I have strict instructions from my youngest child to lounge in bed on this day, awaiting the fete that my family has prepared for me. I’m not much of a lounger, but I am today. My coffee is delivered while I prop myself up on a slew of pillows, and I resist the urge to leap out of bed and hit the ground running, as I do on most days. I savor the coffee knowing there is no long list of things to accomplish. No lunches to pack, no permission slips to sign, no laundry to run, no carpool to drive. Today is for relaxing.
My favorite girl rushes back into the bedroom with a coaster for my coffee mug. She grabbed it out of the drawer that holds the snarky cocktail napkins and bar accessories in an effort to bring some luxury and festivity to my morning coffee. I wonder if she read it before bringing it to me.
I can hear the preparations taking place in the next room, and I await the unveiling of the day’s bounty. As I smile at the fact that my favorite girl has orchestrated a production to celebrate me, I have a revelation. It’s a big one, an important one. I might even call it a watershed moment, which I much prefer to the more popular, Oprah-spawned “aha moment.”
The kernel for this watershed moment germinated this past week. As I enjoyed my usual yummy green curry at the favorite Thai place at which a group of my best girls gather occasionally for lunch, the topic of Mother’s Day came up, and a discussion ensued. Everyone discussed their plans for the upcoming holiday, and I noticed something remarkable. In talking about this holiday, which has typically been a mighty hard day for me absent my own sweet mama, I wasn’t plagued by a sense of dread.
Could it be? Was it really happening? At lost last, after 7 years without my mom, was the pain of Mother’s Day easing?
When it was my turn to talk about plans for the big day, my dear therapist friend at the table began explaining to the others that it’s a hard day for me. I love having my own in-house counsel. Our two families have spent the last few Mother’s Days together, celebrating poolside with delicious food cooked by her hubs and copious glasses of bubbly poured by mine. She and I have plumbed the depths of the dichotomy of mourning the loss of my mom while trying to enjoy the day as a mom. Tricky business, that.
In the midst of this impromptu therapy session, another friend piped up with a most honest and very good question: instead of being sad about your mom, what about being happy about your kids? Can you focus on what you have, instead of on what you’ve lost?
Why didn’t I think of that?
My sweet mama would approve of this idea, wholeheartedly. In fact, knowing that she’d be so bummed about and would feel responsible for me being sad and dreading Mother’s Day has made the day all the more difficult. I know I should be happy. I know I should enjoy my beautiful, funny, charming, challenging, and amazing kiddos on this day, especially. But missing her, wishing she were still here, and raging against the wretched system that steals her from me makes it hard to do that. Alcohol helps. Lots of it. Preferably champagne. But even with a bottomless glass of bubbly, this day has always been a tricky course to navigate.
Hearing my sweet friend ask such a simple and innocent question, however, changed everything. Instead of gnashing my teeth at the Kay Jeweler commercials and shaking my fist at the festive tents full of flowers and balloons and sweets popping up in the grocery store parking lots, I felt a sense of peacefulness. A subdued calm infuses me this Mother’s Day. I’m not going to go so far as to say that a sense of celebration reigns, but I’m getting there. The fact that I feel subdued calm instead of outright rage is progress, people, major progress.
While it may sound simple to some to simply shift the focus from what you’re missing to what you have, I offer this: losing someone you love, particularly to a cruel and powerful disease, makes it hard to think straight. Losing someone you love makes it hard to put one foot in front of the other and soldier on through life, even if that’s what you really want to do. Losing someone you love dampens even the most festive of occasions. Even though I look lovingly at the faces at the table for the Mother’s Day feast, I’m thinking of the one place that’s unoccupied, the one party guest who’s missing. Though I’m surrounded by the people I love the most, spending a day in exactly the way I want, and while I have a bazillion things for which I am grateful, sometimes the one thing I’m not grateful for manages to supersede everything else.
But not anymore.
Today the tide has shifted and the planets are aligned. Today the bountiful sunshine that radiates on this mid-May Texas day reaches all the way into my heart and warms my battered soul. Today I will bask in the love and good wishes coming my way from my nuclear family and my extended family of close friends. Today I will finally enjoy Mother’s Day. I will focus on what I have, not what I’ve lost.