My mother passed away two years ago today.
I kept myself distracted all day, so that there would not be a moment of reflection or break-down (I have not really let myself grieve yet. I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never stop.)
Before yoga this evening, one of my instructors came up and gave me a hug, saying she had seen my facebook post from last night:
“Glad I work tomorrow. I will need the distraction. (Mom passed away on a June 4th.) I feel her love, the pain of her loss, and the longing for her soft cheek on mine while in a warm, full hug – all of it is rising up inside me in an uncontrollable wave.”
I had listened to an audio book by Neil Gaiman during my commute from work, then with signing in to my yoga class and hurrying to get dressed for it, I had forgotten all about that facebook post.
My instructor normally doesn’t hug me, but it seemed perfectly normal watching her walk toward me knowing a hug was going to happen. It didn’t register at first why she was coming toward me for one, not until she said something – that she had read my facebook post. After a few seconds in her embrace I started crying, then laughing, then crying, then laughing again, until I was expressing both emotions as one. It was the oddest sensation. It was like all the joy for my mother and the sorrow of her loss was thrown together and then competing with each other to be released.
After yoga and in Savasana (“corpse pose”) my thoughts wandered back to my mother and I thought I would come home and pour my sorrow into a blog post. When I got home, I started going through some of the things I had collected together just after she had passed away. I came across a piece of paper that she had written a description of me for a family introduction I can only assume was for a church service we’d attended in a new area for the first time (possibly Monett, Missouri or Pittsburg, Kansas). Here’s a snippet:
“She has been known to dance on roof tops, sit in the middle of highways, and lounge in mud puddles; but to anyone that knows her, knows she would rather spend time being happy than sad.”
And in a few seconds of reading that, my mind, my body, my emotions, everything – all the joy, the sadness at her passing, my regrets and guilt of not being able to take care of her as I wished I had, lined up perfectly into one feeling: Gratitude – for having a mother that believed in me, that loved me, that hugged me and peppered my cheeks with kisses, one that taught me how to defy physics and make dinner from almost nothing, a mother that danced the cha-cha on Saturdays while cleaning the house and doing laundry, one that recognized one of my greatest super-hero powers: preferring to spend the precious time I have on this earth being happy, rather than sad.
*sigh* I love her.
So how do you turn sadness, guilt, and regret into happiness?
1. Think of what you will gain. What about the situation will cause you to appreciate what you DO have? And then be grateful for it, for all of it: the undesirable situation AND the good thing(s) you just thought of.
2. Think of how the sadness is causing you to go deeper, learn more, how it is testing your resilience.
3. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at the irony of your choices. Turn the tragedy into a comedy. Let go of regret, of guilt, of beating yourself up. Laugh. Sigh. Then laugh some more.
If you do these things, you will feel lighter. You will be able to move forward and see things in a completely different light. You will have changed your perspective; and that is just as good as changing the situation all together.
(psst, proof of the mud puddles…)
Actually, I tripped and fell into this one. I was only three, but remember it very clearly.
It was the last day of a reunion, which involved camping for several days. My mother had given me a bath and put me in the last clean outfit she brought for me. She told me to stay close to her and to not run off. She got distracted by family members and walked what must have been about ten feet from me to visit with them.
I followed her (to “stay close”) and took off running to keep up. My reflexes weren’t quite developed and the puddle came at me before I could dodge it. I remember feeling absolutely terrible, because I thought I had disappointed her by getting dirty.
I looked up at her to see if she had noticed. She hadn’t. She was still visiting. So I figured I could at least play in the mud and have some fun getting dirty – digging into its softness at my feet, feeling it’s texture, it’s coolness.