Last Saturday I spent the day with a group of courageous women all searching for deeper connection - to themselves, to their children, to their spiritual and emotional journeys as mothers, and to a larger community of women who are all doing this dance of balancing what's on the inside with what's happening on the outside. I seldom get the chance to listen to and share stories so honestly and intentionally with other mothers. Reflecting our experiences together was validating and normalizing. But it was also empowering in a way I didn't expect.
I left the workshop and was suddenly seeing and feeling moments of connection and missed connection all around me. I felt how suffering is a universal experience and sensed that we are all drinking from a communal well of vulnerability, though some of us don't know it yet.
Driving behind a woman riding her bike on a busy street I couldn't help but notice the way cars swerved aggressively around her. As each car passed her with inches to spare she would throw up her response in the form of a raised middle finger, then grab the handlebars again nervously and resume pedaling her heart out to keep up. Initially I had an impulse to pass her too, but something in me connected to her. I thought about how it feels to be exposed and vulnerable and to not have other people slow down for you. I felt the pressure she was feeling to hold her ground and not be pushed to the margins. Then I thought of how she is reducing my carbon footprint because she has made the choice to ride rather than burn through a resource we go to war over. And I felt grateful to her.
For the last two years all of my energy for connection flowed to my daughter and her preservation. My world was very small because it had to be. As she grows, my life is opening up again and I am able to engage with a larger community beyond these walls. Last weekend as I listened to other mothers' stories and felt emotionally connected to their experiences, some kind of portal began to open.
There is a building awareness in me of the restorative powers of being seen and heard. It's a healing energy that if invited can reach the deepest broken places inside. Sometimes the healing is mine and sometimes it belongs to someone else. When a woman in the grocery store parking lot uttered "those are the best years" to me and my children, I turned to smile at her before noticing the wave of sadness and grief crashing over her. Then I felt it wash over me. When my older daughter asked me what the woman had said to us, tears began to pour from my eyes. I explained as well as I could that all parents want the best for their children, and that sometimes things don't work out like we think they will. I thought quietly to myself about how hearing my kids chattering took the woman back to a place when she believed anything was possible for her children, and how that must have changed at some point. I told my daughter that I didn't know that woman's story but I felt her sadness and it reminded me that every day really is worth showing up for.
Today I promise myself to stay open to the possibility of true connection, to follow where it leads, and to trust in it's power to pull me into the present moment again and again.
"We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection."