Monday, April 2, 2012

lullaby lessons

This has been on my mind all weekend long (be sure to watch to the very end):

Written for her son, the singer - Shara Worden - expresses the immensity and depth of her love both through the lyrics and through an aching tenderness in what was an impromptu performance in a cafe the morning after a concert.

It is the clarity and intensity of the emotions which initially hooked me. This is the power of love that repeatedly bowls me over on a daily basis. Before becoming a mother, I would bristle whenever anyone would tell me love for one's child is a love different from any other kind. I find myself holding back from making the same proclamation, but this has been my experience. The love I feel for my child is a wholly different kind of love than any I have yet to experienced. Dare I say, for me it comes closest to what I imagine holy or divine love to be.

I have to provide some context. For most of my married life, I was not sure I would become a parent. It seemed to be the one subject the Husband I rarely addressed head on. We seemed to operate on the assumption that children would be a natural development in our relationship, but just not now.

As "not now" seemed to stretch out indefinitely, a creeping awareness was that perhaps we had waited too long. That rather than making a decision, we let indecision choose for us. When pressed, the Husband conceded that the one whose life would be most impacted would be mine and that the ultimate yea or nay really rested upon my shoulders.

I resented what seemed like an easy out on his part - "you decide" - but I also knew in reality my life would be the one most dramatically effected. Up to then, I required large chunks of time to myself to recharge my batteries. I had a steady and regular yoga and spiritual practice to which I devoted 2 hours a day. I taught a number of classes and traveled regularly for workshops and training. Besides fearing the loss of my lifestyle, I feared the loss of the very self I had so assiduously worked to healed and bolster. I had found my path, hadn't I? Wouldn't a child be a major detour?

All these fears bubbled below the surface of the usual concerns regarding raising a child and providing for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I didn't want to mess up another person! But my real fears came pouring out of me in a most unexpected way. Sharing a cup a tea with a new friend during a yoga retreat at Kripalu, she asked me if I wanted to have children. Rather than the usual vague response, I wailed "I don't know!"

What that friend knew (and later she became my mentor) was that becoming a mother would deepen my practice; in fact it would become my greatest spiritual teacher. The love evoked by my child has taken me into depths of myself that I don't believe I could have accessed any other way. Perhaps it is the motivation to want to be my very best for her, to learn these lessons so that I may model a more empowered and healthier way of living for her.

Or perhaps it is simply experiencing a love that challenges me on so many levels? I think the decision to become a parent is so monumental and frightening is because truly there is no going back. Even in marriage, there is a safety value in knowing separation is a possibility. For good or bad, we can change our mind, undo the choice. Much of my life has this aspect of change available to it. Not so parenting.

The moment I became a mother, I became one for life. I'm not sure if this is the same for fathers. When I broke my neck, my mother stayed with us in our tiny apartment, sleeping on a futon on the floor for an entire month. My mother is 87 years old now and even though aspects of our relationship have shifted - I call and worried about where she is when she doesn't answer the phone - she is still my mother and her presence and her love soothe and center me.

Comfort and care are at the heart of a lullaby. When Cowgirl was very little, I would play for her CDs of folk lullabies from around the world. I couldn't understand the words, but the songs never failed to provoke some tears and a strange yearning aching feeling in my heart.

This seems to be the nature of lullabies - while acknowledging the dangers or the pain or the hardships of life, the songs promise protection or relief through love. "You're okay" the singer repeats over and over. But what I realize is as she sings to comfort her son, she is also singing to reassure herself. "You're okay ... you're okay ..." It is like a mantra.

One of my favorite pictures taken by my dear friend, Diana.
Our girls were wading in a stream when Cowgirl slipped and fell in,
getting completely soaked in the process.
As I held her, neither of us knew we were being photographed.

And that reassurance, that confirmation that "you're okay" and "I'm okay" lies at the heart of my mothering experience. I may yearn to protect and safeguard my child, to instill in her the knowledge that she is and will be okay, that she just needs to trust and belief in herself, that she is deeply loved and witnessed and always will be, but what I discover is I am learning that for myself.

This is how mothering has become my teacher, my practice. It has not taken me off course but lead me straight into the heart of my deepest lessons. As I experience this love that seems to know no bounds, I begin to understand that this same love has been available to me my entire life. First given to me by my mother, then my daughter, and now to myself. In the shelter of all this love, I discover I can open myself up to the love of the Universe and the gifts of this life. In love, all will be okay. Hard, challenging, overwhelming but still okay. I trust that now.

(I found The Brightest Diamond video on the blog of Julie Daley. Her essay on the feminine as it pertains to this piece is stunning and her writing is truly inspiring and thought-provoking.)


  1. Thank you for opening your heart and pouring its contents into this post. It is exactly what I needed to read, my sweet oracle.

    I love you Lis. And I love that precious Cowgirl.

    BIG Hugs,

  2. oh lis. yes. this. exactly. all of it. each and every morsel. how you put it so beautifully. in a way i can't imagine ever doing.
    it tugs on my heart. my head nods yes yes and yes again. tears form in my eyes as deep recognition of my own experience.
    brilliant writing lis.
    love you my sister.

  3. Lis, your words are exquisite. You capture that heartache of love, or what my teacher speaks of when he says that real love is bittersweet. I'm so glad the lullaby made its way to you so that I could read these gorgeous words from your deep heart.

  4. tear-clog in my throat. just as well i can type and don't have to speak.

    as crazy as this rollercoaster of Motherhood is for me...i know without a shadow of a doubt that i never would have made the leaps and pushed the boundaries that i have, if not for my children. they inspire me to be more and better...i thought i was doing it for them but it turns out i get to do it for me, too.

    so have such a way of distilling these deep entanglements into sensible and coherent concepts...without ever losing the beauty that the entanglements are....


    i am SO honoured to call myself your friend...


  5. I am weeping with the memory of this song in my ears and with the photo of you and cowgirl. Nothing prepared me for how I feel about my son. I often feel as if I will never be OK again with the images of how he will make his way in the world. And this school year, being particularly tough, there have been so many injustices to swallow and lessons to learn. Sometimes lessons don't make people stronger, they break a piece of them. But I know that allowing Spirit to work its way is more important and effective than anything I can do. I must remind myself to breathe regularly.

  6. Cowgirl is so very blessed to have you as her mother-
    Mothering is such a sacred act and GIFT!

  7. I LOVE that picture of you two. I hear you on the "Your'e ok" "I'm ok"... ;)

  8. I cried for 10 minutes after reading this. You put into words exactly how I feel but could never express. You do that so often. Feel like being my mentor? :)

  9. beautiful
    all of it

    love and light

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this and for your postcard, which meant the world to me! :) I can relate on every level and love reading what it's like on the other side :) Like you, I'm the one with "the clock" and have to make the ultimate decision, and I'm the one whose life is going to be most impacted. And I don't want to mess up another person and don't know if I am fit (ack!) - I also seem to require alone time to recharge my batteries. I wish I came with a manual so I would know what to do :)

    The hardest part to me seems to be the work-life balance thing. The 8-5 world doesn't seem to make many allowances for moms. I figure I will have to invent my own type of work or do some negotiating, but it makes me sad that it isn't commonplace to have flexibility built in to our traditional working environments. I hope this changes.

    Thanks for the moral support and the encouragement to go for it - I appreciate it more than you can imagine :)
    xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox ((((love))))