Most days I go to sleep with the sensation of having been physically, mentally and emotionally water-boarded for the last twelve plus hours. Everyday, somehow, I continue to show up for more. And even more miraculously, find deep sustenance in a single smile or whispered “I love you, mama.” There, in the presence of great love, I am humbled.
In these small, poignant slivers of time, it feels as if life breathes me. That somehow there is nothing more beautiful. That I am complete. I wouldn’t begin to lie that this love is unconditional. But perhaps it’s not conditionality we seek to escape but rather a unity we desire to feel.
When lying, my body curled around Quinn, my three-month-old son, I have a distinct sense of not being physically able to be close enough. This soft baby skin against my own is all too much distance still. I want simply to melt into him, to feel his soul in my bones, timeless in a solitary exhalation.
Above all, I want this for my sons. For them to know this love fully.
To the core, to the bones of their being, I hope they feel this benthic echo of something found, something they never knew was lost. I know fully this is something my words will never teach and my actions can only point to. But this is true nourishment. This is where real life begins and ends and all the in-betweens happen. Parenting has a way of breaking you. Whittling you down, running you over, and then reversing. It has a way of taking you to the brink of yourself.
I have a bad habit of waking up in the morning and assessing the weight of my dark circles to divine the outcome of the day. On average, about five days a week, there is a clear premonition that I should jump immediately back into bed. This would be ever so easy if the one obstacle wasn’t the one variable, responsible and still helplessly reliable, on my everything.
I was advised once by someone very wise, that if I sought to garner spiritual awareness and emotional evolution, to get hitched, as a long term relationship would be 100 times more challenging and ultimately fulfilling than living in any ashram. I’d just like to add to this, that if one wishes to take themselves to spiritual and emotional boot-camp, have kids.
Since I’m a younger mother, many of my closest friends are kid-less and single. On days when I find a solitary morsel of respite in the evening drive to get Quinn to sleep, or the only “me” time I get is while drying dishes, I can hardly bear hearing about a friend’s day at the beach spent languidly reading a book, followed by yoga class, meditation, and dinner with friends. Forget reading, yoga, and adult conversation; just give me a consecutive six hours of sleep and I’d pay a small fortune.
I realized during this last pregnancy that my right now, my life is my yoga practice, and I can’t imagine more demanding teachers than the two I’ve got.
In a past yoga workshop we were asked to go around a say a bit about how our “practice” was going and time spent doing asanas and meditation. I was the only one out of the group with small children and the first to share my experience. My words more or less described my life as “managed chaos” and my practice as staying afloat. My meditation was characterized by the three deep exhales I’d been hoping would prevent a freak-out, and my asanas were mostly forward bends to pick up tiny socks, Legos, and smooshed play-doh.
The rest of the class went around and shared time spent in minutes or hours on their practice and the teacher concluded with her shock of how little time people spent and, directed towards myself, how she was sure it would be possible to eek out a little “mat time” everyday. At least at this point in my journey, life is very much off the mat, and entirely separate from everything I previously knew to make sense.
Constantly and consciously finding balance is my yoga.
As a parent, you can pretty much plan on things not going to plan. And for a type-A person like myself this micro-management is a tough one to give up. Just when you have the diaper bag packed and the lunches made, and the breakfast cleaned up, the baby poops through not one, not two, but three layers of clothing and all over you (how is this even possible?!) So, you change the baby, you change you, you get almost out the door and the phone rings. It’s the daycare provider and she’s sick. Change of plans. Again. If the lesson is non-attachment, consider parenting the Upper Division Physics version of the class.
Authentic selflessness comes to reside within you the day you become a parent.
Especially as a mother, the moment I realized new life was budding inside of me, was the moment I truly began to live for something more than myself. To even know something more than myself, and to love something more than myself. This recognition is slow, gradual one.
It was weeks or perhaps months before I could fully articulate, even on a feeling level, that the “me” I had been so completely and entirely invested in up until this point, had taken the back seat to this fragile, little, pink thing that embodied perfection. And just like “perfection” there are other words you soon realize the full-bodied meaning of: beauty, softness, love, pain, fear, work, rest, breath, to name a few. Its as though suddenly life comes alive. Emotions take on a richer hue, a density, a weighted dimensionality.
So perhaps I’m giving up approximately 3,276 hours of consecutive nighttime sleep over the next three years (but who’s counting?). Perhaps, the greatest accomplishment in a day is reflected in the sound of two well-fed babies finally asleep, and the backwards glance at a cleaned kitchen. And perhaps it will be 18 plus years from now before I fully open that next “me” chapter in this life.
But I do know the fringe of life and love. I know the fullness too, and I’ve felt it and continue to feel it to the edges, almost bursting. I always knew I wanted this, and there’s no way I could have ever known what “this” really was. I just knew I needed to feel life at its roots, at its inception. Ultimately, this has changed me into a woman I like more.
This has changed me to my bones.