A Proposal for Mother’s Day

History of Mother’s Day

As I am wont to do every year at this time, I have been pondering Mother’s Day.

Since my Mom died….  almost ten years ago (how is that possible?) the day has been a hard one for me.  When I look for cards for the other people in my life who have mothered me or my family, I can’t help but feel socked in the gut by mising her.  It’s a hole that I feel all the time, even though I funcion well around it most of the time  But when this day on the calendar comes around I stub my toe on what I am missing over and over and over again.

Pain almost always opens the doorway to empathy for others if we let it.  Feeling the pain of missing my Mom on Mother’s Day opened my eyes to others for whom the day was less than celebratory.  Before long I realized that my friends who were dealing with infertility felt their own empty arms more acutely on this day.  That my friends who had lost babies missed the hand-made cards with crayon and backward letters.  My friends who had chosen not to be mother’s felt de-valued and were reminded again that society inflates motherhood in a way that can make a woman feel invisible if she doesn’t have a child.

I have friends who had difficult relationships with their mothers or who were abandoned by them.  This day stings for them too.  I have friends whose husband’s are deployed and the person who would normally lead the charge in celebrating them isn’t there.

I’ve come to believe that almost any holiday is a double-edged sword for some people, but Mother’s Day seems to be a day which can cut especially deep.

But….  BUT…  Mother’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of women who deserve to be celebrated.  And each year when I’ve felt mopey or expressed the difficulties of the day there was another voice that whispered, “Lighten up!  It’s just a day about appreciating people!  Should the amazing mothers of the world not be appreciated simply because a Hallmark Holiday is painful for several subgroups of people?”

In fact, proposing to do anything but happily celebrate Mother’s Day can actually be pretty controversial.  And that makes sense I guess.  There is a reason “Your Momma” jokes end in fist-fights so often, right?  I learned this the hard way this year when a sharing of my favorite Author’s sentiments on the subject of the difficulty of Mother’s Day rapid cycled into name-calling and anger and “I’ll celebrate Mom’s if I want!” type sentiments.

It took me a while to pinpoint why it was that the defensiveness bothered me so, but finally I did.  I realized that what that communicated to me was that in the name of clinging to the celebration of the day, people were deliberately choosing to overlook the expressed pain of others who struggled with the day.

And that led me to the idea of Support.  Because I don’t know a woman in the world who isn’t in need of support in one way or another.

What if the day wasn’t just a day of Celebration but also a day of Support?

This is what I’m proposing…  for myself at least.

For this Mother’s Day and the ones that follow, I want to focus on honoring and supporting the women in my life.  In my mind, and on my calendars I am going to cross off ‘Mother’s Day’ and make it ‘Support All the Women!’ day.

And to celebrate this auspiciously and personally re-named holiday I am going to do things like…  Bring Ice Cream to the daughters of my dear friend who passed away this year.  Because I know this Mother’s Day is going to hit them hard.

I am going to send cards and flowers and gifts to the women in my family who love me and my babies so well as Mothers and Grammas.

I am going to listen to my friend who speaks out about her choice to be childless and how she finds her highest happiness and feels the most herself because of, not in spite of, that choice.

I am going to celebrate and thank the women around me who give birth to ideas, and beauty, and the affecting of change in the world around me each and every day….  whether or not they have also birthed children.

I am going to enjoy the cards that my babies make and the flowers that they pick for me.  When my husband is home, I will revel in that, and when he isn’t I’ll revel in the love he sends me across the miles.

I am going to reach out to those, who like me, are missing their mother’s.

I am going to reach out to those who I know are battling infertility.  Or who have been pierced by the loss of a child.

I am going to choose to see all the facets of the women in my life and all the ways in which a day focused on the role of Motherhood impacts them.  Because let’s face it, Motherhood is as often villainized as it is venerated.

And I am just going to simply choose love on this day, which has been historically hard for me.  And in doing so, I think I will find the feelings of celebration that I’ve felt so guilty for overshadowing for the last several years.

Women in My Life:  Know this.  I see you.  I appreciate and celebrate you.  I love you.  I want to hear the hard of this day–and others.  I want to celebrate with you the joys that this day brings!  I want to shout out loud all the ways you birth life and ideas and creativity into the world.  I want to weep with you, and laugh with you, and be with you, and SUPPORT you.

Because above all else.  Regardless of choices or life circumstances, we ALL need support, and love, and to be seen right where we are.

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Mrs. S’s Opus

Recently, my high school PE teacher came onto the Facebook scene.  She was THAT teacher.  The one that everybody loved not because she was lenient or “fun” but because she just cared that much.  And she was a PE teacher who made you feel good about yourself even when you sucked at PE  (ask me how I know).  She would wade right into the awkward and hard discussions that you needed to have in High School, but most adults wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.  Everybody wanted her as a confidante and confessor.  And I think that was largely why during my junior year when her co-teacher died (and he could be a whole other post ) , she left teaching and didn’t come back.  It wasn’t just his death, but it was all of the brokeness that she held for all the students who came into her office.  It clean broke her open and she wasn’t sure she could recover from it.  I remember her sitting in the vestibule between the locker room and the gym just weeping the morning after we found out the news.  I remember the vacantness in her eyes and the feeling that something was irreparably shattered.  She kept showing up for us the rest of the year…. but the next year she didn’t come back.

So anyway, she is on Facebook after all of these years and a bunch of us found her immediately–most likely because we’ve all been searching her name and doing low-level stalking to touch base with her.   It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen on the vapid landscape of Facebook, to watch her interacting with former students.  She posted  a profile photo last week in which she is still looking so lovely and young.  And when people said so and someone asked her secret she said, “Well, my dear G, it is the opportunity to choose the outfit, pose, lighting etc. that helps a bunch. It also doesn’t hurt to move early and often, hydrate, sunscreen, have the luxury of working half time, yoga, looking for the good, prayer, hubby that keeps me sane, writing notes to lift others up, give legit compliments, have lovely children and family, oh, and Oil of Olay twice a day. I bet you are sorry you asked, eh?” which I just so stinking loved.

I’m watching all of these people from my past say the same thing, “You have no idea how you changed my life.  You were so kind.  I am different because you cared about me.”  And it’s the poor kids and the kids who had plenty.  It’s the band geeks and the FFA kids.  It’s the special ed. kids and the honor students.  The nerds and the popular kids.  There are names there of people who I have long put on my ‘chronically mean, don’t look back’ list, because they were the villains in my story of high school, that are saying all the same things as the rest of us.   I’m fascinated by that because they needed her just as much (probably more) than the rest of us and she SAW that and GOT it and didn’t put labels on them like I did, and have retained to this day.

That makes me challenge some of those labels and question why I’ve held onto them so long.  Truly those people who were the villains in my high school story were also just awkward teenagers, trying to make sense of the world with hormones and acne and heartache and the margins of our small town crashing in against us all.  My eyes are softer this evening even just considering that.

When she left teaching she went on to work in the university setting doing wellness programs for faculty, I think.  She found a way to balance passion with taking care of herself.  I suspect part of her felt guilty for going.  I suspect that maybe things she went on to pursue never quite lit her up as much as her years in teaching did….  But I also suspect her heart was given the chance to heal and she found gracious space as a result.   She is the kind of person who would push back the darkness in any setting and I have no doubt that she continued to change lives with her authentic and radical kindness.

Mind-blowing really, what kindness can do and how lasting the effects of it can be.  It doesn’t seem to be a power house.  It’s easy to blow off and brush by, but when a person just plain chooses to like you without reservations or labels or judgement, amazing transformation can begin to take place.

I’m watching Mrs. S’s Opus unfold on Facebook, and it’s a glorious melody.  Would that we could all change our corners of the world as she has.

Coming Home

I need to come back to something.

To myself.  To my own voice.  To steadiness.

I feel like I’ve spent the last couple of years thinking that I was finding myself, only to lose myself in something else altogether.  Which sounds really over dramatic, but probably just comes down to the fact that I let myself work too much.

I don’t know how to push the words around right now.  So much of the stories that I am living and walking through aren’t mine to tell.  So much sticks in my throat.

I’m sifting through pieces of me that are less than flattering.  A desire to feel important.  This tendency to unbalance.  Flaws in the ways I relate to people I care about.

And so I find myself coming back to this space where I have thought and wrestled and processed.

I don’t know how to push the words around.  But I hope that maybe this might again be a space where through my words, I will find my way home.