The zen of you & me

I read The zen of you and me: A guide to getting along with just about anyone (2017) by Diane Musho Hamilton.  It started off what I hope to be a year of good and inspiring reading.

Chapter 7, Depth of Feeling, left its mark on me and I wish to remember it without buying this book.  So, I will leave a portion of it here in my blog.

“My mother was a powerful feeler.  I remember sitting with her one afternoon while she looked at an old photograph of her father. She talked about him for an hour.  She must have moved through six or seven distinct emotional states as she gazed at his face.  She expressed tenderness, poignancy, intrigue, impatience, anger, remorse, and love. I wondered which of them was most true.  I concluded in my young mind that all her feelings together meant she loved him.

I was about thirteen at the time, and I remember being impressed with her emotional range.  It was the first time I remember admiring this particular quality in her unique character.  I felt the depth of presence in my mother, something that was real and exposed.  Even though her moods weren’t always pleasant or predictable, I trusted her to feel strongly and to say so.  She brought raw life force into our house, and tenderness, and she was always true to her experience.

My father, on the other hand, was removed from extremes of feeling.  He was friendly, with an easy way about him.  He wasn’t moved by sentimental films; nor did he cringe at the prospect of others’ suffering.  He was straightforward, taking the tender and the painful challenges of being human in stride.  I rarely saw him express anger or indignation.  I only saw him cry one time when a good friend was killed in a trucking accident, and for a moment, he broke down while speaking at the funeral…

…My dad didn’t dwell in emotions, but he wasn’t a robot either.  There was freedom around him, a spaciousness you could count on, and a confidence that we could deal with life without the burden of emotional drama.

For intimacy and emotional closeness, I confided in my mother.  But for straightforward ability to face life as it came, my father was the best.  I wouldn’t want to choose between my mother’s capacity to feel and my father’s ability to ignore intense feelings. It would be like choosing between truth and beauty.” 

This passage opened me to a new level of awareness about myself, my family of origin, and my created family.  This passage describes not only the author’s mother, but it describes me.  And it describes my mother.  And it describes my husband.  We’re nearly a perfect mirror image of the author’s description of her parents.

The author’s beautiful description of her mother’s fluctuating moods and her ability to feel a wide range of emotion had a deep impact on me.  Portraying this trait as a strength and a gift offered comfort to me that maybe I am okay just as I am.  I am used to feeling guilt and shame over my own wide range of emotion and way of experiencing life in a deep way.  All of my life I have viewed the level-headed, unemotional character as ideal and superior.

Being strong feelers means we experience the darkest depths.  It is painful and dramatic and embarrassing sometimes. And on the other side, being strong feelers means we have the capacity to experience great joy, too.  We love deeply.  We contemplate.  We notice and care about the suffering of others. We are the ones to whom “intimacy and emotional closeness” is second nature.

As Jung wrote, “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”  I guess I am like that, too.

Hamilton, D. M. (2017). The zen of you & me: A guide to getting along with just about anyone. Boulder: Shambhala.

 

 

 

Fourteen

Mia turned fourteen on January 10th.  This marks fourteen years since I became a mother for the first time.

Every year since Mia’s birth, I replay the birth almost hour by hour–well, at least the waking hours.  This year was no different in that regard.

This this year, however, was different in another way. When I replayed Mia’s birth this year, I did not feel sad or nostalgic as I have in previous years.

I don’t know why this change occurred. Perhaps it has something to do with the passing of time. Or with the healing process.  Or with the unraveling of the heart that happens when we are deeply in love with our children.  Whatever the reason, I feel acceptance and gratitude for both right now and for what has been.

When Mia was younger,  I was a bit worried about what the teenage years would bring. How would she change? Would she reject me and our family? Many people told me that everything would change, that she would rebel and become self-absorbed in her teenage years.

Deep in my heart, I didn’t really believe that.  Still, I had my doubts at times. I believed that if we were connected when she was a baby and a young child, we would continue to be connected throughout her life.  I believed that if I treated her with respect and authenticity, she would return that to me.

I hope that this belief continues to hold true. So far, it has.

It is hard to describe in words what it has meant to be a mother. I am sure that I share these feelings with mothers and maybe even fathers around the globe and across time. I know I am not unique in this way.  Nonetheless, I feel compelled to express this and to put it into words the best I can.

Being a mother has been the greatest honor of my life.  It is a love unlike any I’ve ever known. The closest love to this is the love I feel for my own mother. It is a deep and primal love. It is unchanged by time and circumstance. It is completely unconditional.

It is a love that has transformed me.

Mia is an incredible human being. She is grounded, confident, kind, honest, compassionate, forgiving, thoughtful, independent, witty, quick to laugh, generous, loyal, humorous, and wise beyond her years.  She has never hit another child, not even her sister.  She is a better human being than I have been in all my life.

And I wonder, how did I deserve this? Out of all the mothers in this world,  how did I get to be hers?

I am unspeakably grateful for, in awe of, and humbled by her.

Happy birthday, Mia.

 

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Laughing on Mia’s birthday