Today was my mother’s birthday. I am constantly thinking about her and her absence and presence in my life but for some reason this morning, I woke up and forgot the day. Then my husband asked me, “What year was your mom born? I’m just trying to think about how old she would be today.” I know it was his way of showing that he acknowledged and understood the importance of the day, but it sort of took me by surprise. It took me by surprise because I couldn’t believe that I had managed to make it through the first hour of my day without realizing that it was “her” day. Of course I’d been staring at the calendar for months knowing exactly what today was, and thinking about what to do on my mother’s birthday, but then felt guilty when I woke up and treated it like any other Sunday morning. Grief can be such a weird thing. Sometimes things can slide right past you and then sometimes, you are smacked in the face with it when you least expect it, even 11 years later.
So, I got the kids ready and we dutifully headed to church (exactly what my mother would have wanted us to do) and as I went through the motions of teaching Sunday school and then sitting through the service I stared out the window, as I often do, looking at her grave, situated in a very picturesque spot on the hill by the stone wall just above the creek that meanders through a beautiful field with the mountains behind it. She loved this place. She loved this church, this town, this countryside and she grew up knowing that she wanted to give back to it. As her daughter, I feel the need and desire to do the same, but to find my own path in terms of doing it. With all of these thoughts of her and me and our legacy on this earth, I found myself getting smacked in the face by my old friend grief yet again.
It’s always awkward when you start to get choked up in a place or time that seems inappropriate. I kept trying to play off that my contact was bothering me. But then I started to think. Who cares? Why shouldn’t I be able to express the fact that I miss my mom and that sometimes I am overcome by emotions when I think of the fact that she will never know what I did with my life or what amazing grandchildren she has. Basically my goal in this life is to continue to do things that would impress her. Whether she is here or not, I constantly make decisions with her in mind. What would my mother expect of me in this situation? I want to create my own legacy but I want to make it one that would make her proud.
This is exactly where my goal to start a community art center comes into play. I want my own children to be proud that I made a difference in our community and in the world. I want to be a great mom who raises smart, independent individuals, but I also want them to see that I did something bigger to make a difference. I want them to learn about service and love of community through me. By taking art, which is my passion, and turning it into something that will make a positive change in this world, hopefully I can do just that.
Cheryl Strayed, whose writing I absolutely worship, wrote about building her life in the obliterated place that she found herself in after losing her mother. These words ring so true to me. This is what she said: The kindest and most meaningful thing anyone ever says to me is: your mother would be proud of you. Finding a way in my grief to become the woman who my mother raised me to be is the most important way I have honored my mother. It has been the greatest salve to my sorrow. The strange and painful truth is that I’m a better person because I lost my mom young. When you say you experience my writing as sacred what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother. Sugar is the temple I built in my obliterated place. I’d give it all back in a snap, but the fact is, my grief taught me things. It showed me shades and hues I couldn’t have otherwise seen. It required me to suffer. It compelled me to reach.
I wrote the previous blog post back in October and maybe because of my crazy schedule, or maybe because of my personal wounds that it might expose, I never shared it. Now it is December and I am caught up in the swirl and cozy chaos that is the Christmas season. This was my mother’s favorite time of year. She made every holiday completely magical and it was her excitement that she shared and instilled in everyone around her that has totally influenced me to be the believer and dreamer and hopeful visionary that I am today. As you know, I had my first wine and painting event on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning as I was dutifully driving my children to church through her landscape of hills and valleys, I thought to myself that my mother would have been so incredibly proud of me. Yet again, I felt the tears well up. I was full of pride but also a feeling of hollow regret that my biggest fan wasn’t there to witness one of the highlights of my path so far.
It is hard to dredge up motivation and excitement when you are alone in a journey or challenge. I don’t think I am the only person who would say that, as a motherless human being, I often feel alone in my journey because I do not have the person who is genetically wired to be my staunchest supporter. My sister and her good friend drove an hour to come to my class and as I started the night, she stood up and asked the group to toast me because she was so proud that I had gotten to this moment. It was pretty humbling and wonderful all at the same time. I could really feel her excitement for me and her pride for the fact that I am finally, actually doing something that I said I would do. These supporters are often rare to find, and when you have them you need to hold onto them and harness their positive support and vibes!! I know that I have a great deal of support out there, but there are a few individuals who really seem interested and excited about my Climb365 journey. It is those individuals ( “elevator” friends, as I like to call them because they always “lift you up”) that I need to remember to keep connected with and to talk to about this entire process. The surprisingly cool thing is that a lot these supporters do not appear in the form of the typical husbands, family members or besties that you would expect. These people might appear just when you need them to send you a quick email expressing their excitement or to give you a push in the right direction; like my cousin who suggested I follow a lead with the Office of Economic Development in our county. Because of her advice and suggestions, I am now involved in a local business incubator program and am working with another woman to start a local Arts Council for our area. Also, the women who came to support me on Saturday night were so thoughtful and amazing and I wholeheartedly appreciate the fact that they did it not only to have fun, but to help me along this crazy and scary journey. Through all of this, I am learning to reach and starting to understand the beauty of what I might find when I do so.