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The Ongoing Work of Dressing (& Redressing) the Mother Wound

The Venus of Willendorf

“We just celebrated his first birthday and I keep finding myself circling back to the Mother module!”  

I was sitting and chatting with a lovely Mamababy over milestones and tea.

“And I suppose I’m wondering why we just can’t seem to get it together…?”

Sort of a question, sort of a statement, her eyes were in no way defeated but they assuredly asked for help with the seemingly endless task of pulling back layers on the relationship between she and her mother.

I thought about my own journey, realizing the ongoing nature of addressing, and redressing the mother wound. The shared stories of women I’d worked with, all reaching out from or back to their relationships with their mothers. This great community of women can share anecdotes, insights, tools, and stories, but the journey with The Mother is the journey into oneself.  And there will always be more to the voyage…

The day my mother decided that she was “cutting the cord,” I fell twice. I was in a different house than her, very much involved in the personal comings and goings of my day. And then, two times in a row, my feet, suddenly, were not underneath me. I am not a clumsy person so by the second time I was laying on the floor, mentally assessing my body for pain, the deeper part of my consciousness was scrambling to put pieces together.  It wasn’t until later in the day when my mother showed up with a van full of boxes, pictures and certificates from my grade school years, tempera colored hand-prints and macaroni-laced, glue-filled love-notes, team pennants and year-books all gathered for removal in the name of “decluttering,” that things began to make sense.  

“All these things have your name on them. I figured they belonged to you.” 

Umbilical cords are surprisingly tensile.  It makes sense, they have an insanely important job.  I have seen cords; hefty ones, pulsating with radiant life, and felt a visceral sense of that child’s connection to its mother. But even the cords that are thinner, that might leave one wondering “is the baby ok?,” are surprisingly resilient. Even well-designed cord-gathering scissors might need ‘a few chews to get through.’ This cord is the physical representative for the connection of Child to its Creatress.  And Life is serious about safeguarding that connection.  The severance of this energetic freeway is no small thing. And though the physical cord may be severed shortly after birth, it can take several decades for the energy of it to dissipate…if it ever even really does. 

“You accept the Child as your possession. That is your mistake.  – Yogi Bhajan

“They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.” – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

I think a brief moment to consider the conundrum of ownership is warranted. What a challenge it is, indeed, to grow a tiny human, from an imperceptible cell in our bodies into a functional being, experiencing life as a satellite of our own awareness and sensitivities, and then to somehow, with all the responsibility inherent to this reality, not claim exclusive rights and control. But, in fact, when we think of children as our possessions, we have inextricably linked our value to them…And they are people, growing, changing, forging their own way in the world.  What’s more, our children, the ones we own, develop within a framework of being owned. Deeper than a sense of belonging to something; from the adage, “mother’s baby, papa’s maybe,” children understand that their very existence always and ultimately trickles back to their mother; presence or participation be damned, it is The Mother to whom we return. 

 Why is this important? Because this timeless link is what makes mother wounds possible. Because even as adults, moving in and through the world, having our own children, the link between ourselves and our mothers persists. For those of us who never knew our birth mothers, we look deeply into ourselves, seeking resonance with that archetypal energy that allows us to feel her presence even in her absence.  And for those of us whose mothers are present, we dance with them, wrapped tightly in their deepest hopes and dreams, throwing off their expectations and convictions. Only to find them expertly folded into our own beliefs and ways of seeing the world. We are our mothers.  Every effort we make to be all the things they never were is everything they prayed we would become. The joy of who they are is the pain we feel when we see them as reflections in the mirror. The pain of who we are is the pride that is felt but never spoken when they watch us as we sleep. 

Healing happens in layers.  We can observe this watching the careful wound closing from that last spill off the skateboard. The bleeding stopped. The scab formed.  It fell away and new skin slowly, surely, grew in its place. Perhaps a scar was left. Every day the body tended a little more until that open place had closed. We move through our lives, surviving the “spills,” time tending to the open places until a new skin has formed…perhaps a scar is left. When we decide and commit to healing the deeper wounds, we have taken to the task of lifting that skin, digging into the scar tissues to get to the original injuries, using the tools of compassion and forgiveness to gently undo the severity of the impact. The wound becomes less about the weapon and more about the tissues; is their blood flow? Oxygen? Nutrients?  How are we feeding ourselves; caring for ourselves? The work in deep healing belongs to us. And, as not to overwhelm, comes upon us in layers giving opportunity to fully heal so that as new skin develops, we become stronger and more flexible than we ever were. 

My mother’s decision to release from her possession all that had my name on it, in a way, felt as though I was cluttering her life. Perhaps she had also felt that way, burdened by her attachment to every expression of my creative energy in the world. In an effort to honor me, her creation, she carefully packaged that energy and handed it to me as if to say, “Fly free. You decide what to do with yourself.”  I imagine what I might have felt had she invited me to her home, and if together, over tea, we would have sorted those items and mutually decided to gift or discard them.  The ‘self’ she handed me was a self that was fully committed to exaltation of, her, the mother.  It was debasing to be suddenly, and without warning, in charge of that self.  However, my time sorting through those mementos alone brought a powerful medicine of autonomy.  There was a subtle changing-of-the-guard in my life.  Our mothers possess a wisdom that never fails us if we are willing to hear its voice. Observe them carefully. We may have to watch them through the looking glass, but the magic is there. 

This ongoing process, wounding, strengthening, healing is the ever present and continual work of navigating The Mother. As with any relationship, the commitment each one makes that allows the other to be fully in their journey, accepting without judgement, the process of the other may be as “together” as it gets. In any case, bringing our authentic hearts forward, clearly reflecting the beauty of who our mothers are as we learn ourselves again, and then again, is the gift that we bring to them. It’s the gift we bring to ourselves and the one we shall pass on to our daughters for evermore. 

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-Khalil Gibran

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