There can be an aching so deep and so widespread that creeps up so quietly you don’t even notice it’s there. It may be your own aching or it may be the pain of another…
I remember myself lying next to my mom in her bed on Halloween night a few years ago. I’m holding her hand, my daughter is stroking her hair. My mom is crying. She in the depths of a darkness that she doesn’t even know how she got into. I lay with her and tell her that I’m here for her, I know it’s been hard lately but that she can turn the page and really embrace this next chapter of her life. She says through tears, “I want to Noelle, I do. I just don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know how but I want to.” My heart is breaking; here is my mom, my nurturer, my best friend and my teacher and I don’t know how to help her.
I rewind in my mind to 8 years prior: My parents had come down to Texas to visit me, I had just had my daughter a couple days before. It was their first granddaughter and they were beyond excited. My mom looked the best I’d ever seen her, she glowed with peace and happiness from the inside out. We spent the week doing touristy things and just laying around staring at this new baby. Six months later we moved to Minnesota and stayed with them while we found a place. I was home w/ my daughter during this time just doing artwork part time so every day my mom, my sister and her newborn and myself would go on walks, hang out with the kids, have movie nights once we got the kids down. Life was good. I moved to Texas again for a bit and then when I came back to Minnesota (sans husband) during my divorce in 2004 I noticed a slight change in my mom over the following years. My best assessment is that she got caught in a Bermuda triangle-like whirlwind that she didn’t see coming. Kids growing up and moving out (she had devoted that last decade of her life solely to her husband and raising 5 kids), knee surgery, menopause, income changes while my dad started his new company and I think for the first time since before she had kids she had a moment to think about her life. She had time to reflect upon her childhood and feel some of the feelings that she hadn’t even had time to notice. She was a strong woman, any one of these things she would’ve handled no problem but I think the whole sum of them along with her not setting the best boundaries (see more here on that: http://noellerollinsart.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/i-give-you-permission-to-say-no/ ) set her into a tailspin.
As a daughter I wish I could’ve done more to help her. I wish I could have helped her earlier to get involved with some sort of activity that didn’t revolve around her family. I wish I could have helped her to believe in her amazing-ness. Be an interior designer or some other career or volunteer position that would help her to see her gifts. She felt so paralyzed by fear and insecurity after not being out “in the real world” for so long that it seemed impossible, and unappealing to her.
My mom came from a culture where there was no sharing of personal problems. You smiled and pretended everything was fine to the outside world. From that there was an unspoken rule to not discuss what she was going through. The clash comes though that my sisters and I especially are from a generation where we share everything, we learn from each other, we celebrate each other and we know that because someone is going through a hard time it doesn’t mean they are a failure. It went against her every instinct to share her struggles. I know she is not the only one to go through this.
Back to that Halloween night a few years ago; while I’m glad I was able to just be there for her and listen I wish with every part of myself I would have been able to help her. I know my mom wanted to be in a better space mentally, and while that Halloween was definitely a low point she had many other really happy times over the next 80 days. I got to have a phone conversation with her where she was feeling down and she was worried about us. I got to tell my mom that she was the best mom, that because of her we had confidence in ourselves. That because of her we know how to love, make good decisions and be loving parents ourselves. I got to thank her for being such a great mom and list example after example of ways that she helped us and we talked about happy memories from my childhood. I got to tell her how much I love her and she apologized for anything she ever did through our lives that made us feel bad and I got to tell her that I couldn’t think of a single one.
This call I now know was a gift, she passed away just days after.
No one knew she was sick, I still believed that she was going to pull through this funk and return to her happy, conquer the world self. While she didn’t know that she would ultimately get pancreatitis, her soul knew that the end was near. My phone call was just one of many calls or visits that she made those final days that helped to give so many of us peace. Someday I’ll share more about so many of the synchronicities that occurred.
I’m trying to write this in the most honest heart felt way that I can both to possibly help others and help myself in finding peace but also respect my mom’s dignity, privacy and her spirit. I know my mom is now at peace but I realize through my tears that I still have a bit of a longing for what could have been and for what I wish I could have done and mostly a deep need to take her story and turn it into something that can help myself and others from possibly knowing they are not alone. There are many facets to the feelings and emotions that go along with raising a family, honoring ourselves and loving one another; no one should have to feel alone while going through them.
It’s my dream to create a safe space to help women that are going through life’s big changes (divorce, children moving out, menopause, career changes, new baby, etc.) Help through honesty, infusing creativity, giving permission to take time for yourself and spread the message that you are worth a fun hobby, a new group of friends that get you and it actually makes you a better mom, friends, sister, daughter, etc. It’s my vision to create a space for women that encourages authentic, soulful living, self-discovery, support and creativity. I want to create and share my work in a way that provides value and encouragement to others, help them on their own creative journeys meanwhile helping all of us to live our most abundant lives. I am not completely sure how this vision will unfold, but I know while I am allowing those answers to come through I will continue to reach out, create artwork to inspire and move into a space where I can teach art classes. Art classes where the final painting isn’t the focus, it’s the journey, the tuning into our creative voices, learning something new, and just going for it. You were created and put on this earth for a reason. I believe with all of my being that we each have a soul mission.
My hope is that if it’s meant to be that our paths will cross in the future as we help one another on this journey.
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