Friday’s meeting with a disgruntled employee did not go well. As she arrayed pages of documentation, blotched yellow to highlight her long-overdue-but-never-bestowed promotion, her tears beckoned me to dig down into my heart and witness her pain. Perhaps she thought my duty was to comfort and protect her. Perhaps I did, too. Maybe, in a way, HR is the corporate embodiment of that archetypal Mother: the keeper of ancestral cultures and norms; the stable, fertile ground that allows us to crawl, walk, run; the nurturing womb we retreat to when it’s just too much…
As tear after tear stained her face, and page after yellow-stained page was thrust in my direction… I wanted to experience compassion welling up inside me, and the instinct to wipe away those tears. I waited for the urge to stand with her in outrage and embrace the cause for justice. And yet, there was only a growing frustration that she was asking for a part of me that I wasn’t ready to give. So, as if it were a smoldering campfire, I kicked dirt over that flickering irritation, shut off my feelings, resorted to technical details and “HR face,” and hunkered down for the storm to pass. Her rage was enough to fill the room. Fanning the flames of my own embers would only burn us both… better no emotion than anger.
As she stormed out of the meeting, I was haunted by my inability to assuage her, mother her. Why didn’t I feel I had the capacity to metaphorically “kiss her tears away”? And why didn’t I want to?
In this modern, disconnected world, have we lost our ability to nurture? Are we so distracted that we let video games teach our children how to play, let Instagram instantly show them the world, and settle for texting instead of talking? Even the idyllic At Home Mom… filling her days with vacuum cleaners, casseroles and talk shows; or shuttling down highways in Plymouth cockpits to the mall, music lessons, marching band… only to return repeatedly to the same silo and rolling thunder of garage doors choking the last rays of sunlight. How do we find our way through the maze to our own hearts, to our own inner guidance and comfort?
We all yearn for the essence of Mother in our lives. Like the children’s book Are You My Mother?… when we don’t find that love inside our own nest, we must set out in search for it. And with each rejection and mistaken identity (“I’m not your mother”) we feel a growing emptiness, frustration and even despair. What we are really searching for, of course, is true, authentic connection. We are searching for home. But some of us just don’t realize that until we’ve trudged through fears, distractions and disappointments… and eventually made our way back to our own doorstep. (Dusk has arrived, the street games are over, and the screen door slams to “What’s for dinner?”) And in that warm light against the darkening sky, in that moment of nourishing calm, we feel the accepting embrace of truly connecting. Whether we are simply connecting with the flow of our breathing, or feeling the euphoria of great music, or sharing our thoughts and dreams with a loved one… we have reunited with hearth and heart.
On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor that Mother in all of us… and acknowledge the importance of mothering ourselves each day. We are all bigger, kinder, more generous humans when we feed our own souls first. Like the flight attendants tell us at the start of each journey into the skies: be sure to put on your own oxygen mask first, before assisting others.