It’s hard to believe it was nearly 15 years ago that my mother and I argued over banal shit (oops, sorry mom: banal stuff). We’ve both changed by multiple measures since those days of being co-hormonal and grinching about the laundry, what to have for dinner, each others’ driving skills (or lack thereof, depending upon perspective).
Both of us have experienced tremendous losses of multiple loved ones. Sometimes we’ve shared those losses: uncle/brother, best friends, parent/Opa. Each subsequent loss has left us each more tender to the world but raw towards each other, isolated and hurt in our grieving. More often than not, our mournings have been separate as we glimpse at one another, cautiously offering empathy from afar but never quite comfortable co-habitating in the difficult emotional spaces of tragedy and disease.
In recent years these cycles of sickness, aging and death have played defining roles in our individual lives and set a narrative for the family; however, as I glimpse at the cumulative history of the past three decades a new portrait emerges. One of a woman who above all else cares tremendously for the people around her and when it comes to her only child, is ceaselessly devoted to ensuring that my life prominently features the conditions necessary to pursue my wildest dreams. For all of our disagreements over the years–from the inane squabbles of teenagehood to the deeply personal and affective–I see that my mother never, not once diminished her encouragement for my dream chasing. She always righteously believes in my individualism, is a vocal cheerleader of my brash explorations and is utterly implacable in her support of my scheming.
Whenever self-doubt and insecurity creep into my thoughts, whenever they make me hesitant and especially when they threaten to derail my tenacious pursuit of happiness my mother is quick to gently steer me back to a position of confidence. When earlier this year I decided to confront the emotional source of my self-imposed self-loathing, it was my mother who stood as the least-likely and most stalwart of my allies. She’s been an advocate for 28 years to never hold back due to my fears, but rather to drive past them boldly into uncharted territory towards every-growing reserves of compassion and spiritual generousness. Her nudging is often implicit, delicately laced through our conversations; alternatively her encouragement is conveyed through a mounting stack of greeting cards-turned-keepsakes. I keep all the cards and occasionally fan through them stopping to re-read my favorites, the ones that incite me to say “there it is, she really does get me.”
From climbing trees as a toddler, making friends with strangers in the most unlikely of scenarios (crocodile tamers in Burkina Faso), navigating the family through London’s labyrinthine public transportation, making a temporary home of the leech-infested rainforests of Madagascar to birthing cows in Northern Thailand and my current lifestyle of planlessness, it is my mother who has given me an unquenchable thirst for dreaming and also the determined sense that I can. She is the reason I never doubt that yes I can go there, yes I am capable of setting off to pursue my most outrageous fathoms.
I now clearly see the legacy she builds for me everyday, from bundled December baby to blossomed 20-something: radical dreaming and persevering self-belief to back it up.
Our relationship is now better than ever. Last weekend we spent 2 hours on the phone chatting, laughing, discussing our inner lives, desires, difficulties and joking about family lore. To anyone listening, it was a mundane conversation but to me it was an opus: a labor of love, painstaking constructed over 57 combined years to reveal our own and only story. Those hours together on skype are a beautiful, cherished and tough-earned thing.
Thanks mom for all the mothering.
Happy Birthday, I love you.
Like what you see here? Make sure to Like the LiveRightTravelFar facebook page and subscribe to the blog. Thanks for playing along!