spite of society  telling them they shouldn’t have that right. We fight alongside those fellow-mothers.

 

Mothers who’ve been separated from their children because of war, or discrimination, or illness, especially those recently who’ve been removed from our country and their families in recent immigration raids.  My heart hurts for those mamas.

 

Mothers who stand at graves or memorial sites today, as they hold it together in front of a world that doesn’t always understand grief and loss the way they should.  There is no break from grief today or any other day.  We can hold them up today. We celebrate their courage and unconditional love.

 

Mothering is universal,. The earth mothers us and we in turn, mother it. We all need to be mothered. The motherless among us can be included in those that need the tenderness their lives has been stripped of through loss. We need our village of mothers, taking turns to provide what we need in that moment.  Grace and beauty are an intricate part of the process.

 

Mothers keep the hope in the world and keep the world going. They are the anchors to which we hitch ourselves and the hope in our future. The sacredness of mothering on every level is what we celebrate today. And every day after it.

 

Mothering is hugs and milestones and little arms around our necks,  It is also sobbing on the bathroom floor at night wondering if you have failed completely.  It is in the tightening of your throat when your child succeeds..  It’s in the flutter of pride and fear as you drive off and leave them on a college campus to figure out how spread their wings without you by their side.  It’s in the sting of a comment that you’re a “terrible mother” from your teen and it’s in the shaky voice that says : “I still need you, Mom.” They are all entwined, these moments, these gifts.

It’s the great moments.  Because they are great.  The celebrations, the milestones, the graduations, the accolades.  All amazing,  But, the ones that make your heart hurt with pride are the moments when they show themselves as caring individuals who do something for someone else. Who  want to make a difference in the world.  When they choose to make the right choice, not the easier one,  When you realize that they’re going to be who they are, with or without you.  That they are fine human beings, not because of you, but despite you.

 

So thank you Hallmark.  For a day to celebrate with cards, treasured handmade gifts and getting out of cooking.  I’ll take it.  But I’ll also take ordinary days, all the others that string together a necklace of history and growth and challenges overcome.  The miracle of motherhood.  Happy Mother’s Day mamas.  Remember you’re all amazing, every single day.

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Your small hand clings,unsure, its warmth in mine. The warmth of your need, juxtaposed with my being needed.

Those big brown searching eyes, like mirrors of my own, so trusting and innocent, as if they are continually seeing the world in color for the very first time, over and over.

The world excites you, you’re on a busy mission to explore every crevice, to ask every question never asked.

To wonder. Endless wondering.

I soak you up, amazed at the miracle that was placed,
just like that, into my life.

Those little arms around my neck at night.The pleas for one more story, prayer or bedtime ritual.The endless pull between my immense love for your beautiful spirit and my own need for air.

Finally, you settle in and I kiss those round cheeks goodnight and smile at  how you fill the spaces in my heart with love, pure love. It just spills from your pores, my little empath, my sweet baby boy.

I blink.

Awaking to this boy, no longer small.

Tall and lean, all arms and legs and feet. Those rapidly growing feet, I can’t keep up with those, they can’t be the feet of my child?

Those round cheeks and chubby wrists, replaced as if in a single breath, by curved cheekbones and an almost unrecognizable air of developing independence.

The subtle claiming of your own space in the world, separate from me, it catches me off guard.

The casual shrugs, the confused glances – the how am I supposed to act now? Like learning the steps to an intricate dance but no one to show you the steps.

The not so subtle looks of pure embarrassment at something I say or do that used to make you run to me with joy

You.

Beautiful yearling. This gazelle-like being of the endless limbs and changing moods, a suddenly complex creature.

This fascinating mixture of child and young man.

We’re learning each other all over, times have changed. We’re practicing new rhythms, unfamiliar, but we will learn.

No longer can I keep you safe from every lurking danger out there and it bruises my heart just a little, every time I practice letting go. The fear of seeing you get hurt. The pain of hurts I’ve already inflicted on your beautiful soul.

Still, I love every piece of you.

In spite of the mumblings, the sometimes hurtful words, the slamming doors, the emotional conversations.

I know we’ll eventually figure this out, the changing roles, the letting go,the learning to trust.

The trusting, not of you, but of myself.

Have I given you enough? You, kind-hearted-sensitive boy who cares so much? Have I hurt your spirit by the things I’ve done unwittingly or the things that, being human, I have failed to do at all?

Beautiful boy, know this.

You are loved immeasurably.

You make me glad to have been gifted with you, to have the honor of being your mother.

All I see when I look at you is a beautiful young man. Becoming, striving, rebelling, feeling deeply. 

But mostly loving.

Always loving.

Forever loved.

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My beautiful children,

I’m writing this to you as you are on the verge of another new school year. I see the mixed feelings emerging, the trepidation, the curiosity and the little glimpses of excitement here and there.

 

Even though you’d never admit it, I think you’re ready to have some routine back in your lives.  I know your summer with me has been far from  perfect and I hope you can forgive me for being preoccupied with other things.

 

Gone are the innocent, sweet days of elementary school, as you venture into your junior year of high school and your second year of middle school. It feels like yesterday that I held tight to your little hands and brought you to your first Kindergarten classrooms, my heart experiencing the fluttering of letting go, just a little.

 

I entrusted you every day to educators,  who would take care of your formal education, in the hope that they would also nurture your spirits and boundless curiosity and the unique human beings that you are..

 

Even though those years marked your educational beginnings in the eyes of society, your true education began the moment you were born.  

You see, all the things you’re learning about at school, although important, are only a tiny part of the whole puzzle. You’re learning  about the world through play, nature, music, art, questioning, pondering, experimenting and reading together to mention but a few, are all part of learning about life.

 

More importantly, becoming aware of and learning to relate to the other human beings that are inhabiting the space around you on our our beautiiul planet.2013-04-27 17.29.40

 

These are the things that really contribute to the people you will become. That is so much more important to me than the facts you’ve absorbed and the grades that have been earned and reflected on a piece of paper. Society values these things, but they are not the only ones that are important.

I’m blessed to have two smart, capable children, who do well in school.

 

But I am more blessed to have two children who question issues, who fiercely debate the rights and wrongs of our world. Who will reach out to a friend in need, write me an encouraging note, hold open doors for strangers, demonstrate again and again by your relentless questions that you are already true thinkers, in a much larger sense than an academic one.

 

You are already aware of the racism, sexism and inequality that exist in our world and you care deeply about becoming people who can change their generation and future generations for the better.

 

 

You are both capable of crying when you feel grief and talk about lost loved ones with no fear of judgement. I love that ability in you both. Being in touch with emotions, good and bad, is something that makes you an authentic person. It also means that you’ll always have something to offer to those who are hurting in some way.

 

Life has taught you about loss early on, but you demonstrate daily that you’ve used that loss to develop compassion for others, reflecting this in your encounters with those that are different in some way. You go out of your way to include and defend them, instead of letting them sit on the sidelines, ignored.

 

I see these qualities in both of you and I smile inside, because if you know this compassion, you’re already half way there to becoming a great person.

 

We live in a frantic, goal driven place and you’re constantly being pushed, to do more, to be more. Just remember that you are enough just the way you are. A GPA might be important to get into college, but it won’t count when it comes to character.

 

Experience has taught me that good character comes from practicing making good choices , doing the right thing even when no one knows or is looking. It’s called integrity and if you’re looking for a major, it would be a great place to start.

 

Travel is education too, it opens your heart and minds to the reality that we will never be finished learning in the true sense of the word.There is a whole world out there besides your own little corner, with cultures that are rich in history and art and people who may be very different from you. You’ve already been lucky enough to be exposed to different places and seen firsthand that not everyone lives with the privileges that are afforded to you. Practice gratitude.

 

Whatever you do with this year and your later lives, live with the goal of doing your best, but more importantly making a difference just by taking your place in the world.  Reach out to the underdog, be gentle with your heart and be generous with your time. Serve others as well as yourselves.

 

Read books. This is something you both do already, but never stop. Books are a journey and experience that will grow your mind and spirit. Breathe them in and challenge yourselves with the ones that are difficult to read. You’ll discover so many little nuggets of knowledge and wisdom from exposing yourselves to a wide repertoire of books. Learn how to write, discovering delicious new words and how to manipulate them into a form of art as you learn.

 

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There are measurable outcomes of knowledge; the ones that teach you to set goals and practice self-discipline. But there is also nature, art, music, and relationship with our fellow human beings, service to others, compassion, and all the other experiences that can’t be measured on a piece of paper with a red pen.

 

You’re always going to be learning, changing, growing, making mistakes, absorbing and improving and practicing life. How you handle these challenges will help define who you’ll eventually become.

 

I’m much more interested in seeing you both find your passions in life and doing what makes you happy. You won’t know what these are yet and you’ll change your mind a thousand times over the next few years.Be patient with yourselves, because, despite what your educators are telling you, there is time.  Life does not come with a defined timetable of where you should be and when. Pay attention to your inner voice and of course, your heart.

 

So as you venture out into another academic year, I’m proud of you both already.

I’m proud that you’ve both learned early that grades are important yes, that doing your best is something you should always aim for, but that it’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle that is life.

 

Know that asking questions and disagreeing with something you’re being taught, is expressing intelligence, not defiance.   As long as you always do it in a respectful way.

 

Make friends that make you feel good about yourself, even if you only have a few. It’s better than having many that don’t make you feel important and special, just as you are.   Make choices that make you feel good and do the right thing, even if others around you are choosing otherwise. Make mistakes (because you will) but learn from them. It will give you practice in using your instincts.

 

Most of all, practice kindness. Stand up for the underdog. Be compassionate to the people who might treat you badly. Don’t be walked over, but keep in mind that sometimes hurting people, hurt people.

 

Life is out there waiting to be lived. Keep your minds and hearts open to the smorgasbord of choices, experiences and lessons. Learn the facts, but live the knowledge.  Remember to include laughter in everything you do.  This is only the beginning.

 

I believe in both of you.

 

I’ll be here too, when the surge if emotions and confusion that emerges in adolescence become just too much to bear. I promise  to be quietly waiting on the sidelines, your biggest cheerleader,  as you stretch your wings and learn to fly.

 

Lastly, never forget that I love you the mostest.  (And that sometimes, it’s quite alright to make up words).

 

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I was considered to be a middle child. Even though there is no real “middle” when there are five children. So, like everything I’ve brought to the table since I arrived on this earth, I was slightly off centre. A sister, eleven months older, a brother thirteen months younger. Two younger siblings a few years after that. So, effectively, I was the middle child. “Irish triplets” and all that.

Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules with middle children, but I do believe they develop certain characteristics that define their role in a big family. Like the filling in a sandwich, they’re important, but not always as noticeable. They add flavor and taste and sometimes spiciness, but they’re often hidden, until you take the first bite.

So, here I was, sandwiched between a very feisty older sister and a very feisty younger brother. Strong personalities both. I was more sensitive and emotional than either of them (they might disagree), but that’s my perception.

I always felt that I didn’t quite fit anywhere and that feeling followed me way into adulthood. It’s not a bad feeling, it’s just an “in between” two places that I’ve embraced more as time has passed.

When two more siblings joined the family, the dynamic didn’t change much for me. There were now three girls and two boys. Somehow, the two boys paired off and my two sisters teamed up, despite the seven year age difference. When my parents weren’t there, either my older sister was left in charge, or much to my chagrin, my younger brother – due to the fact that he was the oldest boy. (And yes, I finally did forgive my parents for overlooking my leadership talents…).

Having no real definable role to play, I became the “floater” in the group. At times I earned the title of troublemaker”. This came from being the one who often rocked the boat and set the family balance off kilter. I was definitely an individual trying hard to strike out in a group of extremely varied and strong personalities.

This perception has changed with time. My desire to strike out as an individual, my constant efforts to fit in, only made me stand out more. I’m sure I earned the title within that context, but, as time has passed, I’ve understood how it emerged and why.

The years went on, the gaps got larger. My older sister and I fought like cat and dog, so she was moved into her own room and my younger sister took her place as my roommate,a situation that didn’t improve the sisterly bonding that had never really had a chance to flourish. I was six years older than she was, in high school and she and I were worlds apart in interests and development. At this point I had some very close friendships of my own, which helped my feelings of isolation. Inside, however, I yearned for a connection with my sisters like friends of mine had with theirs and wanted that more than anything.

My older sister and I were very different, although we did share the same disdain for the Catholic nuns that tortured us daily, but she was an extrovert to my introvert, so we just didn’t have that natural connection shared by many sisters. I think I quietly competed with her, or tried to, although it would take many years to admit that to myself.

As she moved onto university, she found her niche, in the world of music and performing – she was extremely gifted in these and very popular and outgoing, with many friends.
My much quieter self often felt shadowed by her larger than life persona. I never told her this, which to this day I wish I had. I think it have helped her see that I wasn’t threatened by her, was actually terrifically proud of her and admired her, but we just never shared these things or even talked much at all.

She won a scholarship post-college to study music and voice in Germany . I don’t think she ever really knew how deeply sad I was when she left and how much I missed her and worried about her, despite our frequent skirmishes. For me, her moving away took away a part of me that yearned to be her sister in the true sense of the word, to share our hopes and dreams, to let her know how much I admired her for her accomplishments and courage to move so far away into an entirely different culture.

I continued to seek my own path, define my own passions, but often felt lost. My brothers had both found their interests in college and my younger sister had moved on to study ballet at a dance college, not too far from home.

My brothers and myself ran in the same social circles for a while and my sister would join us when she was home. I began to resent this, feeling that hard-earned efforts to
make my own friends and establish my own turf, were being invaded.

Years of sharing everything and never really having my own distinct sense of belonging, in part due to personality and in part being in the middle, brought so much to the surface, a myriad of strong emotions. Emotions like jealousy, insecurity and rivalry that I honestly didn’t even realize existed.

My beautiful, popular, talented sister might take something, that I wrongly assumed belonged to me, and I might lose a part of myself in the process. (That’s what I was feeling, obviously that wasn’t the reality, but the insecure girl inside of me was blinded by jealousy).

For the first time in our lives together, I wrote my little sister a letter, telling her how I really felt. The good, the bad and the ugly. I tapped into the one gift that I knew wouldn’t fail me. I wasn’t a dancer or a musician, but writing had never let me down.

What a gift that turned out to be. We literally sat together, for the first time ever, sister to sister, tears, words and laughter spilling out into the space that honesty had created for us.

I told her how I envied her ability to make friends, her obvious popularity, her amazing dance talent and all the things I’d never said. How I’d felt overshadowed by the talent in our family. She told me how she’d always viewed me as the “smart” one
which totally amazed me, because I never realized she viewed me with any admiration at all.

Our relationship completely transformed that day. We’re both now adult women, with our own sense of self and all those insecurities of our younger years have melted away with the realization that all we have to do right is to love each other. I am nothing but grateful to have two loving, amazing sisters and women in my life, whom I admire and look up to.

Maturity, (well some …) and experience have taught me to appreciate my own gifts and talents and not to constantly be on the defensive at family get togethers. I don’t always succeed and there is always work to be done, but I no longer feel the need to fight for my “place” in the family. I already have one.

Being the filling in the sandwich doesn’t feel so bad anymore. The secret lies in knowing that each part, middle and otherwise, makes its
own contribution to the whole.

Turns out, being the middle child isn’t a bad place to be after all.

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Finally. I’m here. Back in a new writing space, with new intentions. Hopefully, I can use my writing again to help me breathe. Because writing will do that for me. It releases the things that need to be said, to be shared. My heart is at the ready. ❤️