Watercolor “And still I rise” by Jessica Buhman

As a mom myself I know the ups and downs of motherhood. It’s one of the most overwhelming, fulfilling, challenging, thrilling, terrifying experiences in the world.

Nothing can really prepare us for motherhood. It’s scary and wonderful at the same time – it energizes and exhausts us simultaneously – it inspires and paralyzes us regularly – it’s a pleasant surprise and a terrifying shock day after day – it messier and harder than we ever imagined.

Just when we think we have it all figured out our kids change and throw us a curve ball – they keep growing and changing and somehow we have to keep up.

The constant changes we have to face are probably some of the most challenging aspects of motherhood because change always involves loss.

In her book “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” Elizabeth Lesser writes about how life is full of change, how human beings resist change and how ironic it is that the difficult times we fear the most end up being the very things that break us open and help us blossom into who we were really meant to be. She calls it the Phoenix process.

If you haven’t heard of the Phoenix before, it is a mythical, magical bird which lives a cyclical life as it regularly dies and burns and is reborn and rises from the ashes to live and fly again.

Lesser likens parenting to a spiritual practice that produces transformation and causes us become a better version of ourselves.

She writes:

“If you would like to be broken open—if you want to pursue a Phoenix Process of the highest order—I would recommend raising children. Parenthood is a clumsy yet majestic dance in the flames. When you parent you fall in love with a person who is always changing into someone else, and whom you know will leave you. Yet most parents will say that they have never given themselves to anyone as fully as they have to their children. Parenting is a career with the crazy-making job requirement of simultaneously surrendering to and letting go of someone you love, over and over and over again.

Parenthood is a never-ending journey down a wide river of worry and love. You get in that boat with your kids and you never get out. They get out—they build their own boats and row into their own destinies—but you stay in the original boat, always their parent, forever caring and forever kvelling (a useful Yiddish word that describes how parents express pride in their children).  

Sometimes the act of parenting is an awe-inspiring adventure. Your heart expands to accommodate a vastness of feelings so tender and unselfish that you step boldly into the nobility of your true character. And sometimes parenthood is tedious yet unpredictable, demanding yet ever-changing: Just when you get the hang of sleeping upright in a rocking chair and changing dirty diapers, your child sleeps through the night and poops in the potty, and the job description changes. It’s a lot like the comedian George Carlin’s complaint, “Just when I found out the meaning of life, they changed it.”

So you go back into on-the-job training. By the time you have mastered communication with a tantrum-throwing toddler and become addicted to the warm, wet smell of your little one after a bath, he squirms away and goes to kindergarten. Now you have to learn to deal with play dates and social studies reports and parent-teacher conferences. And then school plays and Little League games, and friends and hurt feelings, and that shifting boundary between granting them freedom and giving them direction. Soon they are teenagers and there is no manual for that, so you take it one day at a time, difficult decision by difficult decision, and finally, if things go the way they ought to, your children leave home, they leave you, and they push off into the future.

Parenting in all of its stages is a spiritual path with mythic twists and turns. If your spiritual goal is to embrace life, moment by moment, in both its rapture and its pain, then parenting offers you that opportunity every day. Holy texts throughout the ages tell us that the truth is to be found between the seeming opposites in life—between your own will and a greater will; between limits and liberty; between the call to care for others and the need to care for yourself. In the parent-child relationship these concepts become supremely real. And you get excellent feedback all the time from a pint-sized spiritual master—your own kid—whose specialty lies in teaching you how to keep on loving even when you are tired, scared, confused, or pissed off. Isn’t that what every seeker is after?

At each stage of your child’s growth, you are given ample opportunities to use parenthood as a mirror. Whatever it is that wants to be transformed in your psyche will be revealed as you parent. If you accept the challenge, parenting becomes a perpetual process of change and transformation—a dynamic experience of being broken open by love.”

I love that! The Phoenix is the perfect symbol for motherhood!

As mothers we all know what it means to be broken open and changed by love.

Mothers are the Phoenix.

We keep on rising, spreading our wings and flying again and again, day after day.

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So, my message to all moms this Mother’s Day is …

Keep rising up like the Phoenix that you are!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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