Live in your hands and your mind will learn to bow like a root.
~ Mark Nepo
I woke up this morning with images of me as a mother holding my babies, my oldest in particular. She is going to be 20 next month.
Where did that baby with the fuzzy, blue sweater on go? And—where is her mother? The one who picked up her babies and held them to her chest? I began to see many images of this mother.
And I begin to see what’s happened.
When motherhood is new our bodies, especially our hands, are mostly busy. They pick up the babies and hold them to their chest. Carry them. They touch their tiny heads and smooth their soft hair. They change diapers. Button pants. Zip sweaters and jackets. Hold a bottle or lead our nipple. They bathe them. Put lotion on their tiny feet.
Our hands hold the little, rubber-tipped spoon to feed them cereal for the first time. Then, as they grow our hands become less busy and our minds more active. The images of holding my babies now become images of mothering them now. I worry about my youngest. I have many conversations about growing up with my oldest.
We talk about her career. I watch her write in her journal with tears rolling down her cheeks, much like I once did. I understand, which is what I mostly do now. I guide now with my mind— more than my hands. My hands are almost forgotten.
Lilli, my youngest, no longer wants to be tucked in by them. Alyssa, the oldest—standing at five foot nine—would have to squat to fit at my chest.
I miss my hands on my children.
Truth be told, and Alyssa would agree, I am not a physically affectionate mom. But, when they were babies I was. And, as difficult as these infant and toddler days could be, it might have been when I felt the most settled and connected. In my body, day after day, busy with my hands.
In Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening, I read about a woman who studied psychology. “This study led her to a very old sage whose last instructions were, ‘Live in your hands.'” As she opened to this teaching, she found herself building a stone chapel on the side of a hill. I thought about this old sage woman building that stone chapel all day long. I want to build a stone chapel.
Everything now seems so distant and dislocated. So much energy spent in my head or in front of a screen. I long for my hands. I miss them.
I want to return to a life lived in my hands. It is why I woke up wondering where that young mother went, who lived in her hands with her babies. I’m not dissin’ the mind. I’m a writer. I often live in my head. My eyes fixed on a screen. I’m simply preparing to invite my hands, and essentially my heart into my life, more fully. And I believe the invitation has been sent.
Reveal to me what is in my heart so that I may recapture it.
It is an invitation to experience. To decrease the distance between me and life. Me and people. To add in more color and variety. More depth. More experience.
I sit in the car with my husband. We are driving to Burbank for a bit of shopping and dinner. I hear the words: think big. These aren’t my words. These are the culture’s words. Expert’s words. Think big? What about feel expansive. I begin to repeat, I feel. I feel. I feel.
Better yet: I experience. I experience. I experience. I think about holding my husband’s hand. I feel what it might be like, and before more thoughts arrive that sway me away from my heart and hands and into my head, I reach out for his hand. I experience what it is to hold his hand. I experience what it is to be me. I experience.
I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day and a life lived in your hands.