Last night was the last show of Expressing Motherhood, and while I'd grown a bit tired of my own story, I was sad to say good-bye to this beautiful group of women whose stories entertained and moved me so much over the past two weeks. I sat with many of them, none of whom I knew before this experience, and shared intimate stories of my life and theirs, a profound experience of community and commonality. Most of the other mothers were younger than I, some much younger with very young kids, and I was struck by how many of them professed anxiety about their children, about their worry for each of their futures. It made me reflect on my own experience raising Sophie, how consumed by worry I was when she was born and diagnosed and treated over the years, yet how that worry and anxiety finally succumbed, for the most part, to a sort of acceptance and resignation only tinged with true terror every now and then. As for Henry and Oliver, I don't remember ever being really worried about them beyond the trivial and certainly not in the way some of my fellow performers professed. I couldn't pinpoint how or when this happened, how suffering and anxiety and worry transform through surrender, and I wouldn't pretend to dole out advice on how to achieve this equanimity (after all, it was sort of imposed on me), but I thought of Pema Chodron's words:
I remembered that I had written about this before and thought I'd re-post it here, as a sort of homage to my new mother friends. Thank you, ladies for a wonderful two weekends, for the laughs and the ease and for being so brave to share your experiences both on and off the stage.Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth—it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.
Is the ability to hold two opposing feelings and/or thoughts something that one is graced with or something that comes with time and experience and exposure? I don't know the answer, but I see it all the time in those who share the experience of caring for a child with disabilities or who have lost a child to illness. I can look at Sophie and grieve for the loss of "normalcy," but I can also exult in her being exactly the way she is. I can sorrow over the absurdity of changing a near-seventeen year old's diapers and marvel at the gift of intimacy that entails. My friend Jody's beautiful daughter Lueza suffered from severe cerebral palsy due to gross medical malpractice when she was born, and she died unexpectedly nearly a year ago at the age of sixteen, but Jody told me the other day that it was such an honor to have cared for her daughter so intimately for so many years. I'm not talking here about all that unconditional love blather, although trite expressions are trite for a reason. I'm heading toward an understanding of openness -- of what it means to be truly open to experience, to the relinquishment of false notions of power and control, to, dare I say it, Love. I wouldn't be able to live, one person might say, hearing of the death of someone's child. I could never do what you do, another says, I just couldn't handle it.
Contrary to what some might say, we're not given what we can handle. We're opening to handle what we're given.