When I founded this site and the concept of Mamacitta I was in the early days of parenting. It was a time that a new and enormous love swallowed me and I was intoxicated by our life as three, and my new found purpose as a mother. I felt like I had uncovered the long sought after essence of life and it was all wrapped up in love. I thought this kind of love would last and it would sustain everything that I did as I moved forward as a parent.
Stemming from my buddhist mentors and informed by my early experiences as a mother I defined Mamacitta as: (1.) an awakening of the heart-mind through the process of parenting (2.) a force of love that transforms your Life into an offering, a dedication, to your child (3.) derived from "bodhicitta"; the boundless wish to benefit all beings through compassion and love.
I still believe in these definitions of Mamacitta and the mission they call us toward. However, over time my understanding of the emotion we call love has become more nuanced and, frankly, more anchored in reality. This is carving out new meaning for me around what it means to mother, and what it means to truly love. I'm finding out that to fully dive into love is far more difficult and painful than I ever wanted to believe. To be cliché, it is the rose and the thorns. It's my son's laughter and cleaning smeared shit off the floor. To be in love is to release into the whole of our human experience.
I've come to think that love is a lot like air, it is essential and it sustains us, yet we usually forget to notice it until there is a lack of it. It turns out love is not ever-present in the warm and fulfilling way I used to see it. It's not love that arises when his breakfast ends up on the floor, it's not love when he throws stuff at me, it's not love when he bites. The qualities that actually carry me through these moments are commitment, perseverance, consistency, and patience. In other words, Wisdom is actually the fuel, it's perspective and a lot of self control. (And sometimes I just totally lose my cool...).
For the longest while I was actually ashamed to acknowledge this truth about the practicality of love. I am not dripping in love in my role as a mama, it is not pervasive and ever-present like in the early days, like in the way I thought it could be (or I should be). But, I see now that it was my conception of love in practice that was flawed, not my feelings or perception. Because love is not just a warm tingly feeling, it's also like a flying-knife-kick sort of an energy. Fierce always comes to mind when I think of love now. To truly be in love is to take all of it, the laughter and the poop, and filter it through the lens of Wisdom. From my vantage point love is necessary and it does sustain, but it takes a lot of effort and often does not feel great or like much of anything at all. That's why wisdom prevails. It's my anchor when the storm brews and the warmth of love's rays are buried behind the clouds.
Mothering well is often not easy or joyful, but it is downright commendable. As a culture we are obsessed with feeling good and finding lasting happiness. But where do we account for the rewards of effort, struggle, and commitment?
I'm feeling into the truth that nothing really grows in pervasive happiness, and finding that it is affliction and struggle that create the human process and a sense of progress. It is this shadow that I am folding into my understanding of love. Motherhood, as far as I can tell, is wrought with struggle and therefore is full of fodder for transformation. It is a moment by moment opportunity to sharpen my blade, to hone my spirit, and uncover my strength. This is what I have always believed to be possible in parenting. What I did not know in the beginning was how messy, difficult, and sometimes just downright painful this process could be. I did not know the extent that I would call into question so much of who I thought I was or what I am capable of. I did not know that a warm fuzzy love is not enough. Motherhood is no doubt a purification process. And things can't get clean and clear without some serious scrubbing.
So now I see, parenting is not for the faint of heart. Motherhood is not really about love, it is about ferocity and determination. It is not about being on the sideline in my bliss bubble, it is about being on the frontline ushering life. So I mother in the name of love, but wisdom is the sword that cuts down the obstacles inside and out, day in and day out.
Mothers (and fathers) are the unsung heroes of history. Perhaps also a lot like love and air; necessary but usually overlooked.
My mantras right now: "Strength is not optional" and "parenting well is not for sissies".