Friday, January 27, 2012

what am i really holding onto?

One of the more daunting tasks I face on a semi-regular basis is the sorting and clearing of Cowgirl's clutter. Make no mistake about it, this girl's a hoarder-in-training. She has gone through phases of saving bottle caps, the plastic packaging from her Hot Wheels cars, pictures from magazines or newspapers (yes, I created this habit - "Mom, we can put it in my art journal!" Of course little makes it into said journal) and now piles upon piles of cut out dragons, sharks, and monster truck drawings.

And I haven't even gotten to her room and the squirreled away plastic gee gaws masquerading as party favors and "rewards" for Caught Being Good. I find these items in boxes, baskets, in drawers and scattered throughout the many grottos of treasure in her closet. I curse you Oriental Trading Company and your cheap plastic junk!

I have no problems shedding these items - of course I must do my dirty work whilest the girl is at school. So far, she hasn't noticed anything missing. She must have some Squirrel-with-memory-loss as a totem.

No, for me the difficult task is shifting through old clothes and toys. Each little outfit seems to have one memory per stitch and I find myself tucking things back into boxes. I mean, clothes don't take up that much room, right? Toys are a bit easier probably because Cowgirl really didn't have that many toys when she was little. We seemed to have exercised some restraint which now that I think about it, was probably due to the fact that Cowgirl didn't express much interest in specific toys. So I was surprised by my reaction when it came time to part with this item:

This plastic Noah's ark was the very first toy I got for Cowgirl. I bought while we were waiting to receive our referral so I didn't even have a specific child in mind when I picked it out. I think it was the first time I had read online reviews and actively researched this toy deciding it would be the perfect toy for my child. Well, for the child who would become my child.

And there is the clue as to why this little Noah carries so much upon his tiny plastic shoulders: for while this toy does hold memories of early days with Cowgirl, she played with it sporadically and found it far more enjoyable as a target for the many sticky stickers mysteriously deemed appropriate for small children (yes, there were stickers on furniture, car seats, walls ...) than as an object to exercise her imagination.

Weeping as I washed each tiny elephant, leopard and zebra I realized my attachment to this object was due only in a small part to the memories it held about Cowgirl. No, the bulk of its meaning for me centers upon the dreams I held for myself and the kind of mother I hoped I would be and the relationship I would have with my girl. You know, dreams of abundant patience, attention and love; golden afternoons spent baking cookies (I don't bake), playing tea party with stuff animals, dancing, singing and in general just floating happily about my clean, cozy, love-soaked home with my happy child.

We do have wonderful times together painting, playing board games, drinking cocoa, snuggling at night and reading Harry Potter out loud with all the proper voices and accents. But the sense of myself as always confident, always generous and loving with the right words, the right advice and solution to any problem - no, that ghost up and left long ago. Yeah, I bought into the whole Buddha Mom ideal for myself and Noah and his ark full of peaceable animals reminds me of the hope-filled if not naive ideas I so ardently believed in.

Not that I understood all of that as I bravely pushed on, packing up the ark and each animal to send on to a dear friend whose little boy is the appropriate age to enjoy this toy. In the back of my mind I knew I could always change my mind even while waiting in line at the post office to ship it off. I even debated holding onto one pair of animals as a memento but my inability to choose one couple suggested I needed to send the whole lot off.

Once it was mailed off, I felt better. With its absence I came to understand what it really represented and somehow the act of letting it go has allowed me to face what it was I was holding on to but had not confronted. I recognize my ideals for myself as a mother are not going to magically manifest, but require awareness, effort and a willingness to keep trying. If I've learned nothing else from years of yoga practice it is this: there are our aspirations, our intentions and then there is the action of attempting again and again to bring who we are into alignment with who we want to become. And just like any balancing posture, we come into and then fall out of the pose. Perhaps holding it for just a split second which is all we need to have a taste for how such balance feels. But that is all we need to inspire us to try again. And again. And again. Hopefully each time staying in our center a little longer, until it is no longer a practice but a way of being.

And now Noah and his friends have found a new home and my friend's boy apparently loves playing with his new toy. Which means one day my friend will have to face the dilemma: does Noah stay? Or does he go now?


  1. I am struggling VERY MUCH with aligning who I am with who I want to become. I've spent the past three years pregnant pretty much back to back with my first and then second child and struggling to find my way as a new mom. It ain't been easy,lol! Now I feel a need to stand still, take a deep breath and figure out who I am & who I want to be in this new life. Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one struggling to define myself as a mom.

  2. Ah. Love this Lisa. It truly is about the balance. The falling in and out..


  3. ah, sweet beautiful speak for my own mother-soul.

    i, too, had this crazy vision of how it would be and the undoing of that....was almost the undoing of me. finding my balance is a daily practice but it starts with honouring who *i* am and realizing that as long as i'm coming from a place of love and acceptance then i am the mother my children need me to be.

    i may not be the baking-mama, but there is surely something i'm doing that makes them love me so....

    *deep sigh*


  4. Oh my goodness Lis...I'm crying! I don't know what this sparked in me - some yogic realization or some mommy-sympathy, but I GET YOU. I get this. I do. And I'm proud of you for letting go. Keep inspiring me (I need it.)

  5. Oh Lis, you are SUCH a wise woman. I'm certainly not the mother I thought I'd be. (Is anyone?) But holding onto to this vision doesn't serve me. In fact, the comparison between mythical mom and actual mom is one of the prime places I go to get evidence for my "why I suck" book. (it's a long book, and I"m the master of evidence collection). Thanks, thanks, thanks for this post. -Karen

  6. i find myself sifting through similar hopes, dreams, and visions that have urged me to acquire objects when i am in the process of releasing them. we each have the life that we live and the one we imagine ourselves living - somehow they merge on another plane of reality and help define us.

  7. well if you didn't just describe the great urban myth... the mythical mom, good intentions, la la la... and the realities. their is such beauty in accepting it, loving ourselves right where we are, who we are, and honoring ourselves for who we thought we were going to be, all the pieces. love this. love your musings. xoxo

  8. Riley, too, is a hoarder. He had a rip in his pants yesterday and cried when I said we would have to throw them out. Apparently they are his favorite, most comfortable pair...Anyway, we do what we have to do, culling and hiding, waiting for something to be missed and then donating. That is a mother's chore. Sometimes I have been wrong or too hasty - giving away something he had not yet grown into and so now I only get rid of things that I know are beyond his age. If he doesn't see it leaving, or doesn't see me sorting then I have carte blanche. But, oh to be the parent we thought and hoped we would be. This part brought me to tears. But I am evolving in ways I never imagined and try to let go (again - letting go!) of the images I held of the perfection I would live, the perfect, gifted child I would raise. That part is all about "me" whereas parenting needs to have the focus taken off that because it's all about the kids. Because I say so!

  9. Lis - I wept giant mommy tears as I recognized myself and my daughter in your post - this is my journey and I appreciate your drawing on Yoga to understand what we Moms do - and our need to keep trying - to try again and again to find our way to the mommy mat to practice our mommy poses with hearts full of love - for ourselves and our children. thank you so much for this...xoxo

  10. Honoring you as a mother, LIs!And this seems so relevant to gaining clarity. Powerful stuff! I just read the "Once it was mailed off" paragraph 3 times because I could apply it to where I am at right now in relation to my physical health. Thank you-
    Much love-