It’s the simple things that make life magical, I think.
Last weekend, I spent time with my two youngest children. It was my last Washington State University Mom’s weekend as my middle child, known around the Queendom as “Princess of Quite A Lot” is graduating in May. My son, “Sweet Prince”, is wrapping up his associates degree this spring and headed for the greatest college in the queendom to finish his bachelor's degree. We were got housing arranged for him and he was able to meet with his lead professor and spend some time in the music building. It was a weekend filled with fun and smiles and good memories.
As a mother, it was bittersweet. I’m insanely proud of each of my three children (My oldest, “Queen-in-Training” has been out of college for a while and is busy working on the family farm.) I keep thinking it can’t be possible for these three to be out in the world doing the things they love. I feel like we should still be running off to a music lesson or basketball practice or a 4H meeting. They’re my sweet, sweet babies and they are also good and kind adults who make the world a much better place by their mere existence. I want so much to be singing them to sleep again with their tiny heads on my shoulders. That said, I wouldn’t trade the time I get with them as adults for much of anything.
As my son and I drove home, I had to stop on the banks of the Salmon River for a few minutes. Over the past several years, I’ve found myself drawn to water. In the summer, there are moments when I just need to stand in a creek or river. Just for a few seconds. I can’t explain it, I just need to touch the water. When it’s warm enough it must be my feet. In the winter, I have to hold some water in my hands. It’s as if a force is pulling me in to remind me of my connection to the earth and water and the wild. When I’m under stress, it’s like having an itch that can only be relieved by making a physical connection to the earth. Sometimes, I can just stand barefoot on the ground for a few minutes. That will work until I can get to water.
While I was running for the state legislature last summer, I could look at my campaign manager and say “I need water” and she would know to get me to the closest river as soon as possible. I would roll up my pant legs and stand in the water for a few minutes and let the stress and worry float away. I can always feel that energy leaving my body.
The other day, as my son and I were driving along the river on our way home, I had to stop. The “Should Monster” was screaming at me with things that needed to get done sooner than later. I found an easy pull-off and made my way to the water. I put my hands in the cold river and took a deep breath. And with that inhale, the Should Monster went away and I felt at peace with my world. I stood and exhaled out my worries. There’s something special about Idaho’s fresh air. I filled my lungs and suddenly my mind was filled with hope and possibilities rather than frustration and fear.
At the storytelling workshop I attended in British Columbia a few weeks ago, one of the filmmakers, Ecko Aleck, told us of a method she used to control her stress. I can’t remember her entire process but I believe the first step is to make a loud noise because often it will allow you to laugh and once laughter comes in, troubles seem to float away. The next step is to check in with yourself. Have you had any water to drink? Most often, the answer is no.
“Water is magical and so are you,” she said.
The next several steps were about identifying whose words are in your head. Are they words of a story you’ve created for yourself or are the words the story someone else has placed upon you?
My stress is almost always because I’m listening to someone else’s story rather than my own. On Sunday, I was istening to the words of those who told me what it means to be a good woman and mother. Words that have little or nothing to do with my own beliefs. A good woman doesn’t need to look a certain way or work a particular job. A good mother doesn’t have to have a clean house and meet a set list of societal demands. Those are someone else’s stories. A woman needs only to live her most authentic life and she is divine only because she exists. Status and demands are the stories someone has put on us to keep us from truly owning our own power. A good mother must love her children and love them unconditionally. The rest is for her and her family to define… no one else.
I come from a long line of women who worked their fingers to the bone to merely survive. My job is to honor their work by thriving — by finding ways to give voice to those who are silent — by celebrating my existence as much or more than I celebrate my accomplishments.
For me, that means, I must always remember I am just as connected to the person sitting next to me as I am to the tree providing the shade. We all are — but those connections can get lost in a world that feels overwhelming and unkind at times.
When my hands are in that water, I remember that I am human and, as such, there is no need for perfection. The most beautiful things in the world aren’t perfect. The beautiful river giving me peace doesn't run in a straight line. It is magically imperfect.
And so am I.
So are you.
What am I listening to? Am Ecstatic Dance playlist https://open.spotify.com/playlist/50J1N8p0nrLTOz0kC3DXLP?si=A9fft0wwQhCqiM5hyWSYgg
What am I reading: Surrender, By Bono