Especially in these COVID days, months, years – I see an increasing need for mothering all around me. I am very attuned to people who are in need of mothering. I always have been. And I try to fill that gap. Isn’t that what we are here for? To spread some loving-kindness: to be a shoulder, an ear, a cup of tea – some sympathy. I had a world-class mother, and she taught me the first rule of mothering: “Be good to yourself.” She’d repeat it over and over again. It was the last words she’d say to me before we’d depart. Now seven years after her death, I repeat her mantra to myself, my friends, and my nieces. If you ever are going to be able to offer true loving-kindness to anyone else, you first have to give it to yourself. Listen to yourself, reassure yourself that “everything will be okay,” give yourself a hug (and maybe a piece of chocolate), and then go ahead with your day confident in the knowledge that you have your own back. You are your own best mother.
I am still in the process of perfecting this attitude. There are days that I so deeply miss my mother. I long to see her smile again. I need her skillful ear to indeed just listened – no advice, just that quiet, calmness, that deep closeness, that love. Some days I feel untethered. I don’t know how I’m going to continue this uphill journey. I push away the anxiety with small firm shoves, but it comes back. It always comes back. The only remedy I find is my mother’s whispering voice: “Be good to yourself, Jo. Be good to yourself. Remember.” So I think about all the ways I can be good to myself, and I follow them. I am learning to be gentle with myself, to be in the moment, to enjoy the small things, and to be open to tiny miracles. They are indeed all around me, and I’m beginning to follow contentment.
When I was a child, I’d fret about what I could give my mother to show her that I loved and appreciated her. I spent entire Aprils trying to figure out what I could say, do, or buy that would show her my love. In the end, I think all she wanted was quiet, calm – somebody to listen. I should have given that to her more often. I should have been a better mother to her. So now, I sit with myself quietly, and I find moments in the day to mother other people – to listen, to offer support, to remind them to be good to themselves. It is the best way I can honor my mother’s memory.
Dream Mother I take another glance at my alarm clock, It's four in the morning. Panic sets in - I take a breath, Remember it will be okay, I am not in danger, I will not die yet, I breathe in And out deeply, Slowly curl on my side. I miss my mother, my Vivian. Ninety-one years was too short a time: I want her back, I want her with me, These thoughts will not Put me back to sleep - I count memories. Happy memories of my mother: Her beautiful smile, Her laugh, her twinkling eyes, Vivian playing solitaire on the couch, Vivian reading Louis L'Amour, Vivian cutting dress patterns, Vivian taking her daughters out to lunch Munching on little tea sandwiches... All is suddenly dark and calm. I'm in a familiar restaurant, Eating chicken salad with my mother. She is in her mid-forties, Always when I dream of her, She's in her forties and happy And beautiful and alive. We are talking and laughing, Walking together down a hallway With glass on both sides. We can see green trees And pink blossoms. I am so happy Walking beside her. She pulls out a small bag Of green jelly candies And offers me some. I can taste fresh lime, We walk and talk and laugh. We come to a dark hallway, which opens To a bright conference room, I'm to give a presentation In front of a lot of people. I can feel the butterflies Rise in my stomach. I look around to get my bearings: Giant chaffing dishes of food are set On long tables covered with white tablecloths, The school's director walks in Shaking her head solemnly, Suddenly I notice there are no spoons for the food, I start to panic - I was in charge of the spoons! My mother pats my hand "It's alright," she says, "We will figure out something." Suddenly, I wake up - I know Vivian is there Watching over me, I know she won't leave my side, I see her beautiful face, I taste fresh lime, Take a deep breath, Roll over and return to sleep.