The woman, a stranger, turned around and looked right at me, smiled, and then mouthed the words, “I see you.”
You may be thinking, creeeepy. But it wasn’t creepy, it was a powerful moment of connection. We were in church and the pastor had asked all of the women, of all ages, to stand up, and he urged the men and boys to cheer for us at least as heartily as they do their sports teams. So while we were standing there, which to me was a tad awkward, I looked around and marveled at how much of the congregation was female, and that was when that woman’s gaze met mine.
Mother’s Day is like Valentine’s Day. A “Hallmark holiday” that can be either a source of joy and gratitude, or a reminder of what we don’t have. Another opportunity to compare ourselves and our lives to others, or to unfulfilled dreams, or things gone wrong. My own relationship with Mother’s Day has been an evolving one. Some years have been full of joy, not taking for granted the miracle that I had two healthy kids after having had three miscarriages. Some years have been fraught with sadness, having lost my mom to cancer when my kids were 1 month and 3 years old. Some years I have longed for one thing on Mother’s Day: to have some peace and quiet, nobody needing anything from me. “All I want is a weekend at home alone” was often my wish (hasn’t happened yet - and at this point I don’t really want that anyway). Now, my kids are 15 and 18, and the oldest is leaving for college in a few months. My wish for today was, “Please come to church, let’s go to lunch at our favorite diner with vegan options, and then please clean your room.” I used to long for silence and space, and now I still cherish both, but I have learned to create that for myself on a regular basis, as my Self-Care items on my daily To Do List. Just like many people scoff at these Hallmark holidays by saying, “every day should be Mother’s Day” or Valentine’s Day, I have realized I need every day to include Self-Care (which is a work in progress, and some days I am better at this than others). It would be unrealistic and immature of me to hope that my family would know exactly what I want and need, and do it all on Mother’s Day.
I have heard the saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” I think this means, if I expect everyone to do as I say, and as I don’t say but fervently hope, I am setting them and myself up for failure, which will lead to my resenting them for not getting me, so obviously they don’t really love me, and they in turn will resent me for my assumptions and display of dismay and anger. Makes sense to me. So at some point I started to consciously lower my expectations for holidays, weekends, events that had a lot riding on them. And it worked. But I was careful not to confuse lowered expectations with settling for less than I and others deserved. It did not mean being a martyr (which is just a really codependent passive aggressive approach, yuck). For me, lowering expectations actually meant, I changed the way I looked at things. I would set an intention beforehand, such as, be present; be of service; don’t worry about getting anything done; be a good listener; be helpful; give yourself permission to not say anything, or to leave the room, or to go for a run…
A couple of dear friends thoughtfully texted me this weekend to say they were thinking of me, as I faced another Mother’s Day without my mom. “I see you” is what each of these texts basically told me. So many of my friends have lost their moms, or are currently dealing with the heartbreaking situation of witnessing their mother slip away physically and/or mentally. Or perhaps their dreams of being moms themselves have been thwarted. Or they are moms but lost some precious angels along the way, before birth or after. Some of my friends have had to endure life after their beautiful child was ripped away from them due to illness or violence or an accident. How hard it must be for you to see other seemingly intact families celebrate and carry on, oblivious to your pain.
I see you…
As I looked around the crowded church this morning at all of the women, representing all stages and ages, all races and ethnicities, various levels of belief, all sorts of professions and socioeconomic status, I thought about what a privilege it is to be a part of this female tribe. I thought about how lucky I am to have friends who are older than me and have walked through things before me, and are now shining a light for me to follow, and to learn from their wisdom. Our culture may want us to believe that after a certain age (50+?) we are no longer relevant and we are only beautiful if we tug, smoothen, cut, and inject here and there. But I know that is yet one more lie that I refuse to believe.
If my mom was still around, and was healthy, I know she would be doing all sorts of community service and creating beautiful clothing, and going to the gym 365 days a year with her gold Reebok sneakers. I am sad she is not here to watch my daughter embark on living out her dream in fashion, which she inherited from my mom, and to take in my son’s beautiful, kind spirit and playful sense of humor. And, I am grateful that I can truly understand how hard it is when a friend loses her mother, how untethered we feel.
I see you…
A meditation teacher I had once used to say at the end of the weekly class, “Have the week that you have.” In other words, let go of expectations, accept what is. Instead of “Happy Mother’s Day” I would like to say, I see you, on this Mother’s Day. And you are beautiful, and strong, resilient, wise, and you have everything you need, right inside of you. And, no matter what, you are loved beyond any human comprehension.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.