It’s astounding what mothers learn to carry with them. She always seems to have a wipe and a snack, a safety pin and a pen, a pain reliever and a hug.
Most kids learn early that if they have anything they need to keep, from a permission slip to a trophy, all they have to do is hand it to Mom and she will take care of it, making sure it is kept safe and secure.
That doesn’t just include physical objects. Tell mom a story, let her be a part of it, and she will somehow press it into a scrapbook, sometimes a real one, sometimes just a virtual one, and keep it tenderly. Moms keep photos and clippings, artwork and ribbons, artifacts and moments.
When things get lost, you can always ask Mom where they are. Rosanne joked about a uterus being a magical finder, but the person who keeps a map of our house, of our lives, is usually Mom.
When we get lost, too, we can go to Mom. With all the bits and pieces in her vault, most Moms know how to take our confusion & frustration and put them in context, helping us find our way again. She holds our story without being lost in in, a close observer who can help bring out patterns, remind us of strengths, and set us on our way again.
Since she is also our training dummy, the one we learn to act out against, her vision can often be frustrating. While she may understand that our current mood will pass, it is our damn mood of today, and we get to feel it intensely, thank you very much!
I am aware that much of what I do for people I care for is to hold their stories for them, keeping them safe, to give them back to them when they lose them. I know the song in their heart and when they get too involved to step back and remember it, I can give context, help them come off the ledge and come back to core values.
This is habitual for me now and I have become quite good at it, just like the mom I always dreamed of being, the mother I identify as.
For me, though, I have never found someone who can easily do the same for me. When I am lost and scared, away from my centre, there has never been a vault for me to go to, to feel safe in, to regain my bearings and my strength.
When I say that I can walk into other people’s world but they have problems walking into mine, that’s what I mean. I am told that my own story is overwhelming, weird, too intellectual, too complicated, too queer and so many other things. Instead of getting support, I get eroded by other people’s fears and limits.
Of course, I have learned to take care of myself, but there are severe limits to that process. Just like the couple who agree that only one of us can be crazy at a time, when I get crazy, emotional or burned out, all of us are crazy, emotional or burned out. How do I care for myself with observer energy and willpower that I just do not have?
My mother was never able to do the crucial roles of giving encouragement and context. Instead, she offered chaos and narcissism, her own fears and disappointments laid thickly over anyone around her. We had always failed her because we were stupid, lazy and rude, unable to satisfy her in what she considered the most obvious ways.
I certainly have worked hard to capture my own experience, creating a vault both in writing and in my mind. Capturing the milestones of my life is an important part of my process, but like anyone else, those events are more accessible when they come from a voice outside of me.
Learning to hold my own Mom vault has been a key part of learning to care for the people in my life. Because I didn’t have a strong model for doing it, because I was told that it was the wrong job for someone like me, I struggled mightily to make it work. I did it in my own way, and that is part of the reason it is so difficult for others to do it for me, I know.
Moms carry so much for the people they care for, always ready to pull it out and give it back when it is needed. I am proud and satisfied that I know how to do that, too. I just wish that I had more of that caring for me.