In the Beginning

In order to understand the nature and flowing references throughout my blog, I recommend reading my initial post The End of the Beginning first.


Mom-Sized Hole

I read the book Are You My Mother? as a child and it has stuck with me for decades. The main character in the book is a baby bird who is hatched while his mother is away. Fallen from the nest, he sets out to find her and proceeds to ask everyone he meets along his journey - including a dog, a cow, a kitten, an airplane, and an enormous earthmover - 'Are you my mother?' Naturally they all say no, except the earthmover whose mechanical snort frightens the baby bird as he becomes ensnared within its massive shovel jaws. But then the jaws magically open and set the bird back into his nest thereby reuniting him with his mother, much to both their delight. Ah, happy endings.

I have felt like this baby bird for much of my life. I am powerfully and chronically drawn to older, nurturing women - teachers, friend's mothers, sisters-in-law, therapists, coworkers, even women I meet on airplanes - like a lost baby bird. Except my internal question is something more akin to 'Will You Be My Mother?'

I have often referred to this as the mom-sized hole in my heart. There is a longing inside me to have a real mother that I can scarcely put into words. Only someone who has lost their own mother could possibly comprehend the size, shape and texture of this hole. It has rendered forming relationships with women incredibly difficult for me; it is an endless dance of pull-you-close then push-you-away, inordinately painful, and at time leaves me feeling pathetic and empty.

Atop the trauma of abandonment, I have also suffered an incredible amount of shame because of this mom-sized hole. As a teenager, I did not have a role model to teach me about being a woman. This includes things like how to dress, fix my hair, or put on make-up; feminine hygiene and deciphering the changes in my body; nor understanding (or at least attempting to understand) relationships with boys. Being sexually abused at that vulnerable age only added more and severe complications to the latter.

One of the things I have focused on in mind-body skills work is changing my perspective about the mom-sized hole. Em is wonderfully nurturing (and thusly, an easy target for my mom-sized affection) but more importantly, an intuitive and spiritual being who helped me channel this longing. It is through her Buddhist influence that I have been able to find a source of healing, a flowing river of love that helps to fill the vast chasm in my heart.

I grew up in a home which centered on the traditional patriarchal view of God, the proverbial wise old man with flowing white beard. I had a very difficult time connecting with this view of God because, as it turns out, I actually have a pretty wonderful father of my own. Sure, he has his flaws but for the most part my dad has been a source of comfort, advice, and acceptance for most of my life.

It wasn't until I read The Shack that I began to see a possibility for changing my perspective on God and gender. The book's main character, Mack, spends a weekend in an old shack with God in three forms, one of which is a sweet, southern black woman. In Mack's case, this was someone with whom he could connect and it changed his entire belief system and thusly his ability to heal from an atrocity he experienced at a younger age.

As a humorous aside... the first time I read The Shack I got so angry that I literally threw the book across the room. Near the beginning there is a quote that reads "Your greatest hurts in life shall come through relationship, and so shall your greatest healing." That sentence elicited an unbearable amount of pain in me, likely because I could identify with only the pre-comma portion. I now see the truth in the sentence's totality, but it took me years of therapy to get there. Now I look back on that book-hurling scene of myself and simply laugh. What else can I do?

In my work with Em, we replaced my visual representation of God with the Mother Earth. Her dress is the skirted green and blue planet. There are flowers, butterflies, and trees all around her; they are part of her. Her outstretched arms are clouds in the sky, and her hair flows like rainbows. Those arms are stretching out to me, wanting nothing more than to envelope me in the warmth and safety of her love. And not just any love, but hesed, the Hebrew word for God's love. This love is consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, and unrestrained. Precisely the opposite of what I have experience from schizophrenic-abandoning mother. Now this is an image with which I can connect!

And so in my mind's eye and especially when I meditate, this is the vision of love that centers me, protects me, and keeps me safe. My childhood was woefully lacking in the arena of motherly love but as an adult, it is up to me to fill that hole. Thanks to Em, Mother Earth, and hesed, this has become a critical part of my integrated healing journey.

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