It’s been the briefest of blogging/writing hiatuses, this winter. Things have happened, and life has rolled along, with its same simple joys, same fears. As usual, winter has proven again a time of deep reflection and soul searching (isn’t that what winter is good for?). Just like the ritual of holing yourself up in your apartment and sealing the window cracks, it’s easy to get caught up in old ways of thinking, habits so embedded that dredging them up from the deep is tiring, painful, repetitive. Then you have one good Christmas with your mother, and your whole world is turned upside down. In a good way.
My mother and I have had an acerbic, droughty relationship for the better part of 10 years. Our long-distance phone conversations, few and far between, always felt strained as we curtly asked each other How’s the weather and What’s Grandma been up to. Everything was “just fine, for the most part,” we’d convince each other, and when we did skim the surface of our anxieties, our worries, we’d both cover it up with a hearty, Scandinavian “yeah, it’s hard, but things’ll be just fine.” It just takes one hint of honesty, a little gust of dry, cold wind to make its way through a crack in the seal, and suddenly, we come into focus for one another.
When it comes to my mom, being honest about my feelings has always been difficult, especially when those feelings are challenging and make me vulnerable. At one point in my teenage life, I was tirelessly optimistic and full of faith; my mother was the realist, whose empathy and perspective brought my head out of seeking Truth, the capital “T” kind. We didn’t see eye to eye on many things, and my fear of her realist judgment drove me to being a less-than-honest daughter.
Then, this past Christmas I went home to visit and the time we spent together was lovely: there was laughter, reminiscing about being a kid (spurred on by my dad’s forced attempts to get our crap out of the garage), and lots of listening, being open and available to each other. Just being there took some of the sting out of years of composure, which I’ve decided is an unnecessary state of being when your mother asks you, “How are you doing?”
This change was nothing that I did or didn’t do, nor did I feel any great shift coming in our relationship. The old season had simply passed, shriveled up, and in some sort of beautiful, natural dance, our paths once again converged and we fell into step with each other. It was just our time.
Now it’s March, and it’s time to fling open the windows and let the cold, damp air into our little winter nests. It’s time to flip the mattresses and change batteries in the fire alarms. New seasons lend themselves to great opportunity for change and newness. Everything changes whether we think we initiate it or not. Our home, too, despite its safety and lived-in comfort, has to change as well.
changes in this world
but flowers will open
just as usual.
– Japanese folk zen