Reading this article this morning (Dear Motherhood, I miss me), it strikes me how painful this idea is, of ourselves, the ‘me’ being a person that was in the past, ‘before motherhood’ or the feeling that we will ‘get back to…’ feeling or being a certain way, or perhaps in time we might evolve to be… whatever.
For me, this is where yoga and mindfulness are so important: letting go of the past and not projecting into the future. Sure, motherhood can be all these things, described in the article – isolating, hard, thankless, joyful, overwhelming… – and it’s vital we talk about it with frankness and compassion (this is why I et up UMEmamas as a support network for parents) but if you hang on to a sense of identity that is based on where you have been, a feeling of being defined by your career, say, or being seen as a certain kind of person (parent or not), there is an inevitable sense of suffering, of loss.
We can feel this with age, too, that sense of ‘missing’ our youth, perhaps feeling regretful for the passage of time, opportunities now past, bodies changed, friends lost… but all this is futile because we can’t go back. Just as the teenager who tries to appear older, or the toddler who tantrums at their inability to perform some physical task or control what’s for dinner, cannot speed up time.
It is not that that this sense of loss isn’t very real and that we can’t experience these feelings, more that if we attach to this fixed identity, we can’t see or be what is present. Why is the ‘me’ as a mother, in my pyjamas with unbrushed hair and milk sick down my back, listening and responding to my child at three in the morning, less valid than the ‘me’ on the mat, engaged and present, listening to the gradual opening of my shoulder or feeling my feet settling, my breath flowing; or the me in a business meeting, dazzling a room full of people with my intellect and ideas?
This is a constant, whether we are parents or not, the practise of letting go of our attachments to being perceived in a particular way we prefer or like less, to our anxieties, to our sense of a fixed self.
At this time, interestingly, I am coming to this feeling of shifting identity as a mother at the point where my youngest has started school: as I leave her, my last child, and walk back through world with no small hand to hold, no clear indicator to the outside world that this very important aspect of ‘me’ even exists, I find myself noticing the sadness, the feeling of loss at no longer being part of this world, but at the same point recognising that this isn’t more or less ‘me’, just different, time and context evolving, experience moving with time and space.
Life is painful, sad, tiring, boring, frustrating, beautiful, inspiring, frightening… (add in every/any adjective), and we all have the full spectrum of physical and emotional experiences. The art to peace, just being, self-acceptance, comes in recognising all this, holding it equally, and quietly observing that, just as the breath flow, the sea follows the tides, or the clouds move through the sky, it is all equal, all held, and all loved.
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