I just got back from a 4 day motherhood/sisters retreat with my mom, sisters and sisters in law. We call this little get together MFME (standing for Mothers and Future Mothers of the Eyrealm). It started a long time ago when my mom was the only mom and she’d talk to us about motherhood and womanhood and we’d go to art museums and on little trips. One time (when Shawni was the only one who had ventured into motherhood) we even went to Italy. These days we are a big crowd and we make it to fun places like NYC, Boston, SF, Phoenix and LA once every two years. To help this happen my mom uses the money that her frugal penny pinching mother left her and I’m certain that Grandma Hazel is pleased as punch to see us all getting together on her dime.
I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I feel that I’m related to these women and that my mom has had the vision and gumption and financial ability to help us get together so often. It is quite the well filler upper that I always need.
I feel refreshed and strong and so ready to be the mom and wife and person that I believe I can and should be.
Here are some of the things I am taking away from our time together:
We all read Gift from the Sea before coming to the retreat and it was so fun to talk through it all together. Especially because we were by the sea and the house my mom rented was full of seashells. If you haven’t read that book, you should. Her writing is powerful and deep and gives you images that will always stick with you and inform your life as you relate to others and yourself. It really is a life changing book. One of those books that you should read over and over again because it comes alive in different ways with every read.
There were a lot of things that I loved about reading it through this time round. Something that struck me with this reading, that kept coming up while we were together is the importance of solitude. Not just being alone (which is a feat in and of itself as a mother of small children) but being alone and present with yourself. Clearing your mind in an effort to live more fully, to be more present when life comes back in. To be more centered. To make yourself the center hub of a wheel with every imaginable spoke turning round and round it, driving you and everyone with you forward. We all committed to finding a way to create space for solitude each day, each week, each month and each year. It’s our collective goal and we are going to report back to each other about it when we all see each other again this summer. I’m excited to figure out how to make this a real part of my life. To try to learn to meditate, to find more time to be still with myself, to reflect and to center. To clear the world out of my brain. To drop all the emails and texts and things to do. To plan and think and gain perspective and awareness. To retune my soul to God, to hear His voice, to be a clearer, less cluttered instrument.
I also loved reading about and discussing her view of relationships and the ever changing nature of them. The constant ebb and flow. The sunrise shell of perfect new love morphing into the working bed of the strong oyster shell, not as beautiful and pristine, but so robust and grounded and strong. I loved discussing how our relationships with our husbands and our children change and how each stage is valid. How they deepen and ripen and how important it is to acknowledge where are, while still seeking to remember where we started and where we are going. It made me want to work hard at focusing on each relationship in my family, at having more one and only moments with each child and with Jeff, to return to what we were first while appreciating what we have become.
In addition to Gift from the Sea, everyone emailed an article before the weekend for us to read so that we could be prepared to discuss things that have been on each others’ minds. I loved this format because it drove us to discuss such a variety of things. Some were controversial and heated, some were affirming, some were comforting. All were thought provoking. A few were life changing.
We talked about gender and women’s issues, we talked about body image and sexuality, we talked about relationships and motherhood and parenting (and nursing and birth, of course). We explored all different spectrums and tried to figure out where each of us want to fall on them: when to push, when to lay back, when to enjoy, when to drive, when to let things unfold, when to control, when to praise, when to acknowledge, when to be structured, when to be flexible, when to document and when to just live in the moment.
Oh, and we talked about food (a lot).
I come away from the weekend totally ready to jump back into my life and determined to kick it up a notch. I’m a little nervous about re-entry (things always seem so ideal when you’re removed from it all) but I feel secure because I realize I have so much back up. I have the examples of those 8 other women gleaming in my heart, leading me forward, propelling me to be better, making me know I’m not alone. Really, that’s one of the most crucial parts of motherhood for me: feeling supported by women who I love, respect and admire who value and understand the depths of what I am doing. Who show me how to move forward, what is ahead and behind me, and what lies within me.
During the prayer over breakfast this morning, before we all scattered back into our own lives, I had a little vision. A glimpse of all the future mothers trailing behind the 9 of us. I saw us all together as grandmothers, my dear mother as the powerful great-grandmother matriarch. We were surrounded by our daughters as mothers. Gathered in a similar, but much larger group. And suddenly the net of support and love and praise of motherhood and womanhood that I had felt all weekend was cast wide, reaching far past the horizon, down deep towards the sinking sun, revolving, never reaching an end.
And I felt so lucky to be a part of it all. Womanhood. Motherhood. So thankful for my mother who started this tradition that will last. So thankful for her mother who, even though she never tooted her horn like we kind of did this weekend, understood her value as a woman and mother, and her mother Ida and the mother who came before that and before that.
All of those women, hand in hand, stretching wide beyond both horizons, casting a net over the world, making it grow and gleam.