The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
After reading this quote contained within a poignant passage from Traveling with Pomegranates one question continues to echo within me: What world is it to which I belong? Ann wrote that she always assumed her “world to which she belonged” would be different than that of her mother. While I too have always known that I don’t belong in the same world as my own mother, increasingly I am aware of the deeply rooted – subtle even – ways that I have always assumed mine would be the same as my mother.
I found the relationships between Sue, Sue’s mother, and Sue’s daughter Ann fascinating. Their stories of discovery, independence, authenticity, and connectedness was beautiful. Sue tells this story of how the hardest part about being her mother’s daughter is the Easter rabbit cookie tin. For her, the cookie cutter her mother annually laboriously created personalized cookies with was iconic of the life her mother led – one devoted to hearth, to making and tending home, one consumed with nurturing. In her eyes her mother was one who was content to dwell – to simply be. While instead, Sue wanted to be out in the world doing things. I can relate to Sue.
On the heels of Mother’s Day and as I’ve read the final pages of Pomegranates, I find myself quite reflective about mothering – in every sense of the word. My mother is so fantastically good at being a mother. It is really quite beautiful. When I read Sue’s words about her mother they sound as if she could be talking about my mother too – “Her deepest impulse was to nurture, to simply dwell; it had nothing to do with ambition and achievement in the world.” While I deeply value that world of my mother’s, when I try it on it doesn’t fit.
As the realization grows that “my world” will be completely unique to me (and my comfort with that realization likewise grows), I loosen the bonds and give up other worlds in order to move freely in my own. And yet, I find myself struggling against all those other worlds I am not choosing to call my own. It seems my natural leaning is to devalue those other worlds in order to value my own. Or, I speak unkindly about myself, my world, my choices, in order to value other worlds…my mother’s world.
And so I’m left pondering these questions…
How is it that I might be hospitable to my mother and to all those women of differing worlds? How might I shift from the place where I feel I must only assign value to one world and look with criticism upon others? Certainly I (and we, too) are capable of that kind of hospitality to our sisters, mothers, and daughters.
How might I welcome their wisdom and unique identity? How can I cultivate a listening ear that receives others as they are and not as some flattened out one-dimensional version I create. Rather, how can I really see others and all the beauty and integrity they possess.
How might I be an advocate of freedom for others but also within my most distinct self, the sacred center of the world wholly mine? In other words, how might I loosen the chains of bondage – those chains of cultural expectation, historical values, ghosts of family-of-origin, and the ever harsh self-critic? How might I allow, encourage even, myself and others to live into lives fully our own?
My sons have been voicing their discontent that I must leave them to work or to go on trips out of town. (I especially love how they call any trip I go simply a “vacation.”) They naturally bring up guilt as I speak harshly to myself about how I’m a disappointment to myself, my mother, the universe by not living more adeptly in the world that I have boxed my mother into. In better moments I breathe and take the time to talk to them about how lovely and wondrous it is to do work that brings joy, fulfillment, and meaning into my life. I tell them that I don’t have to do any of it but that I choose to because it is good for my soul. And then I speak words that I truly hope come to be, “My greatest hope for you boys is that you discover the work and life-roles that brings you such joy and meaning. And, that you are brave enough to do it all.”
**The featured art piece is titled Our Mother, Mary II and was created by my friend, Angela Yarber. You can view it, and other pieces of her amazing work, at http://angelayarber.wordpress.com/