Feral mothers

“My mother’s death put me in touch with my most savage self. As I’ve grown up and come to terms with her death and accepted it, the pieces of her that I keep don’t exist materially.”

Cheryl Strayed

It’s a primal life force, a mother’s love. For so many years after my mom passed I thought mostly of that aching loss, the loss of her undying devotion and love for me. Every word, every action, each argument even…they were all steeped in her immense love for me. I always felt it.

Now, well. I still do. Its different though. Now her love for me is the seed that grew into my greatest source of strength. Not as her child though, or not only. As a mother myself.

My maternal drive has been the catalyst for my bravest moments. It has fearlessly propelled me into the scariest, most challenging choices I have ever made. It has allowed me to jump into the abyss with the quiet confidence of a woman who knows. I just know. The right thing always reveals itself when I tap into that instinct. The most confusing, ambivalence-provoking questions become crystal clear to me when I hone in on that power.

I picture her in the hospital, though its one of my most painful sense memories. I think of her lying there pondering her own difficult choices. I have to close my eyes and nearly commune with that dying woman. I put myself there, and think to myself,

“Can I live with this decision if I find myself right there one day as she did?”

And then I just know.

To me Mother’s Day isn’t about celebrating how much my mother martyred herself on our behalf. It isn’t about her selflessness at all. She was persistently selfless, but I would wish that away if I could. As a young woman it always made me sad really. She couldn’t find the strength to forge a new path for herself, though she had an inarguably beautiful life. What rings in my head are her words:

“Don’t be like me.”

Of course I did the exact opposite for a very long time. I wanted children with all my heart, wanted to emulate that feeling of home and security I took for granted for the 22 years I had her warm embrace but never understood the real luxury of her omnipresent sacrifice. It took me a very long time to understand those potent, sad words of hers.

I get it mom. I am my most savage self now. I am in overdrive and the path, while not clear to me yet, is paved with all the life force you never got to expend. Like a bell tolling in my mind, calling me hour after hour, day after day…I hear you whisper in the ether to me:

do it for me…”

Happy Mother’s Day. Know that as mothers we have a tank full of nitrous oxide that the boys will never understand. Tap into it today, and in all your moments of contemplation.

Be your most savage self.

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