A MOTHER’S LESSON

My mother passed away last week. Publishing this piece is giving me a deep sense of closure and hope…

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This is all about my mother and me.  About how, by simply following her path, she gave me the push I needed to blossom into my own attractively suitable version of a human being. My life has been swinging like a pendulum: from a shy and withdrawn child to her shy and withdrawn ways, I became a daring and bold young woman eager to conquer the world. I then wore the hat of good wife and mother – proud to be following in her footsteps-  only to emerge at the other side of the experience with an uncontrollable urge to find my own passion. 

My mom was born in 1925 and raised to leave the nest on the arm of a dashing lieutenant clad in army uniform. My parents loved each other. Deeply. My dad’s eyes showed pride and contentment. My mom’s glowed with mirth and excitement. Six children later, they had lost their sparkle between diapers and dirty dishes.  Every new birth delayed her own and her grand-children’s arrivals signaled the end of the dream she never even knew she had. More diapers, more dishes. She did not hear the invitation the universe sends us all sooner or later. She remained prisoner of her ways. Invisible chains of duty. She became my teacher.

I have heard the call of life beyond my children’s cries for more kisses and my husband’s requests for time alone with him. I have an appointment with myself, a precious date I’m not missing. I’m on a journey to find the joy I always sensed was there for the taking and that my mom, even though she loved me dearly, never showed me how to grasp. She surrounded the infant I was with care and attention but the special bond between us was soon tinted with discipline and self restraint. Yes, she told me to be polite in all circumstances. No, she never allowed me to speak up for myself and say ‘not now’, ‘I need’, ‘I want’. Yes, she taught me how to bake, set a nice table, and arrange hors d’oeuvres neatly on a platter. No, she never modeled how to bring laughter, warmth, and a hint of chaos into the house. Yet the unsaid’s secret life force has pushed me forward and brought me to this day. I have traveled in the dark, looked for new ways, and polished the rough stones of my spirit. Today I can speak of who I am and of what I want. What my mother never thought to look for I am finding out for the both of us, for my daughter, and for the next generations of women in our family.

When the silence that surrounded the end of her life threatens to pull me in I remember that it can also be a source of growth and comfort. I have the power to turn away from the picture of her sitting in her room, eyes lost in depression and regrets that she cannot voice. By choosing the cover of sadness and anguish she’s propelled me to face the ultimate challenge of happiness and trust. The soundlessness does not frighten me. I’ve learned to listen to its lessons. If to her it spoke of lost opportunities and past youth, to me, it talks of cherishing the present and climbing to new heights. And I know that my newfound hope will fill the void of all the words we never uttered and that her soul can now hear mine whisper: “ Maman, je t’aime, merci.”

Maryse G. Copans © 2010

 

TICK TOCK…TICK TOCK…

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It’s 10:30pm: do you know where all your clocks are? Count them. Include digital clocks on your computers, CD or DVD players. Don’t forget cell phones. I’ve located a staggering 21 time tracking devices in our family of four! There’s no excuse for not making up for lost time or for being late for an appointment. Oh…I forget: there’s a clock in my car too.  No excuses at all. One more in my husband’s Jeep. Make that 23. Twenty-three reminders that, even though my life is on hold while I heal, time keeps ticking by. A few weeks after the accident, my vestibular therapist told me that I was only at the beginning of my recovery. I refused to believe her. How long could it possibly take? A month? Six? Four years down the road I finally understand what she meant. This is an interminable process. The world is getting its busy business done and I’m trapped in limbo. I’m Odysseus’ Penelope*: I’m trying to hold on what I hold dear while voices all around and inside me demand that I speed up the pace or beg me to move on.

 

Penelope is not very popular these days. Feminists decry her faithfulness to her straying husband. They point at her needlework with contempt and laugh at her unnecessary steadfastness. I used to question her decisions too. Twenty years is a very long time to wait when you have no assurance that what you hope for will ever come true. Unless…

Unless you’re waiting for a beloved part of yourself that’s gone off on a mysterious journey. Sure, when that journey turns out to be a hero’s rough voyage of discovery and growth, it’s easier to turn the other way to distracting tasks or resigned suffering. But that is not what love does. When the going gets tough, tough love endures and keeps the faith. While the hero travels in search of meaning, his counterpart sits still and nurtures their healing. She keeps life’s noise at bay and remains faithful to their ideal of wholeness. She accepts things as they are but never gives up. She waits, unwavering.

 

The trek itself is no fun: storms of doubt and demons of false hopes abound. Some days this endless waiting drives me crazy. Sometimes it makes me cry. If it wasn’t for the sweet promise of coming home to myself I would have given up long ago. If not for my inner Penelope I would believe that my Odysseus is lost at sea. She encourages me to look at the clocks and shrug: what’s another few minutes, another day? Time cannot be lost: my body does its best and my mind is at work; my spirit is growing and my soul watches with pride. Time is my ally, really: it flies and I’m flying along. My life is not in limbo.  Every tick is a witness to my will to get well. Every chime prompts me to love myself here and now while holding the picture of a better tomorrow. Time is not of the essence. Patience is. And trust. Watch me hope around the clocks. All 23 of them. Tick tock. Tick tock.

 *Homer, “The Odyssey”

Maryse G. Copans © 2010