It is 4:00 a.m. and I am at the airport.
After settling into a chair, a John Malkovichian man pointed me in the direction of an outlet that didn’t end up working, which means that I took a trip across the terminal lobby with two bags, a banana (that I paid $1.20 for), my laptop, charger and a cup of coffee only to find out the outlets weren’t working and then schlep all of my belongings back to my original chair which turned out to have an outlet hidden behind it the whole time.
Isn’t that always the way it works?
Onto another question: wasn’t it so-and-so who said, if you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a weekend with your family?
The question has never been about love.
There are few things I am absolutely and completely sure of in my life—the love I have for my mother is one of them.
I do not look at my relationship with her as negotiable in any way. If there is any relationship in my life that is truly resilient for better and for worse, it’s the relationship I have with my mother.
So, okay. The question has never been about love. But the question this morning is certainly, how will we get through this with some semblance of enjoyment?
Because as much as I love my mother, we do not generally enjoy each other’s company; and we enjoy each other’s company less under the circumstances of heightened illness which are the circumstances that bring me to the airport before the sun wakes up.
We love each other, but we do not enjoy each other.
My heart has heaviness in it because this is no longer just one moment in time—this is not November of 2013 where I am traveling 2,000 miles to support the person I love.
This moment in time is all of a sudden the moment when I was 8 that I learned that mommy was sick. It is me being 11 and finding nooks in doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms to sleep or read or play or just have one moment without the feeling of being watched. I am 12 and scared because I do not know anything about what is going on except that I haven’t seen her in five days and I don’t know if I should knock to see if she needs anything or just leave her alone. It is being 16 and newly saddled with a driver’s license and feeling put out and resentful of the new brand of errands I’m asked to run. I am 22 and moving back in after college, and I am confused because I want to relate to her as an adult but feel stripped of my agency in her presence.
That’s the thing about families: nothing exists in an isolated frame of time, everything represents an age-old pattern.
I hope to get off the plane in five hours and feel nothing but love. I hope to feel energized and supportive and ready to laugh and to listen. I hope to exercise patience and know that no matter what happens in the next few days, none of it is personal to me.
But there are ghosts here.
There are E.R. visits and hospital sleepovers and at-home recoveries. There are old fights and name-callings and behavior created out of fear. There are tones of voice that feel like nails on chalkboard and patterns of responding that are gut-twisting and tear-provoking.
And herein lies that dichotomy: love and fear.
Because when I think of my mother, I call to mind the woman who has traversed seven globes for her children. I call to mind the woman who taught me to laugh and create and explore and be me. I call to mind the woman who is not human, but Hanuman.
And all of the other shit that gets layered on top of love—frustration, resentment, isolation, fear, inadequacy—I need some tools to let it melt away.
I know that my enjoyment of my mother has nothing to do with anything she is or isn’t doing. She is just being herself the only way she knows how to be. And there is no possible way I could ever look at her life and tell her she’s doing something wrong, because she’s Hanuman for crying out loud.
All I need to do is sit in this airport and be honest with myself about what I’m feeling and take responsibility for it. And when I get on this airplane, I see no reason why I won’t tumble into sleep and let my intention settle in. And when I show up to the 75 degree west coast and put away my November hat and scarf and throw my arms around my best friend, I see no reason why I won’t be able to let in breath and let in the strength to reach the lengths of an ocean.
It was from another so-and-so that I heard, don’t tell Hanuman how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your Hanuman is.
I am feeling like nothing that has happened matters—the only thing that matters is what is happening. I am feeling like I have the opportunity—every single moment of my life—to let go of everything that has happened before this moment of time. I am feeling that context is something we create, and this moment does not need to be contextualized by any moment that has preceded it.
When impatience turns to cooperation, anger to peace, taking things personally to active listening—this is what creates enjoyment. This creates enjoyment whether we are spending time in a hospital room or in a spa.
Enjoyment will be found in the next few days.
It will be found in answering the question, “what brings you in today?” to six different people six different times in the E.R. It is in meeting Abbey, the mini schnauzer, who makes her rounds to the patients of 6 West who are sick and scared and sad. It is meeting the Chaplin in the purple shirt who gives us his healing remedy and says, “Bless the pills before you take them, over the teeth and through the gums, look out, stomach! Here it comes!”
Love is easy if we say it is.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman