Today's post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival celebrating the launch of the second edition of Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering by Amazon bestselling author, Lucy H. Pearce (published by Womancraft Publishing). Today over 40 mothers around the world reflect on the internal journey of motherhood: raw, honest and uncut. To see a list of the other contributors and to win your own copy visit Dreaming Aloud.net
All four of my children, two boys and two girls, ranging from 3 years old to 15, have long hair. I have long hair too. It wasn’t always this way. When my oldest child decided on his 7th birthday that he was going to grow his hair long, something changed in our family, and something changed in me. Eight years later, with my slightly more mindful set of eyes, the length of my children’s hair strangely tells the story of my mothering.
I secretly smiled as my oldest son started growing his hair when he was seven. Despite negative comments from family members and despite often being mistaken for a girl, I admired his determination and strength of spirit; he was not bending to cultural norms. He had a vision for what he wanted for himself and how he wanted to appear in this world. He was teaching me about inner and outer strength of character. Little did he know that he was creating a norm for hair length in our family.
Just around that time, the longer my oldest son’s hair grew, the more I began to notice that my toddler was approaching the time for a first haircut. I avoided heated discussions with my husband who was eager to cut Henry’s long blond curls because he was tired of explaining to people that he was not a girl. I understood his point, but the longer Henry’s hair grew, the more I fiercely protected its length. And the more I protected its length, the more I realized how his hair held innocence, resilience, and mindfulness.
My toddler was showing me all sorts of things about life: how to approach the sea with excitement and wonder, how to create and live in imaginary worlds, and how our inner walk takes longer to practice than our outer one. His hair, so blond, so long, so curly, captured not only his true toddler essence but also said something about my desire to let it be what it is: the more I saw him, the more I saw me. The more I protected his hair length, the more I was protecting that uncultivated, creative me that so longed to be free. He was giving me a lesson in mindfulness: pay attention to embodiment, the here and now, and the beauty and the joy and the real you will surface.
Henry decided to cut his hair just before he was three years old. Despite my sadness in letting go of the length, I knew I needed to allow him to make this small significant decision. It seemed like the timing was right for him (and for me) because our differentiating had already started. It was time for me to let go now.
My two boys, now several years older, still have long hair. I have never told them how much their hair length means to me. They would probably think I am terribly strange. Besides, I wouldn’t want them to think to do things to please me. I love how they don’t care about the cultural norms that attempt to define girls one way, boys another. I love how they embrace their own uncultivated, creative selves by hair style and length. And a deeper part of me believes that their hair length holds spiritual power—a power they possibly don’t even know or understand yet.
As I watch my boys so easily embrace who they are becoming, I wonder if this is the real gift in mothering: they have the potential to teach me to open my eyes and my heart to a wisdom that only passes by example. They live according to their own beat (and hair length). I still fiercely protect their desires and wishes and dreams--and their desire for long hair--and the more I practice this behavior, the more I realize I mother me while I mother them.
There are rare days in life when time seems different, almost heavy and slow like on a hot humid summer's day when the moisture in the air sticks to your skin. Some outside force causes you to stop and wait. You don't want to move. You wait for time to pass. You wait and wait and you wait.
I have felt this on a few occasions: when my body has birthed my babies, sitting with my dying mother, waiting for news about my father while he endures long risky brain surgery, and sometimes I feel this slow out-of-time but strangely more in-time feeling when I travel far distances and I find myself waiting for hours in foreign airports. I am waiting for something to happen, some change to occur. I am waiting for some movement.
All these moments/movements are transitional. My body, my mind, my spirit moves from one place of being to the next. I am aware of the invisible shift within me while the very visible me experiences the extraordinary moments. Are these moments really that extraordinary?
The more aware I become of the slowness of time, and the more I allow myself to give in to its waiting, the more I notice how much I have yet to learn about the art of paying attention.
I am pretty sure that midlife is about map making.
Every time I visit my childhood home I know I am creating an internal map of me that is probably not that different from anyone else's internal map. I have the same desires for love and comfort, integrity and contribution, creative expression and will, as anyone else. I am pretty sure the same type of characters appear in my map as they do in yours, albeit different faces. And, I am pretty sure we are all after soul breath, those sometimes tiny and sometimes deep breaths that help our body, mind, and spirit work together.
Midlife is full of reflection. Who I once was makes me think of who I am now while I search for the me that has never changed. Where I once lived reminds me of old paths and friends, trees and people, who all appear on my map of me. Emotional and physical and mental landscapes appear side by side and on top of each other in my map. Pretty sure they appear that way for you too.
There is another landmark I have been adding to my map: wisdom. I am not sure what its shape is or what it will look like on my map, but I am noticing how I will not be able to go anywhere without it.
Since my mother died a year ago, I am aware of how I want to collect as much wisdom from her generation as possible. Maybe I am just a grieving daughter who misses her Mom. Maybe I wish I would have collected more of her wisdom when she was physically present in my life. Maybe I am just at midlife and that's what we do when we arrive here: we make maps, we make decisions about colours and shapes, we find landmarks that mean something to us, we search for wisdom, and we continue on.
It has been ten years since I've lived near trees. Obviously it has been long enough for me to forget what wind sounds like when it moves through leaves and branches.
All day the wind has been here. All day that gentle wind-blowing sound, hollow and yet full of energy and motion, crashing like a wave, fills the air. Sometimes the wind's song makes me think I am at sea. Sometimes I completely forget the year and am unexpectedly transported back in time to a place where I lived under the canopy of old maples and oaks. Oh yes, now I remember the how the wind needs the trees to sing certain songs.
Trees teach me all sorts of things. Studying the patterns of their winter branches, counting their spring blossoms, finding their summer shade, and collecting their Autumn leaves encourages me to notice and accept the passage of time. But trees also teach me how to play and how to listen. Have a go at playing pickle-in-the-middle with the sun and a cluster of high branches. Or have a good long listen to how the trees work with the wind, accepting graciously wind's powerful energy. Even after all these years, the trees seem surprised by the call of the wind's strength.
The sound of the wind is like no other sound, doing exactly what it is supposed to do: move and breathe and sing through trees, around barley, howling over rolling hills, so that it can finally land somewhere close to you and somewhere close to me.
In the week leading up to moving house, I bought a tent. And in the first week in our new home, I set it up in our back garden. There were loads of things to do--organize the kitchen, the bedrooms, the home education space, the toys, the clothes--but I wanted to make sure my tent was in order and that I knew how to put it up quickly. Just in case.
Just in case a zombie invasion? Just in case peak oil?
Well, no, I like the idea of a portable home. Plain and simple.
And I like the idea of traveling lightly even more. The lighter my load, the more I pass on, the more feasibly it is for me to take a step somewhere else. So I am playing this silent game with myself--how much can I pass on--knowing that as its only player, I am making room for some just in case moment, whether it be a public family event or a more quite inner revelation.
This game encourages me to think about home and houses and how my children will never experience home in the same way I do (my father continues to live in my childhood home). To them it can't be about the structure and space because we have never lived any where for longer than 5 years.
But now I have my tent. It is not exactly ideal, I don't call it home, and I don't know how often we might use it, but the idea of it encourages me to be easy on myself: it is okay that home is more of an emotional landscape for our family than a physical one.
This tent invites me to consider what I value and what I would take along, just in case.
Children's author, Julia Donaldson, writes in her Jack and the Flum Flum Tree about a Granny who gives her grandson Jack a patchwork sack for his seemingly dangerous adventure. In the sack are ordinary things: chewing gum, tent pegs, balloons. He comes to need each item to complete his journey and return home safely to his Gran. His resourcefulness I admire.
What ordinary things do we need? My mind instantly goes for all the practical things: knife, bowl, warm blanket, shelter, food. But what I forget is what is really inside that patchwork sack (made by Gran): time, love, creativity, trust, sense of purpose and meaning.
I used to think that life is about finding home, but today as I started making a patchwork sack for my daughter and started dreaming about making one for myself, I realize that life is about creating home wherever you are and for however long you there. It can be about colours, about qualities, about ideals and about dreams. It can be about space and about emotions.
The real gift of that patchwork sack is its creativity. And the real gift of that tent I bought is that it has given me a new understanding. Roger Deakin writes in Wildwood: "There's more truth about a camp because that is the position we are in. The house represents what we are ourselves would like to be on earth: permanent, here for eternity. But a camp represents the true reality of things: we're just passing through."