If it's near Mothers' Day and you're feeling mad/sad, you have come to the right place. Here is where I hold space for you to be angry at the over-commercial overwhelmingness of celebrating a day that reminds you that your mom is gone. Or reminds you that you miss your baby. Or reminds you that the patriarchy is hell bent on convincing you that you can’t fully express yourself without having a baby.
Mother’s Day is a bummer. Go ahead, wallow. I got you.
But if this year, you are looking for something different, I also got you.
Let's talk about mermaids and our matrilineal line.
Last week, I returned to mermaid camp and spent many days dipping in the fountain of youth, basking in the company of boss-sauce older broads who know all the secrets of life. It's a sorority of sirens. It was also an inter-generational gold mine of knowledge, love and community.
"Try to swim upstream," they said, and laughed when I wore myself out swimming to nowhere.
"Now, hike up the sandbar, and float back to us."
So I mermaid-crawled through the sun-sparkled crystal-clear current, exerting no energy, letting myself be carried and supported by spring water that had shot through a vent that had been shaped into a spiral over the past million-or-so years. When I was finished floating, I put my feet down and let the river push against my belly as it rushed past me. It was never going to end. It would flow around me forever. I thought, This feels like love.
The spring water came from a place so deep within the earth, it might be a hundred years old by the time it reached me. That also feels like love.
When we have a complicated relationship to mothers/motherhood, it can feel like we have somehow been cheated or robbed of the amount of love we were supposed to garner in our lifetime. Some part of us has been cut off. When it comes to mother-love, we are like toddlers with no sense of object permanence. If we can't see them, can we prove that they love us still? Does our love for them cease to be significant when we have no physical presence to lavish it upon?
After mermaid camp, I laid on my acupuncturist’s table, waterlogged and dreamy, trying to settle my inner ear and ground myself from swimming off into the deep blue forever.
I thought about my grandmother, and her mother. In my meditation, I thought of their love like liquid gold, filling a bucket and pouring down a trough into the next generation, like a Rube Goldberg machine of maternal affection. At each generation, my ancestors stopped to pick out the impurities, the sticks and rocks that clouded the gold, removing their burdens and passing onto me their love, their talents, their wealth, their devotion. At the bottom, I swam in a large cauldron of gold, dunking the roots of my ideas in their gold and planting an orchard of golden shower trees. Here is everything we have. Make something, they said.
Before you were born, your mother's mother loved you. Before you were born, your great-grandmother loved you. Before you were born, your great-grandmother's great-grandmother loved you. And on and on and on and on, back to the time when we were dust hitchhiking on an asteroid.
Without knowing when you would arrive, or who you would become, they loved you. Somewhere deep in your DNA, there are molecules of love from generations past that carry that love, anchoring it in the deepest core of your being. You can lose an arm, a leg, a job, a spouse, a credit rating, a house, even your dignity. They will love you still.
Generations past, through whatever fortune and misfortune your ancestors mucked through, YOU were the hope, the spark of an idea, the thing they toiled for, the person they loved although they would never meet you.
Love is a time-traveller. Like ancient starlight, it is shining down on you today.
I thought about the river. What wars had I been raging unnecessarily? Where had I been "swimming upstream" when all I had to do was let myself be held? When is it my job to hike to meet the current, and when is it my job to float?
I have a therapist who is so kind sometimes I wonder if what she is doing is therapy, or just being incredibly nice. It doesn't matter. Kindness is rehabilitative. One day, I cried on her couch while she sang me a lullaby. It was cheesy, and I wanted to argue with the song. Instead, I relaxed. I let myself be carried by her kindness.
Back to those mermaids I swam with in the ancient spring, and a secret I learned from the fountain of youth.
At some point, we experienced love as a deluge. We think if we aren't near the source, then it doesn't exist. That's like fighting the current. The truth is that you have always been loved, and continue to be loved, by forces unseen, unknown and yet to come.
Your job is to float. Your job is to open to kindness, and pass that down river. Your job is to make something of what your ancestors rain down upon you.
The best thing to make out of love is more of the same.
Happy Mother's Day to all you love-makers.
I don't always write about dead moms, but I love it when I do. I am the Fairy Boss Mother of Cinderly, a romance novelist and a transformational coach. Sign up for my mailing list, and I'll make sure you know about everything else I do.