Musings on (Working) Motherhood: What if you could learn to let go?
My iPad broke a few weeks ago. I don’t know how, but it was on the same day my four-year-old was playing a new Duplo app on it. Strange coincidence. Anyway, I was without my ebooks for a week, and I felt lost, disoriented. I had gotten to such a comfortable and confident place with reading a few pages of personal development books every evening. Not having that threw me off more than I thought, as did going without a run for five days after my race ended. It got me to thinking about attachment. Was I too attached to all these things? I felt like I was holding on tightly, to so many things, so I could get through my week. As long as I had my exercise, my reading, my work, my kids, my husband, I was ok. But what if I lost some, or all of these things?
I started thinking about letting go, of finding the space between all the “things” and all the “doing” in my life. My week is a tightly scheduled routine of work, study, kids, exercise, blogging, reading, and some down-time. Everything is entered into multiple calendars and I have reminders going off every day. I felt like I was becoming very “mind” centred – always thinking, planning, organising, using my brain. It brought me great satisfaction but I also felt like something was getting out of balance, even with the regular exercise I was doing and the time I spend with my family.
I joined the Mindful in May campaign and started listening to interviews with scientists who research the effects of mindfulness meditation. I started practising mindfulness seriously. I listened to Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about “you’re only alive in this moment!” And I am finding it hard, really hard. But I’m becoming much more aware. I’m suddenly aware of all the fluctuations in my thoughts and emotions. Joy, anger, irritability, embarassment, shame, all within a few minutes. It’s exhausting! Have I really been going through this every moment of the almost 40 years of my life? Now I notice these and I let go, without judgement. “I’m feeling angry. That’s ok. Now I’m letting go”. And the anger goes. My mind drifts – what time was that doctor’s appointment again? I have to book for dinner for when my dad visits on Monday. Should I enrol Star in another kindy next year? and then I suddenly get back to my focus. I’m walking. I’m listening. I’m seeing a chubby little hand in mine, a sunset, a tram go past. I’m feeling tension in my neck, tiredness in my back. All of a sudden I’m feeling truly truly alive. All that exists is this moment. It may not be a good moment – it doesn’t have to be. I’ve learned I don’t need to experience joy in every single moment. It is what it is. But for the moment, I’m freed of worry and guilt. I don’t have to think about what just happened, or what happened yesterday, what I should have done differently. Then my mind wavers again and it’s off thinking, always thinking, the typical “mummy brain” filled with worries about whether I’m doing the right things for my kids, making the right decisions, and going over all the minutiae of our lives.
But what I really want to discover is who I am without all this thinking and doing. Because somewhere in between this activity and mind-work, somewhere in the space, is a sense of myself that is infinite and eternal – that will prevail no matter how old I am or how many faculties I retain. It’s hard, but I’m grateful as I know I’m using a muscle I’ve never used before that will get stronger with practice. I’m feeling more anxious, but I know it’s because I’m moving beyond my comfort zone, challenging myself. And I’m gradually learning to let go. I hope that with living each moment and then letting go, I will be able to deal with the passage of time, the loss of people dear to me, my own mortality and aging. The sadness I feel as I see my children grow up, the little pang in my heart as I sort the clothes and donate the ones that are now too small – I want to make this easier, even make it disappear, like bursting a bubble – simply by living in the moment, without judgement, without guilt or living in the past, without worry or living in the future.
For those who are interested in learning about mindfulness, look up Jon Kabat-Zinn, who pioneered Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote from one of his books:
“Maybe the fear is that
we are less than
we think we are,
actuality of it
is that we are much much more.”