Something is shifting in me. It’s as if a new island is forming from volcanic eruptions of suffering. I’m birthing something beautiful from past mistakes, and it feels really good. It’s the realization and allowing of autonomy. I can only best describe it through the vignettes below.
She’s here today for her annual physical checkup. In addition to our discussion about certain labs, procedures, vaccinations, and radiographic studies that are due for her age and health risk factors, she tells me she suffers from headaches. My questions are like shovels excavating for the deepest treasure, the deepest truth I can find in her. I learn that she wants to be found, and feels buried alive by the weight of her son’s illness, her husband’s habits, her daughter’s transition to college. She’d like to take a breath of fresh air for herself, but isn’t sure how to anymore.
We begin to discuss therapy for her. She quickly deflects the idea as if it, too is just another means to an end she does not want to reach. She’s tired of therapy, therapy for her son, her husband. And where the hell have all these sessions gotten her? More sedated, stoic, set in her ways. I’m listening carefully. Instead of pushing my own agenda on her like others have, I ask what self-care might look like for her. After a thoughtful, introspective pause, there’s a spark in her stony black eyes. “Yoga”, she whispers. “I used to love yoga.”
In our last few minutes together, we explore where she’s been buried for some time, and how she might dig her way out. My questions might be shovels, but I am confident that her first breath of fresh air, her head and neck stretching like a giraffe to reach the highest leaves and buds of trees close to Heaven, will be accomplished by the grace of her own effort.
Each day I ask if she has remembered to wear deodorant, wash her face, wear sunscreen, etc. The annoyance and hurt in her voice is almost always predictable – a slingshot aimed at fighting back with a prolonged, “YEEEESSSS, MOOOOMMMM” to make sure it reaches and hits my heart hard. Ouch! I’m only reminding you because I care. But what’s really underneath all this nagging and need for control?
As a tween myself, I was uber conscious about physical appearances, including dress and hygiene. When you’re the ethnic minority in middle school and junior high, it’s easy to be the target of racial slurs and meaningless taunts for silly things. I mean, did it really matter that my clothes came from National or Kmart when other girls’ clothes were tattooed in designer Guess or Esprit?
What if someone notices my daughter’s BO, the zits on her face, or other spots on her skin? Will she still be liked, invited to birthday parties, and feel like school is just another home away from home? Will her ‘friends’ be the perch supporting her as she flies to new heights of adolescent discovery - academic, social, and extracurricular geographies she has never explored before?
One evening I come home from work as my daughter steps out of the shower. Wrapped in a soft pink terrycloth robe with dripping hair the scent of a spring garden, she runs to give me a sweet and snug hug. I can hardly believe that this tall and slender ten-and-a-half-year-old girl grew from the chubby, wide-eyed infant I held in my arms not so long ago. I don’t ask about her swimming play date with a friend: whether she remembered to pack her goggles, lather her body in sunscreen prior to taking a dip in the pool, or even if she washed her face with the acne facial cleanser I bought for her months back.
We simply stand there for a few moments locked in a tender embrace as I envision the future. A young bird flies and falls, rising again and again to understand what the phrase The sky’s the limit means to her. Feathers ruffled from the potential dangers of falling, her mother watches from the nest. But she trusts Mother Earth and Father Sky to hold her daughter as they have held her all these years. "May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face. And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars." (George Jung)
opening a hand
releasing expectations, plans
ideas of who i am
silence fills the space
whispering my name
through waves of breath
voices of all beings
echo through this heart
till only one remains
Relationships are becoming less about what I want from others and more about listening for who they really are. When my need to control or manipulate them is motivated by anxiety, it shows. I’m tense; I say and do things I don’t mean; my hands are clenched fists disconnecting from others.
Opening a hand, releasing the tight grip of expectations, plans, ideas of who I am and what I should get, silence fills the space in meditation, whispering my name through waves of breath. I hear the voice of all beings echo through my heart, the need to be heard, the yearning for autonomy, till only one remains.
One clear, collective voice of Love.