This article was written on May 14th but not posted until today.
I am writing this on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. It also happens to be my first Mother’s Day without her. Earlier today I had an impulse to call my father, to find out how he’s doing on his first Mother’s Day without her – my father, who passed away on February 22ndof this year.
I was brought up short by the realization that there was no Daddy to call. And almost as if for the first time, I felt rocked by the shock waves of a double loss. I took several deep breaths and moved on with my day.
Just a moment ago, I took a break from writing to pull clothes out of the dryer so I could put another load of clothes in. I opened the door and hot air escaped from the dryer, warming my face. Suddenly I flashed back to a memory of my beloved cat Toby, who loved to jump into the dryer and curl up in that cozy space, making his bed amongst the dry, warm clothes that nestled inside (and needed to be folded). I never had the heart to move him. I would leave the door open and find something else to do until he jumped out and moved on to the next adventure. Toby made his transition in January of last year and, once again, I felt his loss almost as if for the first time.
Another shock wave rippled through me, more gently this time.
My cat, my mother, my father…so much loss in 13 months. I once again feel a great emptiness, a feeling that has become very familiar to me during this time, as readers of this blog already know. It is a challenging place from which to write, yet also a sacred one. As my awareness shifts and ignites a new perception, I sense this emptiness not as the absence of something, but as a welcome spaciousness. Within this great space my sadness can be allowed. It can be felt. It can move, ever so gently, at its own pace.
Another shift in awareness, another perception coming to light. I sense this spacious void pulsing with infinite possibility. I know something new is gestating in this space, even though, in this moment, I am directionless.
Directionless, but not paralyzed. I don’t feel paralyzed because, blessedly, I am not in fear. I know that now is not the time for vigorous movement. Now is the time for stillness, especially the stillness of my outer mind, so it doesn’t interfere with the great inner mystery that is orchestrating my next wave of expansion.
Thoughts of my mother surface again. In the years prior to her passing, she, too, experienced one painful loss after another – the death of several dear, close friends, the loss of confidence in her physical body after falling down and breaking her hip, and the move into a small apartment from the one secure and stable home she had ever known, the gracious home she literally brought to life through her dedicated love. Our family home.
I remember how shell-shocked she was by those losses. I remember how she kept focusing on them and despairing over them, and how urgently I wanted her to look for all the good in her life because I wanted her to want to live. I was afraid her focus on loss would create a momentum of loss, because I know that what we focus on is what expands in our lives.
I kept suggesting things to her that I hoped would help her re-engage with life. She would listen politely and agree they were good ideas. Ideas she didn’t act on, or couldn’t act on.
My mother – my dear, loved-beyond-all-measure mother – didn’t recover from those painful experiences. She quietly began to withdraw from this world.
I could tell you the story of her decline from the perspective of that momentum of loss, and how things might have been different if only…if only. If only she could have implemented the wonderful suggestions my sister and brother and father and I made.
But she, like all of us, was on her own journey. She was following her own North Star. So rather than trying to reinvigorate her will to live, she marshaled her will to leave.
In other words, she didn’t do what I wanted her to do.
She didn’t do what I wanted her to do. And all I can do about that, now, is to breathe.
In this moment – in this sacred place of stillness and spaciousness – I see clearly that she did what she wanted to do. What she needed to do. And I am in awe of her immense courage and integrity. She honored herself and her true needs, rather than falsely grasping for a life she didn’t want in order to please anyone else. Including me.
I’ve had this awareness and clarity of understanding before. I’ve also had moments of extreme disorientation unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I have felt lost and alone. I have felt outraged. I have felt wildly guilty of somehow contributing to my mother wanting to leave, rather than wanting to stay. The spaciousness allows all of it to come and go, again and again.
And with each return of the expanded awareness – with each renewed understanding of the perfection of my mother making the choice to honor herself in the most profound of ways – it feels more stable. It feels more real. It feels more true. It even feels comforting.
Another deep breath…and another.
From this place of greater stability and comfort, I am able to recognize a new life challenge without feeling inadequate to the task: it is time for me to let go of the need to feel special. It is time for me to let go of the false belief that I need to be special “enough” for my mother to have wanted to live, or special enough for anything. It is time for me to let go of the deep sense of inadequacy that gave rise to wanting to prove my specialness to begin with.
These are things I have known before, even long before my mother made her transition. I have understood them intellectually, and I’ve used them in my work and in my life to guide me in cultivating genuine self-love rather than relying on others to validate me. My cognitive understanding of the need to let go of being “special enough” has been immensely valuable, and yet not fully mature.
It is maturing now, in this spacious place of infinite patience and possibility. My profound experiences of loss have opened me in a way that allows the cognitive understanding to sink in deeper. I feel it seeping into my bones and deep into other dimensions of my being that I cannot name. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe it’s actually seeping from those other dimensions into this one. That feels closer to the truth.
Another breath, another tiny shift in awareness, another nuance of perception coming to light. I remember years ago, in a precious moment of inspired clarity, I had the realization that, at the level of soul, humility and exaltation are one and the same. That realization is now emerging from my bones as a genuine felt sense, a knowing, even a call to service.
I grasp that true exaltation is embracing how indescribably special I really am. True humility is celebrating that every single one of us is indescribably special, no one person more so than anyone else. And true wisdom is understanding that our specialness does not need to be proven, to ourselves or to each other. It is a given. It is a gift.
It is a gift we are meant to share.
I am beginning to feel the liberation in finally letting go of my false need to be proven special, rather than in merely understanding the need to let it go. Actually, it’s as if Life itself is liberating me from it; I don’t really have to do anything, other than to be aware of what is happening. I am both the liberator and the liberated.
In this vastly expanded place, I can see far more clearly what I’ve always believed to be true: My unique brand of “special” serves others naturally and joyfully when I am unfettered by the need for anyone to validate it.
Even…even my beloved mother.
Another deep breath. And another.
On the next breath I realize, too, that I can allow myself to be more generously served by everyone else’s unique brand of specialness when I am unafraid that they are “better” than I am.
This awakening to deeper truth feels holy and glorious. Yet in all honesty, these words don’t fully reflect the wordless depth of my inner experience. Still, these words are my offering. I hope and trust that, in the paradoxical way of the Universe, what is meaningful to me personally resonates universally with many.
This is, indeed, a sacred time. I am honored to share it with you.
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