May 9, 2014
The reality of impermanence overtook me this week. My control issues as a mother overwhelmed my heart. Knowing that my 22-year-old daughter would be flying to China today and far out of my reach made my heart clench in my chest. At the same time, my heart was filled with joy for this wonderful opportunity she is living.
The looming departure that would separate us by continents and oceans dominated my consciousness. Fraught with worries and ‘what ifs’, I willed myself to keep moving and helping her prepare to leave. At the same time, it was clear to me that these feelings do not match with my belief system built on faith, trust, and embracing life as it is knowing there is no ultimate control. And yet I am human and I am a mother. Her trip half way around the globe brought existential truth and the reality of impermanence straight to the center of my attention.
At some point, I had a talk with myself. The worry and powerlessness were keeping me from being fully present to her. These emotions were keeping me from enjoying these precious wonderful moments with her. I wanted to breathe her in, hear every word she spoke, and wallow in her joy and excitement. Watching her, I saw a strong, confident, capable woman embarking on her first independent adventure.
This week was an opportunity to absorb her as she is now. She will return home a changed woman as a result of her experiences. My perspective shifted into the gift of this time with her prior to her departure and knowing I will witness her evolution when she returns. It is comforting to have my own adventures in my memory bank to draw from and relate to what my girl is about to step into.
Someone asked recently how this was different from when I went to India five years ago for six weeks. “Very different indeed!” I replied with passion. That was me leaving and taking risks and feeling very much in control. This is her leaving me…and me not having any control or ability to rush to her aid should she need me. I also know the joys and soul stretching moments that traveling brings. The thrill of knowing the new places she would find within herself were countered with the knowing that there will be challenges too. Challenges she will have to handle on her own. Mama lioness protector kicks in here.
When my children were growing up, there were many heart seizing ‘firsts’ that called for me to let go. The first sleep over, dropping them off for three weeks of camp, flying away on trips with grandparents and dropping them off at college. These all seem easy compared to where I stand now. I’ve never considered myself an over protective parent. It has been my intention to raise them to go boldly out into the world. This was just another opportunity to reach inside myself and find the courage to evolve as a parent.
So while I flit around the house…keeping busy with the silliest of chores…I know I am growing too. I am stretching my heart and opening to grace. (Did I mention that this is painful??) There is nothing for me to do but trust and let go. Let her go into her life and keep these worries to myself. After all, this is her adventure, which I refused to cloud with my concerns and constrictions. My adventure is private and within. Someday if she is a mother she will have her own inner adventure of struggling to let go. And maybe she will share it with me realizing that I have already survived that challenge.
These feelings reconciled slowly over the week. The intensity that gripped at me has dissipated and left me open to sharing in her excitement. My parting words to her were not “be careful, keep in touch” yet rather “live large, keep your heart open, and don’t miss a thing.” It felt good to believe in her and trust life while feeling joy and delightful anticipation of the return the new woman she will have become…while appropriately out of my reach.
April 18, 2014
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, – not the absence of fear.
Today I am reflecting on a bumper sticker that reads “Remember Who You Wanted To Be.” It reminds me of the excitement I felt over the discovery of freedom and space to be myself when my marriage ended. With the pressure of working on a relationship and analyzing myself intently removed, I could breathe again.
As time moved on, this exhilarating experience lost its luster and I was faced with the task of rediscovering myself in this new life. Without titles and associated responsibilities as my compass, who was I now?
My life had been a process of self-creation starting with college. For 17 years, I had been highly influenced by my family and their traditional roles. In college, I discovered my wilder earthier side. From preacher’s kid to hippy, I ran wild and free intoxicated with the realization that I could discover myself and grow into whoever I wanted to be in this life. Psychedelics were helpful in this pursuit.
So how would I recapture that sense of adventure in order to create any life I chose for myself? How to feel 20-ish rather than cautious mid-40ish? I was determined to rebirth that youthful spark of fearlessness.
In pursuit of living true courage, I am learning so much. One thing is my worries are born of life experiences that my indestructible 20-year-old self knew nothing about. Life experiences had made impressions on my heart and mind. Maybe that is what I am observing when I see people taking less risk as they grow older; quietly moving into their comfort zone.
I am also learning that it is not about being fearless, it is about pushing through the fear. To stop challenging and discovering myself would be to begin a slow, quiet death. That’s just not my style.
When new challenges come my way, such as surfing, kayaking or waterfall repelling, I can feel myself hesitate. My heart feels grabbed with uncertainty. Then I fortify myself with thoughts of how sad I would be if I missed out on the fun and the thousands of people who have done this before me. Once I am on the board or headed down the waterfall, only joy fills my heart. In these courageous moments, I find my core essence that strengthens me.
There are also other day-to-day times that surprisingly require courage. As an example, even though I have pulled my horse in his trailer many times, the potential for danger is always present in my mind. Some days (for reasons I cannot determine) this is scarier than others. And yet, this is something I love to do. Will I really allow trepidation to get in the way of something that fills my heart completely? No…I will not.
My choice is to either allow these experiences to freeze me up and keep me safely home with my predictable routines or use the wisdom of my life to walk into the adventure of living my dreams even if I am afraid. In these moments I choose to focus on my courage rather than my fear and appreciate myself for doing it. This practice opens my heart rather than constrict it with fear.
This applies to so much, not just the physical adventures I’ve described. Many things in life can invite fear. Making a significant career move, investing time in a dream you’re not sure will work out, going out into the world, speaking your truth, being your authentic, going back to school, risking your heart in love…truly anything where we can cannot predict the outcome. This is living.
I encourage you to follow your heart and not be deterred by the possibility of success or failure…pleasure or pain. Do sports players hesitate before a playoff game reflecting on the pain they will feel if they lose? I doubt it. The only way out is through. Face the fear, name it, own it, and push on.
Is fearlessness wasted on youth? Nope. Let them have it and I’ll keep my wisdom spiced with life experiences. Perhaps the fear keeps me awake and aware of all I have learned. These challenges are educations that stretch and deepen my love of life and self. I choose to be undaunted and live with voracious courage.
What will you do next that has scared you?
What challenges have you that you tackled and survived?
What did you learn about yourself?
Go out there and live wild and free!