Maybe it’s the half-century birthday that is getting ever closer. Maybe it’s the weight of all the STUFF I’ve been dragging along with me — more stuff than I even have cupboards or closets to hold. Maybe it’s my impatience with complication and obligation that seems to be growing with each passing year. Well, whatever the root cause of my growing desire for deeper meaning is, it has taken over entire sectors of my life and holidays like Mother’s Day happen to be one of them.
I lived a whole life before the life I’m living now. It was a very different sort of life. A life of outward beauty and inner turmoil. A life where I was married to a someone who felt certain that the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day was to enforce the experience of Quality Time for my kids and I on the prescribed day, at the prescribed time. It was awful, quite frankly. I’m embarrassed to say I dreaded it. And it never had the lasting memories of sweetness, the spontaneous gestures of love and affection that I’m sure were intended. The kids and I showed up, feeling pressured, all “gussied up” as my grandmother would say, in our nicest clothes. It made for great looking pictures, but not much else. We all heaved a big sigh of relief when it was over. Kind of sad when I look back. But also rather ironic and a big life lesson for me.
I learned that true joy is rarely in the big gesture moments. It shows up in the unexpected, in-between moments of surprise and vulnerability. It mostly shows up when you aren’t looking for it or expecting anything.
These days I have a much clearer idea of what is meaningful and worthwhile, at least to me. A much clearer idea of what is lasting and what is nothing more than a transient moment in a lifetime of transient moments. So what is meaningful and worthwhile on a day like today? The phrase “a gift of self” floated through my mind as I considered this question.
But what IS a gift of self, exactly?
The way I see it, it can be almost anything. A poem — one you write or one you copy down on a piece of paper. A favorite quote. A playlist of your favorite songs to dance to or maybe the ones you listen to when you feel calm and reflective. A batch of cookies you made. A singing telegram where you do the singing over the phone or in person. A flower you sketched, a little painting you made. A list of things you love about the other person. A bucket list of things you’d like to do with them. I could go on and on. So many opportunities and they cost next to nothing in terms of money. And the kind of space they take up is infinitely flexible — simply room in the heart and mind of the recipient.
With all of this in mind, I am opting for a more sanctuary-esque Mother’s Day this year. I asked my kids to forgo the wrapped gifts. I asked them to pause and have a cup of tea with me. I asked them to bring me a quote — something they find to be funny or thought provoking or interesting. And I asked them to tell me why they picked it.
Today, I am looking forward to our Mother’s Day celebration. No pressure, no expectations. Just openness to experience whatever little moments of love and happiness that, like a tiny, precious hummingbird, just might land on my finger.