Sunday, June 12, 2016

mind the gap ...

This may well be my new mantra.  Mind the gap ...  Originally it was a bit of a laugh between my mother and myself. Our first trip to London -- yikes! -- 37 years ago? We were standing on the subway (er, Tube) platform waiting for a train to pull up when over the loud speaker the very proper and polite voice informed us to Mind the Gap. It was humorous both for the tone (we who were used to the garbled and grating voices of New York City's subway announcers) and for the phrasing.  

Mind the Gap.

It took us a moment to realize what was being referenced was the yawning hole of metal, dirt, grease and rocks. The reality behind this well-mannered warning was: Beware the iron crevasse which will snap your ankle like a twig should you absentmindedly stumble into it.

Now I hear this phrase echoing through my mind as we prepare to pick Cowgirl up from her week away at camp.  I am all kinds of excited and curious to hear about the adventures from her week (target sports, horseback riding, paddle boats, camp-outs - I think I deserve a week of camp!) yet the wise and knowing part of me is well aware of a new reality:  conversation and preteens do not naturally mix.

It seems to me like a cosmic switch has been flipped and my loquacious girl-child has become rather tight-lipped. It feels to me much like seeking the elusive snow leopard: one must be ever vigilant for traces, tracks, a rare gift of sharing words, moments together and/or physical affection.  Connection is not absent; it just has taken on a rarefied and subtle form. Unfortunately, subtly is not my norm.

But I have to learn. There is no choice with a preteen girl. I am discovering my work with horses is preparing me for this new phase of being with my child. If I am too forceful, too direct well ... she will head for the pasture and certainly she is wayyy faster than this menopausal mama.

No, I must become practiced in the art of distracted presence. Turning my attention elsewhere, being engaged with other aspects of my life while leaving open space for her to wander over. As a proverbial dog with a bone, I have to relax my grip on things and learn how to shift quickly when opportunity (by which I mean a determined girl-child) presents itself. 

Mind the gap. Transitions do not come naturally to me. I am a creature of habit, of focused practice and plodding forward, to hell with gaps or walls or twisting paths. But precisely because of this deficiency, life presents me an opportunity to hone this skill.  Being spacious, present, alert but relaxed. Not pushing, not forcing and leaning into trust. Trust in myself, in the foundations we have already put down for our Cowgirl, and trust in her.

Looking to create a cheat sheet for myself, I turned to the Tarot.  The cards, the images help stir things up to give me a new perspective, a fresh way of thinking about things. 

What is the current situation? Six of Swords. Setting sail, a new journey, a new phase in our relationship. Carrying the swords, the beliefs, the ideas we have amassed thus far in our relationship and taking them into new territory.  We are not on solid ground right now, but rocking waters of emotions. Both her preteen self and me in the depths of menopause. Emotions can be connection but they can also bring about turmoil. I need to draw upon all my practice to help me guide us to the other shore.

What is the issue? Six of Pentacles. Funny, I think of sixes as offering a moment of pause, a kind of comma in the flow of life. This image asks me to consider how my actions may appear to my child? Do I stand on high magnanimously offering gifts to her? Does our relationship feel like an imbalance in power? I remember my tween and teen years and certainly I felt frustrated by my sense of powerlessness over my life. If this is how my girl feels? Or conversely, am I putting myself in a position of begging for her attention, her acknowledgement or her gratitude? A powerful image for me to keep in mind.

What is the solution?  Yikes, the dreaded Threes of Swords!  Yet I remember from other decks that this card shows a heart pierced by the swords but not bleeding. Here the offering of roses lies rejected on the ground. The young woman walks reluctantly away from the man, yet pinned to her cloak is a single red rose.  Now is a time when my efforts, my offerings probably will go rejected but I know she is moving through a journey of self-discovery and individuation. It can be a cold and mournful process but it is a necessary stage. She may head off but I can wait. I will wait. I know she carries with her all my love and I know deep down she knows this to be true.

And just to be sure, I drew one more card for clarification: The High Priestess. Well, okay and thank you! Access the source of deeper knowing, trust and strength.  And look at those moon cycles? Just like a mother-daughter relationship moving in and out of fullness.

Before leaving for camp, I slipped into my pocket the note my girl handed to me one night when she was supposed to be in bed. Carrying a tangible reminder of The Truth lest a grumpy and eye-rolling girl is waiting for me. (And isn't she always lurking somewhere?) No matter what we say, no matter how we react to each other, there is a solid foundation of Love which we can return to again and again. We just have to remember. I also drew one final card ...

Of course. Here's how I choose to think of The Gap and a way to face it: arms outstretched, a confident smile on my face echoing the smile in my heart. Mothering is the ultimate of adventures, beckoning me onward and inviting me to travel light.

Have you seen the snow leopard?
No! Isn't that wonderful?
- Peter Matthiessen, "The Snow Leopard"   


  1. So many transitions. A brilliant time for your girl stretching her wings and finding her boundaries. I know its hard, SH is going through the transition of being mobile and not wanting to cuddle anymore. This too shall pass. xo

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