Superhero, Savior, Mom

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This is one of my favorite greeting card designs, by Curly Girl. (I also have it in magnet and mug form.) It speaks of a lighthearted confidence, the ability to meet life head-on and Carpe the Heck out of Every Diem. Who doesn’t want to rock with that? I have always known, though, that for me it resonates with something deeper in my psyche and story.

Very early on in this life I found myself overwhelmed and mildly terrified by the swirls of anger, dissatisfaction, ineffective communication, and heavy overlay of unspoken that wound through my family and daily life. My first reaction—the one that is still my first instinctual go-to after 50 years—was to want to Run! Get the Hell out and save myself!  Instinctively, the first time I felt this, I knew it was not an option as I was not yet potty-trained. So instead I learned to be very direct and frequently loud in voicing my own needs (thus hopefully avoiding those “ineffective” and “unspoken” pitfalls); I crafted and honed an ability to see humor in darn-near every situation; and I psychically called on the karmic Warrior/Superhero in my Soul to protect myself and, eventually, those around me.

Yep—I’m a Protector, a Fixer, a Saver. I realize that to the outer eye I look more like an aging cheerleader or a Conservative Suburban Soccer Mom.  (Here insert loud guffaws from everyone who really knows me.) Yeah, that’s a load of fun stories for another time.

What I should look is tired, as I have exerted ginormous amounts of physical and emotional energy over the decades protecting, saving, and attempting futilely to solve the problems of not just myself, but also my husband, my parents as they age, and—most heartrendingly—my children. In direct contradiction, over those same decades, I was coming to believe, to KNOW, that we all have contracts, purposes, destinies; that we all think and believe our own realities for our own reasons. I know that my children are not mine. I not only do not have the power, but I do not have the right, to “protect” them from their Path.

Snort. Chuckle. Gulp. Sob. Here is where Mother Nature/Father Creator jerks us around. Or, from a more enlightened vantage point, expects us to bridge realities. Yes, we are designed and meant to conceive, nourish and grow their mortal body within our own, allowing the budding presence of their Soul to mingle with ours for 40 weeks. We are meant to endure the discomforts and inconveniences of pregnancy with cheerful faith and to push these new Earth Citizens into life painfully and bravely with Maternal Love as the only recompense. We are gifted the deeply primal and primitive protective instinct in order to oversee the safe transitions from infant to child to adolescent to adult. And at each staging area along the way we are asked—expected and commanded—to Let Go, finger by finger, until the child’s hand breaks completely away and we are finally, ultimately reduced and restored to Spectator. Fellow Being.

Well. Whose f’ing brilliant idea was that? Really? Fire the spark of a love that elemental and consuming and expect a woman to allow it to fade down to a glowing but scorching ember in the belly of her being…? Seems a cruel dichotomy to me. But here we are asked to fall back on that “doesn’t make mistakes” concept of Divinity. Or to at least grudgingly acknowledge that it’s a necessarily evil part of The Plan. We signed on for it, and now we must fulfill the contract.

We revel in our glory when we can pick our little one up after a tumble and kiss and bandage the boo-boos away. And that glorious memory must sustain us as we later hold them close while knowing we are not assuaging the bruised feelings and hearts of schoolyard rejections and friendship betrayals; that we are an often-unwanted spectator to the ego-shattering bullying and the heart-ripping first loves and break-aparts; and ultimately that we are an ineffectual and less-than-gloriously mortal tour guide through the minefields of Life Lessons and Natural Consequences. We cannot answer the cries of “Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to hurt so much?” We move our hands helplessly while our heart  strains against our ribs just as their tiny feet once did. Surely our own struggles didn’t hurt so much. How did our own mothers survive this?

And thus is born…a new empathy for those who walked before and in front of us, a new understanding of allowing and being present, the stirrings of both resignation and hope. Because, while we cannot save, we continue to hope. We hope because we must that eventually will be born the person and the purpose our child came here to be. We hope that our once untroubled and joyful babe will hold on and keep striving for joy. They are in control, and we can only watch and love. And still occasionally—because we can—rock a hot cape and a fabulous tiara.

Feel deep and speak true–

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