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Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
Where do my kids end, and where do I begin?
I don’t know.
I wish I did at times because I find myself too easily enmeshed with my kiddos, ages 15, 18 and 21. The sun rises and falls for me on whether they passed the class, got the job, aced the audition, got over the sinus infection or went on a date that didn’t end in rejection, humiliation or self-loathing. My little chicks, two out of three sprung from the nest, have a habit of crashing into the ground, losing a few feathers, and then picking up the cell phone and hitting the speed dial for Mom. When I answer, my mood can go from Liza Minelli singing “Life is a Cabaret!” to Emily Dickinson writing “I felt a funeral in my brain.”
“Just this call,” I tell a good friend over sushi at a downtown restaurant because the call is from my daughter, and I want to make sure she’s okay. Even as I hit the button to answer the call, I know from the look on my wise friend’s face that I’m in too deep.
Connections and enmeshment
The odd and obvious part of this story is that my parents erred on the side of rejection, abuse and neglect. When I went to college, I wasn’t speaking to or living with my mother, and I was on the outs with my father too, which meant I went months without any contact with them. My college days were in the age of expensive long distance and before the advent of texting, facebook, unlimited long distance on cell phones and email – all of which allow a young adult to text her mom between or even during classes. So let’s just say that my over-involvement is both a product of technology and pathology.
So what’s yoga – the practice of living with a yearning for yoking – got to do with this? Obviously, there’s the connections we make with each other that illuminate how we are, truly, one in spirit and, even at times, culture, community and family. Then there’s sheer enmeshment: crossing the boundaries into another’s life. The irony is that it’s only through loving and letting go that we arrive at oneness, a glimpse of the unity of life that’s free of our longings, fears, hopes and warnings for ourselves and for those we love.
Learning to live and let live
I’m a mother in recovery. This means I’m practicing the yoga of being present with my children who are, for the most part, bigger, smarter, and absolutely more clued-in to their own life callings than I am. Just because I breast-fed them for years, soothed their agitated teachers about how energetic didn’t always mean ADHD (although it probably did in our family’s case) and drove them to various colleges doesn’t mean I know shit. Sure, I love them fiercely, but I know what I have to do: let them live their own lives.
As a work in progress on this count (more than most other counts in my life), here’s what I’m trying to do:
- When the crisis call comes, I try to remember to ask my daughter or son what they think the best way forward is, or say, “If you were giving advice to your best friend on this, what would you say?” I remind them, “You know what’s best for you, and I trust you to find your own best choice.”
- When the text comes at 11:30 p.m., jarring me out of sleep with a giant “Beep!” sound, I do read it, but don’t respond, and tell the texter tomorrow to please not do this again unless it’s an emergency.
- I try to ask, “What do you need?” and listen more than talk.
- When I do, inevitably, give advice, I try to remember to phrase it in, “Here’s what I might do… or what I suggest… but you need to think through what you need to do, and what’s best for you.”
- I’m making a little vow right now to not answer the phone from one of my kids during meetings with others, lunches with friends and the like. If it’s an emergency, they’ll call back or… even better… call my husband.
- “You know, your dad feels left out that you call me when things are going wrong all the time instead of calling him” – a truth, and also a great way to spread the pain, I mean parenting.
- Mostly, I try to hold images of them in my heart as strong, healthy, finding their own way, and I tell the image what I tell my children, “I believe in you.”
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.