The boys were recently teasing me about which one of them I love or miss the most. As a parent, there are so few things that we can say without a doubt that we succeeded with…some are unknown for decades. Did I screw that up? How long will he be in therapy to get over that mistake I made? And so on… But one thing that I know for sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that the boys know that each of them has my entire heart.
How does this work, you may ask? How can multiple people have 100% ownership of the same thing? It is give and take. It is sharing. If each of them demanded their 100% at the same time, that might stress the system…or it would at least stress me! Thankfully, in their knowledge that all they have to do to have their 100% ownership continue is to wake up in the morning and exist, the peace accord seems to stay firmly in place. Each of them gets exactly what they need each day. I do my best to touch base with all of them daily, whether they are in the house, across the world, or just at school or work. And by pooling their 100% shares, in crisis this magically becomes 300%…or possibly even more. When one of them is down…really down…and I call “all hands on deck,” they show up and there is nothing more important than supporting that sibling that is in need of love, cheering up, support, confidence or smack-talk. The crisis inevitably passes, and the adrenaline subsides to normal levels.
Most of the time, the needs are much smaller than that…a hug from me, extra time to help talk through a challenge, a special cake…nothing to write home about. But each of these tiny experiences confirms that they are loved unconditionally. The love will never run out. The love will never go away. They don’t have to earn it or do anything to make it continue. As certain as the sun will rise, there is nothing that will make me love them less than with everything I have. Somehow, against all odds, we have built that, and it is very, very good.
I’m also sometimes asked: but what about yourself? How do you have time for yourself? Love is elastic. Thank goodness. And just like those pants you put on after the holidays, it is forgiving and stretchy and comfortable. So, if I need time for myself to do something to rejuvenate my spirit or to have fun with friends or to grow in a new direction, there is still room for me. Have I seen people that get stressed out and feel like they don’t have a moment for themselves? Or that their last bit of energy or patience is hidden under the toenail of their small toe? Yes. Yes, I have. I’ve even been there myself occasionally. I think that we get there when we forget how expansive and expandable love and possibilities are. If we feel that there is a finite quantity, then everything has to be portioned out and quantified…and you can indeed run out. There can be a recession of energy, of patience, of possibility. Not enough. Then you must fight to keep what you have. You must protect it. You must put up barriers to keep it safe.
The longer that I continue to meditate every day and make my gratitude list each morning and remember that I am already enough, I will always have enough, and that all will be well, the shorter the duration of these feelings of panic and deficiency and dearth. It is not an inventory problem; it is a problem of perception. Take a step back. Go to look at something beautiful…a work of art, the ocean, a garden. Listen to nature or to exquisite classical music. Write down your fears. If there is an action that you can take, write that down and then plan on taking it. If there is not an action that you can take right now, write down that you will take such an action when it presents itself to you. But either way, know that you will figure this out. Be present. Be grateful.
Then remember that there is enough. Trust me when I tell you that I have been through situations when things should not have worked out, but I believed that I would find a solution somehow, and, well, I’m still standing! Imagine a pie chart with slides that can be laid down, one on top of the other, all inhabiting the same space…enough patience, enough love, enough joy, enough time, enough creativity. There really is an abundance if you don’t hold on to it. What was the song lyric? ” Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” It is the same thing for life. Live with your heart wide open. Imagine all the possibilities!
So, a map of my heart? On the best days, it is a blank canvas ready to be filled with everything beautiful. It is anticipation of laughter and joy. It is clear horizons with a few twists and turns to keep it interesting. Not everyone gains access, but it is certainly not locked shut.
And if your children or the people that are dearest to you in your life do not yet know that they can each have 100% of your heart (remember to give yourself a 100% share, too), that is ok. Breathe. You could tell them, but living it delivers the message better. Let your words and your actions and your energy all say, together in harmony, that you care unconditionally, no matter what.
And if you want to be “over the top, mom” (as the boys will tell me as they smile from ear to ear), you can let them know with every cell of your being, with every beat of your heart, that you love those in your inner circle to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond, forever and always, no matter what. It is not as hard as it sounds. Really.