Mother's Day weekend was mainly spent in a packed car- a long journey to a Navajo reservation that ended up being an intense few days of growth, emotional letdown, and a short amount of time that warranted a week of reflection.
As we were driving back from Arizona, I sat stoic after a conversation with my mother. Her anger, disappointment, and lack of understanding for me being miles away instead of spending the day with her, and my tiredness and unease of the weekend's events and disappointment that I couldn't be with her caused tension through the phone. And just as I was ready to hang up and call her back when I was cool and calm, she said, "Oh, and by the way, Soyoung died." And just like that, an all too familiar sting gripped my throat.
Some folks have a wonderful relationship with their mother. Those of us that don't tend to feel like it's work or something to pray for. I pray for it to be easy, open, respectful connection. Often, it takes conscious, concerted attention to be reverent. And this doesn't mean that I don't love her. I'm the first to admit that when I feel taxed and sleep deprivation is in full force, I'm not so forgiving or courteous. I snap short words at the people I love most. After hearing from many other women about their challenges, I know I'm not alone in this.
Stranded in the desert as a giant rig was ablaze ahead of us, all I wanted to do was be home in my bed, sobbing under the covers. Not here. Not stuck watching the lights and destruction. Something metaphoric was being witnessed by my eyes and through my heart. As I reached for Jake's hand on the seat, I could feel his silent understanding. I gripped his fingers as tears streamed down my face. Trying not to wake everyone else in the car, I silently wept as the pain welled in my chest.
The car now crawling past a completely melted truck. All that was left was the frame and base. A collective gasp moved through the car. My face flushing, I spun the A/C in my direction and let the cool air spread on my cheeks. The surrender in that moment allowed my chest to soften. My breath calmed as my belly relaxed. I simply let myself feel- a gentle act giving everything inside permission to melt.
Those closest to me know the hills and valleys of my relationship with Soyoung whom I consider my spirit mom. This woman that introduced me to yoga, meditation, massage, and the whole world of healing with plants and whole foods is now gone. The past few years had been more distant after a conversation over 5 years ago. Six months ago, after hearing that her breast cancer had spread, I decided it was time to let her know how I felt about everything, mainly the deep appreciation and immense sadness left in the wake of our friendship.
A week after I sent her a letter, a card arrived in the mail. I read her kindness and appreciation with relief knowing that we both understood and acknowledged the same feelings. What I felt as disapproval was simply her version of tough love and getting me to see my potential and move towards that potential. And for the past few months, I've noted the sadness now that it's too late to "hang" the way we used to. All of these memories swirl of a strong woman and I'm comforted to know the life that she lived before cancer.
Road Trip Reflection
Our caravan finally arrived in L.A. around 4 am. As we sleepily filed out of the car, CeCe, a woman from El Salvador, grabbed my arm and spun me towards her. She held my shoulders and said, "You are the tender medicine. Caitlin, you have tender medicine in your heart and that is beautiful. Treat it as the sacred medicine it is. Don't forget!" We giggled together and rocked side to side.
Tears streamed as I kissed her warm, round face goodbye.
This same morning, Jake and I drove to Refugio Beach where we napped on the warm sand. I apologized to him for my abruptness when feeling so tired. I acknowledged that I could recognize the programming in me when I speak short words in an effort to get a reaction. His response? "Babe, it's conditioning. I know you love me. I know how rough this was for you. And you're already shifting it. You already apologize. It's all good."
In that moment, I saw my mother. I saw the conditioning. I saw the rough spots that she endured. I saw her tiredness and worry. As I meditated each day this week, I also saw the ability within our cells to shift reactivity. I saw the tender medicine inside all of us.
That's my dance lately. I have Soyoung AND my mother to thank. In their own way, they are teaching me how to stay open, even during hurt, and that's a more recent ground to stand on. Powerful, present, tender.
Elena Brower, coach of the Handel Method and notable yoga teacher, speaks of this - the idea that we choose are parents to learn the lessons we are here to learn and share this understanding with the world. I've been learning from her in the Handel Method and it is changing my relationships for the better. (I'll speak more of this in a future post.)
Today is my birthday, a somber yet sweet day of reflection and blessings with two affectionate pups by my side.
Wishing you love, ground, and reflection,