BEHIND DOMESTIC LINES
★ ★ ★ ★
THIS IS OUR SUPERPOWER
By Jami Ingledue
My grandma was always crying. Crying when we arrived at her house, crying when we left to say goodbye. Crying because she was so happy to see us and because she was sad to see us go. We would laugh a little about it, along with the weird things she sent in our Christmas packages (fleece camouflage socks, anyone?) and her forgetful antics.
Now that I have kids, I’m not laughing anymore–I’m crying too. Not quite as much as Grandma did; that is now my mom’s job. But having kids, it seems, turned my empathy into a raw, undeniable force that sometimes completely overwhelms me, and that definitely cannot be ignored. Every person out there–every single person–was once some mother’s baby. Every person was once a tiny immobile thing, helplessly looking out into space and hoping to see loving eyes looking back at them. So many mothers also experience this terrifyingly ferocious love, just like I do. So many women go through life with at least half their hearts out walking around in the world, in vulnerable little bodies.
Not to say that this empathy belongs only to mothers. When our son was a baby, my husband had tears in his eyes when he said he hated to think of the babies out there with no one paying attention to them, staring into the void, alone and helpless. But being a mother is certainly a special and mysterious bond: we are the life-givers, the creators.
So now my emotions seem more raw, right under the surface, ready to bubble up. And when I see a child hurting or a mother suffering, it pains me to my core. Even people I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Now I know what we mean when we say “There is no such thing as other people’s children.” It doesn’t matter where they came from; my heart still aches for them.
My grandmother suffered through more loss than I can even bear to imagine. How a person comes out of it with an even bigger heart—that is the mystery of our glorious and terrible humanity, when we get deep to the very bottom of it all and find, as the bedrock, our love and care for each other. That is life, that is God. Everything else is just details.
Loss and grief can give us this gift, but so can motherhood. It softens us, changes us–working mysteriously in the dark like roots growing—if we let it. And before we know it we too are crying at the happiness of seeing our loved ones, or crying for suffering children in our community, or crying along with every grieving mother.
The world does not like this. It makes people uncomfortable. We are derided for being weak, too emotional, or gently laughed at by our kids.
But they are wrong: this is not weakness. This is our superpower.
When we allow ourselves to be softened and toughened and shaped by this raw empathy, we can see the world differently. Especially if we mother through very difficult times, it can take us to the other side, where we are no longer driven by ego and insecurity, but by our soul’s desire to connect and be full. Because we know that in the end that is all there is.
So many of us are learning to see through people: having to know and anticipate our children’s needs can help us see others’ unfilled needs, and how this drives them. I myself feel like I can now see when people are talking out of pain or fear or a need to be accepted. I can see when their reactions are not about me, but about where they are on their journey. This helps me see what they need from me and from the world. And I can also see those who have crossed over, who carry that beautiful sadness of feeling the world’s pain and the world’s love, whose hearts are broken open so wide that they contain the whole universe, and who radiate with this strength.
The world will tell us we are weak, but don’t believe them. We live in a world that no longer values this softness, and that no longer values our elders, who can help guide us to the other side if we let them. Instead the world worships youth, money, ambition.
But underneath all of that, ours is still the power that makes the world go round. All of human growth is founded on our bonds. We are the ones who hold everything together, and we know it. People can chase their ambitions and acquire fancy things and worship youth, but beneath all of that, our love and connection is the bedrock of humanity, as strong as the foundations of the earth.
We are the healers, the life-givers, the caregivers, the ones who love the hurt and forgotten, the ones who stay and tend the wounded after the world has moved on. We are the ones who show up, again and again, because we can do nothing less for our children.
We are the ones who can bend the arc of history toward justice. Like Mother Jones, who lost all of her own children and then fought relentlessly for the maimed and forgotten children working in factories. We are the peace bringers. We are the community builders, who forge and maintain our connections.
The world sorely needs our superpowers now. The bullies have taken over the playground. Toxic masculinity will not go down without a fight. But we can see right through them: we can see their desperate need for attention and validation, we can see the empty hole they are forever trying to fill with power and money and fame, we can see that they have missed the point of life entirely; and we can see that they have no power over us. We will win, because we will never stop showing up. It’s what moms do.
So Mama Bears of the world, unite, dust off those superpowers, and take heart: we got this. Even if we shed a few tears along the way.
Jami worked as a librarian for over a decade before choosing to stay home when her son, now 4, was born. She also has a 17-year-old daughter. She makes all-natural soap and body products and sells them through her company, Dancing Bee Farms (dancingbeefarms.net). She lives with her husband, daughter, and son on an acre of land in rural Ohio, where they keep bees, garden, and brew beer.
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