April 5, 2020

Reflections On a Shared Birthday in Lockdown

Yesterday my daughter and I shared a birthday. It was a four seasons in one day kind of a day, rain and hail, thunder and sunshine, contrast and contradiction, comfort and storm.  It’s an interesting thing to share a birthday, stirring lessons of what it is for a fiercely autonomous Aries woman to birth an even more fiercely autonomous Aries woman in the shape of a little girl, on the very day of her own birth. Again and again life forces me to acknowledge that it is so deeply through relationship that we learn and grow. 

The lone wolf (or is it the wounded child) in me cries sabotage, to have had the one day of the year that might have been about me, sublimated by the magnificent and demanding otherness of my exquisite daughter. Each year the fantasised visions of what the perfect day would hold for me are dashed against the cruel hard rocks of the demands of being a mother to a daughter on her birthday. 

As a fierce introvert,  I am constantly seeking ways to find space for poetic communion, creative reverie, solitary union from within the cacophonous roar of otherness that is family life with children still young. Of late there has been no time for this part of me, she has been starved, as I have worked more in the world to support my children as a single mother. And yet it feels that there is a fierce distillation of desire that constellates within the alchemical vessel of thwarted intentions. A fertile summoning in the negated passage of the wills consumation with its purpose.

These past weeks of lockdown, as the worldly asks have receded, the demands to support my family and meet the world in ways that feel necessary to survival but counter to health, have eased and abated, and I have found myself woken in the night by the wild sent of my soul, where it has padded its way through my house in the dark. Such a blessed return of a more intimate way of knowing myself, my soul’s subtle beckonings emergent in the slowing pace and the retreating world. The softening and the stillness a more natural element to me, as artist I am flooded with images asking to be painted, as wordsmith, elusive words shine again in my mind like star dust. I am internally compelled, drawn away to the quiet corner where I can smell Her most keenly, and yet ...... and yet I am also sharing a small home with two rambunctious, boisterous, creative, chaotic, conflictual creations, who have no need of me to be seperate or courting of the underworld, or communing in the shadows with more ephemeral and delicate, less embodied and robust aspects of self. 

Beside my bed, in my cosy and curated den, tower unread books on mysticism, symbol, art, psychology, myth, quest, while my days are beshowered in the perpetual clarion calls of “Look Mum, look!” “Watch me!” Or “I’m hungry” or “When can we....?” 

And there is a bitter sweetness to it all, to the oppositional impulses. I feel attuned to the knowledge that one day I will be left alone to my books and I will long for the infuriating distractions of my children. The day will surely come when I will long for the company of my daughter on this gifted synchronicity of our shared birthday. I am also deeply aware that I would be a very different human if I hadn’t surrendered again and again to the boundary-annihilating, ego-dissoluting, autonomy-dissolving, edge-walking, fiercely intimate, breaking and remaking journey of motherhood. And still, there is the longing for my own uninterrupted, undiluted process.

Indeed, I sense that it is the very tension between these polar opposite impulses, the submission to solitude and creativity, and the imperative to attune with love to other, to take and claim what is rightfully mine, and to surrender all will and purpose beyond that of the moment, that might one day make me someone worthy of having something to share.

Our time of isolation so far has been marked by profound privilege, space, resource, creative capacity. It has been a time of walking in the wild, crafting at the hearth, nourishing food, reading and playing and connecting, growing food, gathering spring water and building chook pens. It has been a time of deep connection and rich nourishment of self and one another. It has also held an underbelly of unresolved tensions, sibling rivalries, triggered mother-ground, tears and rage and conflict and thinly veiled aggression. The places that dwell within the intersections of our shared and individual fields, of the integrated and unintegrated aspects of our psyches and the psyche of the family-body, the family-soul. We are a melting pot of emergent energies, clashing and harmonising, appeasing and provoking.

It seems that somehow despite ourselves we have come here to listen and deeply attend to what arises when all else falls away. We are attending to the deep undercurrents of tension and trauma that dwell in the body that hinder the cohesive field, sifting through the conflicted inner impulses that impede our capacity to drop in and share authentically in non-projective ways, to be compassionately present to what is, within ourselves, within our family constellation, within our community, our culture, the human race, a global unified field, a universal consciousness of love. There is deep work to be done here. It is powerful work. There is little room for denial and escape, in this deep work of mothering, and growing, and becoming, at this time of isolation. Glorious and wild and contracting isolation, freeing and consolidating and confronting isolation. I hear the conspiracy theories, I fear for our world politically, but it is this work that I cannot turn from, the work of learning what it means to hold my children, to unwind unrestrained wounding, of learning what it is to love and be loved. Was there ever any more important work than this?

It feels as though in some way we are undertaking a less glamorous, but no less robust equivalent to a vision quest or a hero/ heroine’s journey. As the wilderness warrior must learn to live daily with deprivation of what is seen as essential to life, safety, security, food, water, sleep. Here I as introverted caregiver, am sacrificing solitude and sovereign space. Because it feels true to me, in the bones of my psyche, that solitude is an essential ingredient, as primary as air. And so I dance in this threshold space as woman who is mother, dance in the charged and initiating space between needs of self and needs of other. Glimpsing the potential of one’s creative expression precisely as it’s undertaking is withheld from you, the tenacity of fighting a losing battle with a house each day, but gleaning a deeper victory despite oneself, to sacrifice what is most desired to that which is most imminent, to take responsibility for a deeper calling to care for that which has already been brought forth, rather than courting the rush of new creation.

And so amidst the detritus of playing cards and scattered toys, I strum an untuned ukulele and sing a few bars of an unformed song that will never be played again, holding space while my children draw, endlessly reciting the spelling of simple words known to me but utterly new to them. It means making pavlova instead of gluten free quince tart on our birthday, it means going for a wild ramble to dissipate rivalrous energies rather than swooning in my cave to the sonorous resonances of myth and otherworldness. 

And there is something here that feels rightful. That this holding to the what is, over what is imagined as desired, is perhaps a more tempering and appropriate offering to the now. 
If we only ever give on our own terms, is it really giving? Does our capacity to give ever grow without the wrenched excruciation of our safe boundaries being renegotiated against our own will? If we only ever receive what it is that we think we want, will we ever come to see what it is that we already cradle in the nest of our own experience and capacity?

On a good day I remind myself that I am living a great love story, a tantalised prolonging, cast out across the years, the decades, a deep and careful courting of my own wholeness, a learning of the terrain, an attuning to the greatly nuanced foreplay of my own arrival in the deep and true humanness of my being. There is perhaps a delusional hope that one day I will give myself utterly to my art.

It feels so compelling to retreat to a turreted tower and espouse the narratives of a partially glimpsed transcendence, the  numinously sensed insights of self. And yet moment to moment my children are calling me into a perhaps grander quest, one with deeper implications for my experience of humanities unfolding evolution. Again and again they call me to the precipice of the unchartered, to the swamps of the unloved places within. Again and again they beckon me to the wounded and damaged terrain, not so prettily articulated or illustratively curated. 

They flay and floor me on the regular, asking of me a deeper love than the broken child within me could have ever dreamed of receiving, let alone being capable of giving herself. No one sees this work, deep and archaic, indeed often I myself do not recognise it for what it is. I see it often as my own short-comings, my misattunement, to be so undone at times by what is asking to evolve and be integrated in our family soul. A deeper part of me knows this is the ugly terrain of true initiation, of deep ancestral healing, the tangled histories of spirit lines reweaving themselves back into a cohesive pattern of belonging to the living moment. It is the visceral blood and bone interface of awakening love, so that it is not the soul of the hero that emerges magnificently triumphant, enviable and distant, but rather the group-soul that in fact sinks a little deeper into the bedrock of truth and embodied belonging, breathing a collective sigh of relief, as something that was withheld against, comes to rest again at last, back to the numinous breast of love. 

I think perhaps the time of individual salvation is passing, I think we now need answers that unite and bind and soothe and appease the trauma wound of our species, and that remind us of our great responsibility, to know ourselves as inseparable from the great heaving, messy whole, human and other, this alive and felt and reciprocated and tender creation.

This the uncomfortably grizzly work of a life accountable to the care of others, accountable to the true care of self, when our hungers cannot be appeased by outer or other, by consumerist imperatives and capitalist impulses.

How do I surrender my voice over to becoming an indecipherable cadence of a cohesive whole, like bird song or rainfall? How do I let the soft animal of my body unravel, so that it is a deeper, more embedded me that speaks and translates? How do I hold ballast in the face of the unknown, the unknowable, the subterraneous, the unhealed, the emergent and beseeching? How do I surrender the individual swan-song and grasp full-bodied the sometimes terrifying unravelling of our great undoing. Tending more to what I can give, rather than what I can get, how I can merge and nourish rather than how I can stand apart, how I can embrace rather than how I can transcend? 

Always for me, since long before my daughter arrived gleaming and sacred from my womb, birthdays have been fraught with unspeakable tendernesses and unnamable needs, unmet yearnings and compulsions to receive something from outside of myself, that never seems to come in the way I expect it to. I’m afraid for me longing is often at critical levels, I am an emergency of longing. In light of this I offer these words as a birthday gift to the world. Thanks for having me here, treasured Earth, beloved kin, for loving me in all the ways that teach me best that I am already the love that I seek, already the salvation that I hunger to arrive at inside.

© Lucy Pierce 2020