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breaking open

God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open. – Hazrat

I met myself in Seattle this week and I was able to embrace her rather than be embarrassed or appalled. There I was at 25 with so much sadness and cynicism – but also possibility and hope.  I saw her briefly outside the coffee shop in Fremont that is now a fancy bistrot. And there she was walking along Phinney near the zoo, trudging home during a snow storm after her bus got stuck. She was down by the wharf, taking a lunch break in the sun on a spring day during a temp job in an anonymous office. She was driving over that long, floating bridge on her way to Microsoft, and also in that now boarded up bar on a date with the guy who wanted to become a business executive so he could hire other people, which he viewed as a form of philanthropy. Her hair was long and unstyled. Not a trace of make-up. Old jeans and Birkenstocks. She had a lot of pride, a highly attuned sense of right and wrong. She was often a pain in the butt. But she meant well.

I was scared to go to Seattle this week – scared that I’d become melancholic as I bumped into this young woman. I guess I was afraid of regret and longing. But I found none. Rather, I found amazement that the city was still there, morphing and growing while continuing with its ivy covered houses built on steep hills — all different, all the same. Much like me.

I get a daily email from someone named Roger, and this one came prophetically the day I returned from Seattle:  Your memories are valuable, important, and help comprise the person you have become. They do not however define your now or dictate your future. Yes, I thought, and then patted myself on the back for being in such a good place.

The words came to me in a different form yesterday afternoon when I walked with my daughter home from school. She was in tears watching a group of girls on their way to a birthday party. She wasn’t invited, and I could feel all of the regret and longing in her; it utterly echoed so many moments of my own regret and longing, my own desire and hope. I felt in me not only my 9-year old self but so much of that 25-year old Seattle self and, yes, this 44-year old yogi-mama-writer self. And I had so little to offer my daughter. Your heart will break and break, I wanted to say, but the further it breaks the more open and pliable it becomes. Open to the world’s beauties, open to the pain and possibility of other people.

I want to save her from pain, but she is entering that age when most pain will be beyond my mama love. A cuddle will no longer erase something. I can only offer meager balms, arms to hold her – when she’ll accept them, and my own experiences. Mostly, I can offer by example — show her acceptance, show her what it looks like to be hurt and then to get up the next morning in a better space, show her softness. As parents, living our own lives with grace can be the hardest and most subtle tool of all.

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6 thoughts on “breaking open”

  1. You show her all those things and more… you show her how to be a good, kind, intentional, compassionate person and friend by being one.

    1. I’m so utterly touched by everyone’s comments. It’s tough to watch your kid struggling, even with something that you KNOW we all have to go through at some point – and to do it with a pretty amazing degree of awareness for age 9 is a real gift. Know you are out there, each of you, gives me a definite sense of strength.

  2. Mothering / raising children: bloody hard work, no question about it.. the heartache of it never seems to end sometimes…. feeling for ourselves and feeling for them, watching as our kids grow and learn to handle things. Knowing that only they can live their lives and carry their burdens. And feel their delight, too. Letting them be the ones who make sense of their lives… well-earned treasures.

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