I know I am an adult now that I can actually afford to donate money to my alma mater. This means I get anywhere upwards of 3 to 4 emails a day from them telling me about the latest webinar, donation plea, book, speaker, etc. Today, I got, “Do you know the signs of complicated grief?”
If I weren’t crying, I would get a good chuckle out of it. I would see through the tears and know that, this will pass and in a little bit, my boys will be home and I will be just fine. I will be calm and cheerful and curious and hopeful as I listen. But right now, the depth of my sadness is at odds with my usual resolute demeanor. So, I need to rip the band-aid off and just let it breathe.
I miss saying the word “Mom.” Just to call it out into the universe, to say it out loud, to say it with a period at the end of it. There was no time in my consciousness that I took saying that for granted. I can still recall the moments when I was contemplating the transition from “Mommy” to “Mom” and even tried out “Mother” for a while. It is this rare moment now that hearing it said to me does not scab over or harden that tender sore spot.
It’s complicated. It is so complicated. But, I find myself in a state of envy wondering if it is true labor or just like breathing that such relationships continue regardless of how I might characterize it? Did I not work hard enough? Is grit all it takes? Is that the reward? To say you have a mother…A mother, any mother will do. Or is there a quality to being a mother that everyone has in mind? How are some able to take it all without discretion and others find that impossible? I wanted to be the former and was for a very very long time. Until…
Ellen Burstyn said, “Mother is a verb…you become the noun by doing the verb.” Am I a noun yet when no noun is there in my vocabulary? If I don’t have that noun, then do I lose any credibility or faith that I can earn it? Does one build on the other? Every book I read on attachment, bonding and parenting writes about the mother-child relationship. And when you read the books of pathology and dysfunction it sure feels like it all boils down to “mother.” That relationship is THE foundation of a good one, the root of it’s evil. It’s so complicated.
Always creative, other mother figures stand in and contain me. But when those are so temporary and even more conditional, I am reminded once again that I must not take them for granted either. After all, they are mothers to others and that seems to go just fine. So I try “cafeteria style”. It feels more accurate to live by – take what you want, leave what you don’t. I cannot be so casual with such specialness as a mothering relationship though. So, I feel betrayed and floundering questioning again, if “mom” is not there, can I do it on my own? Are my feet under me and will they keep me going?
There is no path of correct grief, but losing “mother” in my repertoire of daily words can feel liberating, peaceful, independent, strong and yet so wildly circuitous, scary and at times just sad. It feels pretentious to say grief never ends, but it can be so unpredictable at times that it feels like you must cut it off, to end it abruptly just so living can happen. So, when it comes thundering down, demanding to be acknowledged, I acquiesce. This too will pass.