Mother’s Day is drawing nearer and I’m watching it approach with some trepidation because I’m never quite sure what emotions will hit me on that day. As I was trying to figure out how to feel, I went spelunking for a twitter thread I wrote a few years back that I thought would be a good reminder to put in front of people. (This one) Yet during that dive, I found some things I did not expect, like this post on The Endgame of Motherhood, written by me eight years ago. In that post I was facing my oldest leaving for college and the grief I carried around that life shift. By itself, this post would have been a moment of nostalgia, but the next thing I found was Walking the Spiral, a post written two years later. Those years had been transformational and painful in ways that I hadn’t even imagined when I wrote Endgame of Motherhood. To quote from Walking the Spiral:
2012 was before. It was before all the transitions that our family made stepping all the kids up, one to college, one into high school, one into junior high. It was before my younger daughter had panic attacks. It was before my older son began his long slide into depression. It was before we recovered from that. It was before I discovered that our recovery was a limited one. It was before my younger son also had panic attacks. It was before all the appointments, therapists, doctors, medicine, and meetings. It was before something in me broke, or gave up, or grew too tired. The person who visited the spiral in 2012 could honestly look her depressed son in the eyes and promise him it would get better. The person I was when I returned wondered if that was true. I wondered if I had been lying to him. I knew I had to keep going, taking the right steps, but somehow I’d lost touch with the belief that we could pull out of the emotional mire which kept reclaiming us. We’d seem to be out, but then the troubles would come again. My feet stood at the opening to the spiral. The last time I’d been here was before. I didn’t know why I needed to come again, nor why I wanted to cry at being there. I stepped forward and began to walk…
…Finding and walking the spiral seemed such a silly thing. I still don’t understand how so much meaning got attached to it. Yet in that step out from the open end of the spiral I felt like I’d left some grief behind and took something hope-like with me in its place. The spiral helped me remember that there was a before, and the existence of a before heavily implies that somewhere ahead of me there is an after. I just need to keep wending my way along the path until I get there.
I realized that I have now, eight years after the first post and six years after the second, arrived at the after which I posited must exist if I could just keep moving forward. After took a lot longer to arrive than I would have hoped for, and if anyone had told that me who walked the spiral that she had six years of struggle ahead, it would not have felt like good or hopeful news. And it wouldn’t have been. Even with all I’d been through, the hardest bits were still ahead of that younger me who sought out a spiral without knowing why. Yet here I am, with all four kids still alive and beginning to thrive. And I can see all the ways that progress needed to be slow and steady. The ways that we had try and fail and try again. (and fail again and try again and…) Now I read these words from my eight years ago self who was facing one grief without knowing a multitude was coming for her.
I don’t miss the baby and toddler years, though I enjoyed them while I was in them. Right now is what I will miss. I’m going to miss four at home, two teens two kids, all of them running in different directions, squabbling over the cat, and the incessant sound of video games. This is my heart’s home and just now it feels like I will spend the rest of my life missing home.
I would not trade positions with her for anything. Yes that all-the-kids-at-home time is a treasured memory, but now I get to have all-my-kids-are-adults-and-their-lives-aren’t-my-job-anymore. I loved that stage and I love this stage. There were a lot of things between there and here which were heart wrenchingly difficult, but I wouldn’t trade those away either because most of the best things have happened as a direct result of the hardest things. I have a new heart’s home now, and it is a good place. More than that, I can feel that future heart’s homes exist out there for me. This one is good. The next will be too.
Right now my primary task in relation to motherhood is to make peace with myself about all the things I did and did not do, to find kindness in my heart for the choices made in difficult circumstances. I still have mothering work ahead of me, a role to play in the lives of my adult children. Depending on the long-term needs of my young adults, I may never be an empty nester. Also, they are not the only ones I will nurture, I’ve turned some of my (joyously surplus) mothering energy toward helping other creative people grow. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it is far less intensive than what I’ve been through, for which I am glad.
I still don’t know how I’m going to feel on Sunday, but whatever feeling shows up, I’ll give it a space to exist for a time. Then I’ll move onward.